Bahrain, the controversial island Kingdom, could have been central to McLaren’s decision to agree the terms of the next Concorde Agreement. Bahrain’s ruling family, through its investment arm Mumtalakat Holdings, owns half of the famous British team.
The Times’ F1 correspondent Kevin Eason quoted a source as saying the link “pushed (McLaren’s) Concorde deal over the line”.
In return for signing up, Bahrain reportedly received a “pledge” that last month’s highly contentious grand prix would go ahead. Eason also said it is possible that one of McLaren’s two Bahraini directors, rather than the obvious choice Ron Dennis, could be appointed to the F1 board once the sport is floated on the Singapore exchange.
Bernie Ecclestone denied the 2012 Bahrain grand prix and the Concorde Agreement deal were linked.
“It was nothing to do with the Bahrain race (going ahead),” the F1 chief executive insisted. “But McLaren liked the deal.”
Intriguingly, however, F1’s post-stock market floatation chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe has defended the controversial decision to push ahead with Bahrain last month.
“The race was exploited by the opposition in Bahrain, not vice versa,” he told the Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung. “That was not interpreted correctly by the media. If groups want to exploit sporting events for their interests, then the worst thing you can do is give way.”
Brabeck also compared Bahrain to England.
“In what countries are there no riots?” he asked rhetorically. “A year ago there were riots in London – should the Olympic Games now be cancelled?”