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Report: Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund Explored $20B Purchase of Formula 1

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 20, 2023

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 25: The F1 logo is pictured in the paddock during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 25, 2022 in Spa, Belgium. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund reportedly wanted to purchase Formula 1 motor racing for more than $20 billion and would still be interested if given the opportunity to do so in the future.

According to Giles Turner, Dinesh Nair and Matthew Martin of Bloomberg, discussions regarding a potential deal never advanced past the early stages because Liberty Media Corp., which owns F1, was not interested.

Yet the interest still remains on the Public Investment Fund's side, which would look to venture into another sport after already purchasing English Premier League football club Newcastle United FC, hosting a variety of events and funding LIV Golf.

As the Bloomberg report noted, such efforts have received criticism as attempts of "sportswashing" and directing attention away from Saudi Arabia's human rights record.

While Liberty Media Corp., which purchased F1 for $4.4 billion in 2017, did not want to sell to the Public Investment Fund, the sport has ties to Saudi Arabia and will host a third race in the country in March.

Lewis Hamilton, who is arguably the sport's most notable driver and a seven-time world champion, told reporters last year he was "not comfortable" with F1's relationship with Saudi Arabia and felt "duty bound" to raise awareness about its human rights violations.

"It's not necessarily our responsibility that we're brought here but we try and do what we can, and I think it's important that we just try to educate ourselves," he said.

"Ultimately it's the responsibility of those in power to really make changes, and we're not really seeing any. So we need to see more."

The Public Investment Fund's interest in a sale comes as F1 racing continues to grow in popularity, including within the United States thanks in part to the Netflix docuseries, Formula 1: Drive to Survive.

The 2023 F1 schedule begins March 5 with the Bahrain Grand Prix.