Fox Sports has reported this week that Formula 1 could be set for another race in the Middle East should Iran’s new plans to lure the world championship by building a world-class circuit come to fruition.
The Iranian government has announced plans to construct a Formula 1 circuit at Qeshm Island, a small island off the country’s southern coast in the Strait of Hormuz. Dubai is only a few kilometres across the water to its south, while F1 race hosts Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, and MotoGP race host Qatar, are nearby.
Vice President and head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organisation, Masoud Soltanifar, said during an interview with the Islamic Republic News Agency on a recent visit to the island:
Qeshm Island has the potential to become one of the world’s most beautiful Formula 1 destinations.
Iran has so many young people with an increasing tendency for driving. Formula 1 has a great future in Iran.
This is not the first time the Middle Eastern nation has broached plans to build a world-class race circuit with the aim of hosting an F1 race. In 2011, state officials announced plans to build an $85m development on the outskirts of the Iranian capital, Tehran, called the iLand Race Resort, also featuring a golf course, water parks, and homes for 50,000 people.
At the time, F1’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone said that there was no space on the calendar for new races and that, in any case, “I don’t think Iran is top of our list”.
But there are reports that F1 chiefs are able to increase the calendar to a maximum of 25 races without needing permission from world motorsport’s governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).
“The development is not widely known,” Forbes reported. “Forbes understands that since 2013, the F1 Group has been able to put up to 25 races on the calendar without needing to get clearance from the FIA. The draft calendar must still be submitted to the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council but it only makes changes in exceptional circumstances.”
The sport would still need the support of the teams to expand the calendar beyond its current 19-20 rounds, but not the majority support it once needed.
“In 2012 (the teams) each signed new commercial agreements which give more flexibility to this,” Forbes adds. “They state that majority consent from three of the top teams — Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull Racing — is required to increase the calendar beyond 20 races. It seems to be only a matter of time before this happens.”