The FIA Formula One World Championship announced on Friday that it had extended its contract with the Bahrain International Circuit to continue visiting the venue until at least 2036. The race contract is the longest currently held by any F1 Grand Prix. To illustrate the length of this considerable extension, the current world champion Max Verstappen would be 38 years old at the start of the 2036 season, his 22nd year in F1 if he’s still competing.
In a statement released by F1, Bahrain International Circuit CEO Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa said:
“After 18 years of F1 racing, we are proud to have played a part in F1’s rich history and we now looking forward to continuing to build on that heritage well into the future. The growth and interest in Motorsport in Bahrain and the Middle East has significant momentum, with a new generation of fans embracing our great sport and we look forward to continuing that progress.”
In 2004, the Kingdom of Bahrain was the first country in the Middle East to host an F1 race. The island monarchy has hosted a world championship round almost every year since. The race wasn’t held in 2011 as the event was called off due to widespread civil unrest in the country.
The Middle East has become an important and lucrative part of the F1 schedule during that timespan. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the United Arab Emirates joined the calendar in 2009 and has become the stalwart season finale host. Qatar hosted its first F1 Grand Prix last season as a replacement round for the Australian Grand Prix.
Both races signed 10-year deals with F1 in 2021, a contract extension for Abu Dhabi and a new street race in Qatar starting in 2023. Saudi Arabia began this trend of 10-year contracts with its decade-long agreement, which began last year with the inaugural Grand Prix in Jeddah and is allegedly worth $900 million.
With Formula One exploring new race venues and the intense regional fervor to hold a race, it makes sense for Bahrain to sure up a long-term deal. Bahrain might also be losing the unique advantage that helps ensure its calendar position. Through the country’s sovereign wealth fund, the Kingdom of Bahrain is the majority owner of McLaren.
Though, there might be a change in ownership at some point in the future. McLaren CEO Zak Brown has admitted being in discussion with Audi. It’s not yet clear what will come of talks between Audi and McLaren, but Formula 1 will undoubtedly continue racing in Bahrain whatever the outcome.