Helmut Marko weighs in on the good and the bad of PIF’s ‘supposed’ $20b bid

Michelle Foster
Helmut Marko Max Verstappen

Helmut Marko Max Verstappen

Helmut Marko has weighed in on the “supposed” $20 billion bid that Formula 1 chiefs are said to have rejected, the Red Bull boss conceding if Liberty Media does sell they have to be careful about who buys the sport.

Last week Bloomberg reported that the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF), which purchased Premier League team Newcastle United in 2021, has shown an interest in buying Formula 1.

They put forward a bid of $20 billion, up on the $4.4 billion Liberty Media paid in 2017, but it was rejected by the sport’s current commercial rights’ owners.

That news set off the latest round in the on-going war-of-words between F1 and the FIA with the latter’s president Mohammed Ben Sulayem taking to social media to denounce the “alleged inflated price tag”.

He added: “Any potential buyer is advised to apply common sense, consider the greater good of the sport and come with a clear, sustainable plan – not just a lot of money.”

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Formula 1 bosses weren’t impressed with the 58-year-old’s comment, responding to that with a strongly worded letter while one unnamed senior figure told Sky Sports the FIA president’s comments were a “major overstep, short sighted and an unnecessary intervention.”

F1 bosses haven’t confirmed or denied the $20 billion price tag although Bloomberg reports Formula 1 has a market value of about $15.2 billion.

Marko was asked about the report in a recent interview with RTL, saying if the number that is “supposedly on the table” is true then that’s good for Formula 1 as it shows the sport’s value.

But, like others, he has concerns.

“I think it wouldn’t be so good if it went to a country that is culturally different from where most of the races take place,” he added.

“And generally it’s a commercial thing, and that’s more likely to happen with someone who meets normal corporate standards, if you want to put it that way.”

Silencing the drivers is ‘wrong’

Racing in Saudi Arabia for the first time in 2021, several drivers spoke out against the human right issues with Lewis Hamilton saying he is “duty bound to help raise awareness for certain issues that see with human rights in these countries we are going to.

“Do I feel comfortable here? I wouldn’t say I do, but it’s not my choice to be here.

“The sport has taken the choice to be here and whether it’s right or wrong, I think whilst we are here, again, I feel it is important to raise awareness.”

His team-mate George Russell weighed in last season, saying: “You can’t ignore these facts. I just hope that with our platform we are raising the right awareness, and we can have a positive change in the long run.”

This year, though, the Formula 1 drivers will face a monetary fine or even a race ban if they make political statements.

The FIA recently put into place rule 12.2.1.n which states: “The general making and display of political, religious and personal statements or comments notably in violation of the general principle of neutrality promoted by the FIA under its Statutes, unless previously approved in writing by the FIA for International Competitions, or by the relevant ASN for National Competitions within their jurisdiction.”

Marko believes silencing the drivers is “wrong”.

He continued: “That is clearly wrong. They are responsible citizens who are in the global public eye and who know how and what they have to say. In general we are in a democratic society and everyone can express their opinion.”

FIA on yet another collision course with the drivers

Last season the FIA race directors banned drivers from racing with jewellery and also imposed underwear checks to ensure everyone was wearing the kit approved by health and safety.

After the initial jokes about “nipple piercings” between Hamilton and Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly telling the race directors they could check his “everything if that makes them happy”, headlines became all about the jewellery ban versus Hamilton.

The Mercedes driver is known for having several piercings and while he initially refused to remove then, he did eventually only to put his nose one back in after it became infected.

He avoided a ban because, let’s be honest, is Formula 1 really going to ban seven-time World Champion Hamilton over a nose stud? Which raises the question, will they do so over a T-shirt?

Hamilton, and he may not be the only one, is unlikely to take the FIA’s ban lying down as, like he said back in 2021, it’s his “duty” to speak for those who have been silenced.

The FIA could once again find itself at loggerheads with the Briton.