Dubai’s billion-dollar F1 dream

Team Dubai prepares mega budget to enter 2006 Formula One season.

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By  Anil Bhoyrul Published  November 7, 2004

Dubai is ready to spend up to US$1 billion over the next seven years to develop its own Formula One team, with McLaren driver David Coulthard already being lined up as its star racer. Arabian Business has learned that Team Dubai — which will be the first independent F1 team to enter the sport since 1997 — is prepared to spend the record amount for any new team in order to firmly establish itself in the sport. Sheikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of Dubai Civil Aviation and chairman of Emirates Group, said: “Dubai is committed to developing and supporting world-class expertise in carefully targeted high-technology industries. “Formula One, with its focus on technological and engineering innovation, provides us the perfect environment in which to develop and demonstrate our skills in these cutting-edge areas.” The new team will effectively be “Dubai” owned. Team Dubai F1 is soon to file the entry documentation with the Formula 1 Association and will lodge the US$48 million security fee necessary for participation. Although the team will be based in Dubai, the manufacturing base will be located in the United Kingdom. Dubai’s ruling Al Maktoum family had been in negotiations to enter the sport through a buyout of an existing F1 team, with lengthy talks held with both Jaguar Racing and Jordan. Both teams face closure if a buyer cannot be found. However, it is understood that the Al Maktoum family felt neither team, nor any other existing team that could have been bought, offered genuine potential for success in the sport. A source for British American Racing, currently second in the world championship behind Ferrari, said: “If you look at the new teams that are up for grabs, such as Jaguar, Jordan and Minardi, none of them have a serious chance of doing well in the sport. [The Maktoums] felt it was better to start from scratch, whatever the costs. But it has taken us at BAR nearly six years to make an impact in the sport, and I think Team Dubai will find it takes them just as long.” Tim Fulton of Team Dubai said: “We talked to a number of teams and their owners about the possibility of buying an existing operation. “While a number of those teams could certainly have helped us up a steep learning curve, we concluded that the acquisition of an existing team would never enable us to fully demonstrate our own commitment and excellence since success would inevitably have been linked with the existing team’s brand. “The creation of what is a completely new team enables us to build on the values of hard work, quick implementation and strong will which have underpinned the development of Dubai.” The costs of the new team will quickly spiral. A state-of-the-art technical centre and wind tunnel, in the UK, will be built next year, costing over US$100 million. On top of that, its annual team budget is likely to be in the realm of US$150 million, though a large proportion of that will be recouped through sponsorship. Meanwhile, F1 sources have indicated that Coulthard is the favourite to lead the team when it debuts in 2006. The McLaren Mercedes driver will be out of contract once this season ends. With Team Dubai expected to choose Mercedes as its engine supplier, sources say Coulthard is “the first and last choice.”

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