SINGAPORE: Singapore has agreed on a deal with Formula One to extend the country’s grand prix contract for another five years until 2017, following months of hard bargaining for cheaper fees.
No price tag for the new deal to 2017 was revealed, but Formula One commercial rights—holder Bernie Ecclestone said repeatedly that the Singapore government had proven tough negotiators.
"It was difficult for me to negotiate," said Ecclestone, sitting next to Singapore’s Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran for the announcement ahead of Sunday’s grand prix. Mr Iswaran is also a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs.
"He’s not easy to deal with and I can’t understand why he was complaining about us using the streets and wearing out the streets," he joked. "But we eventually got there and I’m very, very happy. We’re all here for another five years."
High costs have caused friction for several hosts of Formula One, which has expanded aggressively from its traditional European domain with seven races in the Asia—Pacific region this season.
Singapore is also one of several grand prix hosts to complain about the high race fees it pays to Formula One. When pressed by journalists on whether Singapore had won a cheaper deal, Ecclestone was coy.
"I always believe these questions shouldn’t be asked," he said, when pressed on the contract’s price—tag. "A gentleman should never speak about money and last night."
Ecclestone added: "Let me tell you how serious the minister is: you’ll be paying for your seat on the way out."
The Singapore race, one of seven held in the Asia—Pacific region this year, has been watched by more than 360 million TV viewers, according to government figures, and won universal praise from teams and drivers this week.
"This is the fifth Singapore Grand Prix and it’s already a great grand prix, great atmosphere, great city," McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said earlier on Saturday.
The Singapore race was first held in 2008 on the Marina Bay street circuit and has become a social highlight of the Formula One calendar that rivals Monaco and Abu Dhabi as a draw for dealmakers and corporate heavy—hitters.
According to Mr Iswaran, the race has attracted more than 150,000 visitors spending over S$560m in the past four years.
Mr Iswaran said: "From an economic perspective, the F1 Singapore Grand Prix has attracted more than 150,000 international visitors over the last four years, and about S$140m to S$150m in incremental tourism receipts each year. For the extended term, we expect benefits to remain at least at this level."
With the cost of organising each race pegged at about S$150m — the government co—funds 60 per cent of the bill — Mr Iswaran stressed that the government would like to reduce costs through factors such as infrastructure, operational efficiencies in race organisation and revised terms with the race promoter and Formula One Administration.
While some tweaks could be made to the current Marina Bay Circuit, there are currently no plans to make significant changes to the 5.073km track.
Formula One’s hefty race fees have long been a problem for hosts. In 2008, Chinese Grand Prix organisers told AFP they were prepared to walk away from Formula One, before later extending their deal.
The Australian Grand Prix has been the subject of controversy with estimates that it costs local taxpayers A$50 million to stage.
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