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Bahrain GP to sport empty suites?

2012-04-20 07:46

NOT VERY HOSPITABLE: The Bahrain GP has hospitality suites for corporate clients, but will any be in use come Sunday?

Tom Bergin and Keith Weir

LONDON, England - Western companies are opting not to entertain clients and partners at the 2012 Bahrain F1 GP in response to calls for sponsors to boycott the event because of political turmoil.

Safety fears grew on Thursday after members of the Force India team were caught up in a petrol bomb incident during which police used teargas to disperse protesters.

Royal Dutch Shell, which sponsors the Ferrari racing team, will for instance not host any guests at the event, a source familiar with the company's plans said.

The GP was not held in 2011 after an anti-government movement erupted in Bahrain following uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia; in 2010 and earlier Shell invited a "small number" of guests, the source added.


Shell declined comment on its hospitality plans but a spokesman said technicians would be there to support the Ferrari team "if the race goes ahead".

Agencies which offer corporate hospitality were also seeing less business than in previous years. Daniel Bois, director of London-based ticket agency F1 Corporate,said: "We're 80% down. We've got so few people going we've not even bothered to send out a representative to host them."

Bois added that the risk of violence was one of the reasons potential clients seemed to be deterred.

A source close to the matter said that Swiss bank UBS would not be sponsoring any client events at the Bahrain race.


Corporate hospitality raises around $200-million in total during the 20-race season - about 10% of total revenues for F1, a business majority owned by private equity firm CVC Capital Partners. Vodafone, which sponsors the McLaren team, is not planning to invite guests, saying it was not a race at which it had previously arranged significant entertainment because it does not operate in Bahrain.

A Vodafone spokesman said: "We are aware of international concerns but whether the event should proceed is a matter for the teams and F1,"

The International Automobile Federation (FIA) gave the green light a week before the event; the 2011 race was cancelled because of a violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

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