FIA urges caution after reports of $20bn F1 valuation

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has urged caution over "inflated" valuations of Formula One, after a report claimed Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund explored the possibility of a $20 billion takeover bid last year.

Bloomberg reported that Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) valued the sport's commercial rights at $20 billion including debt, but any potential deal "faltered in the early stages" because F1's current owners Liberty Media had no interest in selling. The report added that PIF remains interested in buying the sport should Liberty Media change its mind.

Reacting to the news via Twitter, Ben Sulayem warned about potential negative consequences for the sport if such a large bid was accepted.

"As the custodians of motorsport, the FIA, as a non-profit organisation, is cautious about alleged inflated price tags of $20bn being put on F1," Ben Sulayem said in the first of three tweets on Monday.

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."

The last of Ben Sulayem's three tweets suggested that such a high valuation would risk the sport needing to increase race hosting fees and the cost of TV contracts to cover the outlay, which in turn could impact prices for fans.

"It is our duty to consider what the future impact will be for promoters in terms of increased hosting fees and other commercial costs, and any adverse impact that it could have on fans," he said.

Liberty Media's purchase of F1 in 2017 for $4.4 billion was signed off by the FIA under the terms of a pre-existing 100-year lease, which transferred the commercial rights of the sport from the governing body to F1's holding company.

The 100-year lease was struck between former FIA president Max Mosely and former F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone for $313.17 million in the year 2000, extending an existing 15-year lease that had been signed in 1995 until the year 2110.