Formula One races will be hosted in Bahrain till at least 2036,  after a 10-year contract extension was signed on Friday. Bahrain was the first Middle East country to host a Formula One race in 2004 and is set to stage the season opener in March. The island nation is also one of four Gulf nations with a grand prix.

“Since 2004 we have had some fantastic races in Sakhir and we cannot wait to be back there for the start of the 2022 championship,” F1 president Stefano Domenicali said in a statement. 

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Ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix last year, seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton urged the global racing series to not ignore human rights violations in the countries where it stages races. Bahrain has been accused of exploiting the series to gloss over, or “sportswash,” its human rights record.

The Bahrain GP is scheduled March 20 and the Bahrain International Circuit will also host pre-season testing. Hamilton won the race in 2021.

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Domenicali also hailed Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa for helping secure the extension. 

“Bahrain was the first country in the Middle East to welcome Formula 1 and it has a very special place in our sport, and I personally want to thank HRH Prince Salman and his team for their dedication and hard work throughout our partnership and look forward to the many years of racing ahead of us,” he said. 

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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won his first title last year in controversial fashion, overtaking Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton – who was level with the Dutchman on points going into the final race – in the last lap in Abu Dhabi. 

Meanwhile, Red Bull Racing have secured a new five-year title sponsorship with technology firm Oracle worth $500 million, making it one of the biggest commercial deals in sports. The deal will left the team ahead of the upcoming season, where Verstappen will look to defend his title.