Dubai's MBC wins five-year broadcast rights for Formula One championship

The free-to-air TV channel will begin airing the F1 tournament currently underway in Melbourne

Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg of Germany exits turn 2 during the second practice session of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, March 15, 2019. The first race of the year is Sunday. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
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Dubai-based broadcaster MBC Group has won the rights to air the FIA Formula One World Championship.

The free-to-air television channel won five-year exclusive rights to broadcast the tournament, with the debut airing set to commence on Friday from the Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

"This marks the return of the world’s biggest motorsport event to a free-to-air network in the MENA region, following years of being available on subscription-only networks," the company said in a statement.

The Formula One World Championship is the highest class of single-seater auto racing regulated by the FIA, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile. The races are very popular in the Middle East, with Bahrain and eventually Abu Dhabi becoming regional hubs for the motorsport, which have become a key driver for generating tourism and marketing revenues for the economy.

MBC will air all stages of the tournament, including training sessions, qualifiers as well as the Grand Prix finale day.

Special technical and logistical arrangements have been put in place to cover the Formula One tournament from March 15 to 17 for regional fans, MBC added.

After the Melbourne championship, the event returns to the Middle East for the Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2019 from 29 to 31 March. The final event of the season, the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2019 will take from 29 November to 1 December.