Formula 1 will race in Saudi Arabia for the first time in 2021, with a night race taking place on a street circuit in the coastal city of Jeddah.
The Saudi Automobile & Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) has confirmed the race will be held in November, the first event as part of a new long-term partnership with F1. While the first race is being held in Jeddah – and likely to form a doubleheader with the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – plans are afoot to race on a purpose-built new venue in future.
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 5, 2020
“We are excited to welcome Saudi Arabia to Formula 1 for the 2021 season and welcome their announcement following speculation in recent days,” said Chase Carey, chairman and CEO of Formula 1.
“Saudi Arabia is a country that is rapidly becoming a hub for sports and entertainment with many major events taking place there in recent years and we are very pleased that Formula 1 will be racing there from next season.
“The region is hugely important to us and with 70% of the population of Saudi being under 30 we are excited about the potential to reach new fans and bring our existing fans around the world exciting racing from an incredible and historic location. We will be publishing our full provisional 2021 calendar in the coming weeks and this will be submitted to the World Motor Sport Council for approval.”
SAMF president HRH Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal says the event can bring about change both in Saudi Arabia and in the wider world’s perception of the country.
“Today is ground-breaking in every sense,” he said. “I firmly believe the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will be the biggest sports event hosted in our country’s history and has the potential to change lives, perceptions and reach new audiences and communities like never before. To have the icons of the sport and historic teams race in Saudi in front of young fans and families is truly game-changing.
“We don’t have a rich motorsport heritage, but in a short space of time as a federation we’ve earned a strong reputation of delivering world-class international events such as Formula E and the Dakar Rally. As a result, Saudi Arabia is home to literally millions of passionate young fans of motorsport. Many of whom will already be smiling and counting down to seeing their heroes in November 2021. Our plans will see us take the sport to even more people with a celebration that reaches all communities and is open to all.”
Formula 1 has faced criticism for allowing a race to take place in a country with a poor human rights record, but insists it can play a productive role in Saudi Arabia.
“For decades Formula 1 has worked hard be a positive force everywhere it races, including economic, social, and cultural benefits,” an F1 spokesperson said. “Sports like Formula 1 are uniquely positioned to cross borders and cultures to bring countries and communities together to share the passion and excitement of incredible competition and achievement.
“We take our responsibilities very seriously and have made our position on human rights and other issues clear to all our partners and host countries who commit to respect human rights in the way their events are hosted and delivered.”