RIYADH • Saudi Arabia will host a Formula One grand prix for the first time next year in Jeddah, state TV reported yesterday.
“Hosting this event is part of the ‘Vision 2030’ project, with the support of our leadership and especially His Highness, the Crown Prince,” Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz Turki said yesterday, referring to the kingdom’s transformation plan.
The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is slated to be the penultimate round on next year’s calendar before the finale in Abu Dhabi.
It will take place in Jeddah and will initially be a night street race, but F1 said it will eventually move to a purpose-built circuit.
According to the BBC, the deal is for 10 years, and the plan is for the grand prix to relocate to a circuit in Qiddiya – a planned entertainment mega project on the outskirts of Riyadh – by 2023.
“We hope to overcome this pandemic and that people will be able to attend, but things aren’t clear yet in this regard,” said Prince Abdulaziz.
F1 has come under close scrutiny over the staging of a race in Bahrain and the addition of Saudi Arabia, the 33rd country to host a race, is sure to escalate criticism from human rights watchers.
Amnesty International has accused the Saudis of trying to “sports wash” their “appalling” image through the hosting of the Dakar Rally, Spanish Super Cup, Italian Super Cup and the heavyweight boxing rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz.
However, Prince Abdulaziz has rejected the criticism, insisting next November’s race – one of a record 23 – will effect “positive change”.