Saudi Arabia will be the newest country to join the 2021 Formula 1 calendar. The country has announced that it will be hosting the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in November 2021, held in the city of Jeddah. With the announcement, F1 becomes the third major motorsport event to make its way to the Middle-Eastern country after Formula E and the Dakar Rally. The race will be held on the city streets and organisers have promised a "spectacular night race." The Saudi Arabian GP will become the second night race on the calendar next year, in addition to the Singapore GP.
Formula 1 has signed a long-term partnership with the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), and will take place on Jeddah's corniche, which runs along the banks of the Red Sea. This will make for a stunning coastal backdrop. The Saudi Arabian GP is likely to run a week before the finale in Abu Dhabi, making it logistically conveninent as well for the teams. It also needs to be noted that Saudi state energy company Aramco, became a major partner of F1 in March this year and was also the title sponsor for three grand prix races held through this season.
Welcoming Saudi Arabia to the calendar, Chase Carey, Chairman and CEO, F1, said, "We are excited to welcome Saudi Arabia to Formula 1 for the 2021 season and welcome their announcement following speculation in recent days. 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 per cent 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."
His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud, the Minister of Sport said, "Saudi Arabia is accelerating forward and the speed, energy, excitement of Formula 1 perfectly reflects the transformational journey the country is on. As we've witnessed in recent years our people want to be at the very heart of the biggest moments in live sport and entertainment. And they don't come any bigger than Formula 1.
"No matter where in the world it's held, Formula 1 is an event that brings people together to celebrate an occasion that goes far beyond sport. We look forward to sharing this unique experience and sharing Jeddah with the world. For many Saudis this will be a dream come true," he added.
While Saudi does not have a motorsport heritage of its own, the country's decision to hold several motorsport and sporting events at large, has been seen as an effort to convert its image into a progressive country and more inclusive on a global scale. At the same time, the Saudi Arabia has also been accused of "sportswashing" its image and human rights record from over the years.
HRH Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal, President of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, said, "Today is ground-breaking in every sense. 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."
The 2021 Formula 1 calendar is expected to host 23 races including the Saudi Arabian GP, making it a busy year for the organisers, teams and the drivers. Speaking of the latter, the 2021 grid is yet to be completed as teams including Mercedes-AMG F1, Red Bull Racing, AlphaTauri, Haas, among others are yet to announce their respective driver line-up. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton's recent statement also created a stir when he said he wasn't sure if he'd be in F1 next year.
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