Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Official: Saudi Arabia to hold first F1 race in 2021

2021 F1 calendar

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Formula 1’s long-rumoured first race in Saudi Arabia has been officially confirmed.

A night race on the streets of Jeddah, the second-largest city in the Middle Eastern kingdom, will hold a November round of the 2021 F1 season. The race will be situated on the corniche overlooking the seafront.

An F1 race in Saudi Arabia has been widely expected since Saudi Aramco became a global partner of the sport earlier this year.

However concerns have been raised over F1’s decision to hold a grand prix in what is regarded as one of the world’s most repressive regimes, particularly for women, government critics, religious minorities, human rights supporters and the country’s LGBTQ+ community.

Amnesty International warned the country is using Formula 1 as a distraction from its human rights record. It urged the sport to ensure its events in the country are open to all without discrimination.

Qiddiya plan, 2019
Qiddiya: The Spa-beating longest F1 track Saudi Arabia is building for its grand prix
Formula 1 team principals defended the plans last week. Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said the sport would be “a vector of positivity” in Saudi Arabia.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, who has attended a Formula E race in Saudi Arabia, said he was “impressed by the change that I’ve seen” in the country.

Jeddah may prove a temporary site for the race. As RaceFans revealed last year a purpose-built circuit is planned at a new multi-billion pound entertainment “giga-project” called Qiddiya.

The race was announced by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sports. Formula 1 chairman and CEO Chase Carey said the series is “excited to welcome Saudi Arabia to Formula 1 for the 2021 season and welcome their announcement following speculation in recent days.”

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Formula E and the Dakar Rally have held events in Saudi Arabia over the past two years. “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,” said Carey “and we are very pleased that Formula 1 will be racing there from next season.

Start, Albert Park, 2019
2021 F1 calendar
“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.”

Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal, the president of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, described the announcement as “groundbreaking”.

“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,” he added.

“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.”

The 2021 F1 calendar is expected to be confirmed later this month. The addition of a new race in Saudi Arabia could increase the total number of rounds to a record-breaking 23.

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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118 comments on “Official: Saudi Arabia to hold first F1 race in 2021”

  1. How many street circuits do we need?!?

    1. @huhhii one less than than Montecarlo only

      1. @m-bagattini I haven’t missed Monaco GP at all this year, but at least its place in the calendar can be justified with heritage even if the race itself is often quite poor.

        1. Rotation would be pretty nice

  2. Yet another shameless money grab. Can women attend? Are journalists allowed to cover the event?

    1. Imagine it will be the same deal as Formula E, which I’ve covered there twice.

      1. @hazelsouthwell – What will be the protocols with the celebrations after the presentation ceremony with the use of champagne?

        1. In Bahrain they used carbonated rosewater that is non-alcoholic. Maybe the same will apply in Saudi Arabia

        2. @johnrkh I don’t know if F1 will go for rosewater – Formula E has a dry podium with just confetti when we go to countries where open consumption of alcohol is not allowed, like Marrakech.

          There’s a total and complete ban on booze in KSA so I suspect F1 would need to do something similar and suck it up for the champagne sponsor that weekend. Definitely won’t be any of the fermented stuff allowed, in any case.

    2. I’m sure women can attend, especially if they’re in view of the camera so the government who is paying for this PR stunt can show how “inclusive” they are becoming.

      But much like WWE, who keeps their female talent and their Syrian or Israelian talent at home instead of taking them along to their Saudi-Arabia show, don’t expect F1 to be allowed to bring any of their potential female driver’s along for the race. Maybe the deal was dependent on Claire Williams resigning as team boss, too, who knows?

      1. Formula E had a test day with 9 female drivers in Saudi Arabia, so think again.

        1. Wow, that was so generous of them. In a country where women still couldn’t drive a car without being arrested at the time. But the ruler who slaughters journalists was merciful, so never mind that now…

          1. Not to ‘well actually’ you but the law being changed to allow women to drive was conditional to racing happening there.

    3. Journalists can access, only in parts

      1. So you’re saying journalist coverage might be a bit…choppy?

        1. Likely to be disjointed.

          1. I just wanna say, I love everything that has happened here

  3. Don’t forget to collect your complimentary bone saws at the rental counter.

  4. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
    5th November 2020, 14:37

    Enough with these street courses and stop adding more races (there are way too many)!! F1 is turning into Formula E!

    1. No, more racing is awesome!

  5. That’s done it. Bye bye Formula 1.

    1. Good bye. Please return your rose tinted spectacles in the bin provided.

    2. Quite. A regime that openly murders opponents, and routinely tortures those that offend the sensibilities of the leadership. Saudi Arabia still crucifies criminals for goodness’ sakes. What on Earth is F1 doing? “We race as one.” One what? They want to protest racism, but not the extreme prejudice and discrimination that is everyday in SA.

      If you go, remember not to have sex with anyone but the person (of the opposite sex) you are married to – especially if you’re a woman. Jail or a whipping (or both) awaits.

  6. Can’t wait to go to the race and be as gay as possible. Thanks f1

    1. Just Another Racefan
      5th November 2020, 22:11

      Not gonna lie, I’ve never had the courage to take the stage clubbing. But give me a podium, champagne and maybe a pole and I’ll make an exception ;p

    2. Have all team bosses and driver go crossdressed :)

  7. After all the nice circuits from 2020 we go back to those dumb boring money painted arab circuits… Damn.

  8. We had an initial 2020 calendar, and now we’ve just been to some amazing tracks such as Nurburgring, Portimao and Imola. Instead of adding them, we get some street circuit in Saudi Arabia? I’m not impressed.

  9. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    5th November 2020, 15:16

    Wonder if Ray Nissany can sqeeze in an FP-session there. They should try really. If he can’t, then the entire ‘we race as one’ can go into the bin.

  10. Yeah because the middle east really needs another race. How about going to Kylami, or Argentina for crying out loud! I dont think Covid is going anywhere yet, so maybe we will get another season of European races again. Financially they made it happen this year…….. or maybe this is to help out with the financial losses Liberty must have made this year. Either way it will be interesting if Lewis is happy about racing there…….. if he is racing at all next year

    1. ££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

      1. £€$$ is more!

    2. Yes, because when F1 first went to both of the countries you mention, they didn’t oppress their majority population or kidnap and torture their political critics did they? Steven Biko, for one, and numerous “disappeared” may beg to differ. F1 has no moral high ground to preach to Saudi from. It’s a money grabbing circus, nothing more (definitely not a sport).

  11. Too much races in too many petrol/oil countries. Appalling.

    1. @jeff1s Petrol/oil, literally the liquid that enables the show…

  12. As a lover of night races, that is the only positive, along with the possibility that the track could be fun to drive. Other than that, I’ll stop there. I do wish that more night races can occur. But others may have a different view.

    1. Wosh it was more like le mans , instead of floodlights all around the track. Its like daytime on the tarmac

    2. Thank you @psynrg I wasn’t aware!

  13. James Whiteley
    5th November 2020, 15:33

    It’s decisions like this which make the sport’s more recent socially progressive agenda look completely shallow and hollow. Pushing the agenda for equality in motorsport is something I certainly get behind but it just seems like a joke when the sport then turns around and makes deals with countries with such appalling human rights records. I understand they’re trying to recoup the lost purchasing money for the short term, but come on. Its especially a shame when you consider how many great circuits we’ve visited this year.

    1. The hypocrisy of F1 drivers and F1 as a whole will be at its Peak when they visit Saudi next year. On one hand we have our loudmouth so called F1 drivers acting as social activists and ambassadors for equality, and on the other hand they will all shake hands, click pictures and receive trophies from MBS (The Crown/Clown Prince of Human Right Violations)

    2. Totally. It shows it’s all just virtue signaling.

      1. Which really should be called virtue faking

    3. Well said. Do they really mean what they say about inclusivity and ending prejudice? If so, half the drivers will refuse to attend.

  14. I’d like to see the teams, drivers, and fans subtly protesting Saudi’s human right violations right under their nose..

    1. That would be day! This will never happen, unfortunately. I am not the least surprised Saudi Arabia is getting a race. Especially since F1 is run by a former Fox News exec.

    2. They did in bahrain

  15. Beautiful. No female fans I assume? Hopefully they (their prince for one) won’t be chopping journalists into pieces and clogging some toilet with their remains during the GP, that would be bad PR. “We all race as one”, Saudi Arabia… F1.

  16. We Race as One. Excluding LGBT, Women, any journalist not willing to praise the Govt. Wonder which tshirt Lewis is gonna wear to protest human rights violations. Maybe Justice for Kashoggi?

    1. Yes, its a shame they cant be as perfect as the other places we race in.

      1. “No one is perfect, so we can’t criticize anyone,” is a logical fallacy. And while, yes, there are problematic race locales up and down the calendar, Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations are particularly appalling. The sport should be moving to improve its stature with regard to human rights, not regress.

        1. Absolutely Allan Goodall. I could not agree more.

        2. Allan Goodall +1000

        3. Correction: Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations are not any better or worse than those of your country, my country, or pretty much any other country in the world. What is particularly appalling is the mainstream media reports about those abuses, but believing what the mainstream media says is not necessarily a wise thing to do.

      2. @ian dearing no doubt that no place is perfect. But this is Saudi we are talking about. They are the undisputed kings in oppression, human right violations and hypocrisy. They cant just white wash their image by staging a few WWE events and an F1 race in their country. Although F1 is going to rake in sweet $$$ by going there but its a pity that the pinnacle of motorsports is now a part of this fake circus just to please western masters. And the thinking of one Mr. Binotto that ‘we can bring change by these events’ is fake as hell.

        1. China would like to know if it is a joke to you with regards to oppression and human rights violations.

    2. Only if lewis races in 2021… he isnt sure about it he said

  17. Time will tell what COVID has to say about things. I didn’t expect floodlit infrastructure given that this is supposed to be a stop-gap thing only, but I wonder what time would the race start. The earliest sunset time for Jeddah in November is 17:46 and the latest 17:39, so quite similar to Abu Dhabi meaning that by having 17:10 as the race time, it’d be a transitional one like the Abu Dhabi GP, which is what I hope would happen, but I reckon 18:10 as the more likely option based on the wording in the article, although the word ‘night’ has been a bit overused in F1 since 2008 even though the races under floodlighting actually take place in the evening and or late-afternoon, but anyway. BTW, 21 out of the 22 ‘original’ 2020 tracks (Interlagos excluded) + Jeddah makes it 22, not 23, which is something I wondered immediately after seeing the number mentioned 23 in this context for the first time. The proposed circuit in Rio won’t get ready in time for next season due to the time frame, which isn’t sufficient enough when starting entirely from scratch, and especially as it’s probably only going to get delayed through protesting, blocking, etc., as has happened with Miami. The only way for 23 next year is by having an already existing track, be it Interlagos for one more season, or, for example, some of the ones that weren’t supposed to have a GP this year, or something. Temporary venues don’t require as much lead time as permanent ones as they get formed out of existing roads, so don’t have to start wholly from zero. Nevertheless, the evolving situation with C19 will dictate what kind of a season the next one is eventually going to be like. I wouldn’t put it entirely past having to resort to a cyclical-type pattern like this year.

  18. Rob (@realnigelmansell)
    5th November 2020, 16:07

    Sort of undermines the progressive messaging this year, but at the end of the day it is a business

  19. The UN condemned Saudi Arabia in September of this year for the murder/dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi and come November we’re announcing a race in….. Saudi Arabia? Way to go Liberty. It’s such an American type thing to do $$$$$$

    1. To be fair, that’s rather a typical human thing. Liberty only follow the lead of FIFA, UEFA, IOC and others.

    2. By that logic we should ban American, Mexican, Brazilian who else, Russia, This list goes on the number of races that would be banned. The best thing to do is look on the positive side of what F1 can bring to these places.

      1. No. The best thing is to not start going to these places at all. F1 doesn’t need another race in a state like Saudi Arabia.

  20. Reminder to journalists, do not forget to bring your Kevlar body suit along with your press credentials

  21. Oh, great, another petroleum autocracy with an abysmal human rights record gets an F1 track.

  22. Anyone expecting anything better from a sport governed by the money grabbers at Liberty media ?
    They’ve made a utter disaster of ruining a once entertaining sport, make false publicity drives like we race as one, featuring Vitali “cleanse the gays” Petrov. I hope Hamilton has his charge the murderers of Jamal Khashoggi t-shirt ready.

    From a racing point of view if the race is anything like Abu Dhabi or 7 of the last 8 seasons when the title is over I’ll have no issues missing another unwelcome street race. Shame we just had good races at actual race tracks like Mugello and a race enjoyed by drivers and fans like Imola.

  23. #WeRaceAsOne It’s better to be like Bernie rather than having a contradictory slogan.

  24. “We race as one”, unless you are gay, bisexual, trans, atheist, or female. Absolutely disgusted by F1, with their total disregard for human rights while pretending to support equality.

    It all boils down to money and greed. Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Azerbijan, Russia, all totalitarian regimes that imprison and murder people for their politics, religion and sexual identities.

    These places are bad, but Saudi Arabia, one of the worlds most oppressive regimes. What’s next, North Korea, Syria ???

  25. What a sad day for F1…

  26. Liberty is just Bernie Ecclestone with better PRs and less Hitler statements.

      1. Indeed, @fer-no65.

        But, John Malone, who controls Liberty is more like Bernie, but richer. Largest private land owner in the USA. 22 million acres and counting. But… who’s counting – counting doesn’t count at this time…

  27. Ooops, forgot to add China to the list of murderous regimes that F1 supports and celebrates.

    Was doubtful about 2020 due to corona virus, but it may turn out to be a golden year for the sport. Lots of good racing on old style traditional circuits, no dictators on the podiums, no government forces crushing protesters and arresting people just outside the gates.

    After 40+ years of watching F1 and attending numerous races, I think Saudi Arabia will be the proverbial straw, and 2020 will be the final year for me.

  28. The vast majority of comments here are against F1 racing in Saudi. F1/Liberty wake up and listen! I love F1 but very disappointed by this move.

    I am however pleased to see so many people taking this view on Racefans! Thanks Keith for giving fans this voice.

  29. From the Wikipedia article on State-sponsored terrorism:

    “While Saudi Arabia is often a secondary source of funds and support for terror movements who can find more motivated and ideologically invested benefactors, Saudi Arabia arguably remains the most prolific sponsor of international Islamist terrorism”

  30. “Several unique and radical features are planned, such as cars passing under an illuminated aquarium and a big dipper that mimics on-track action”

    Oooooo shiny things.

  31. I hope the t-shirts have been ordered a and we will take a knee..

    Oh wait… you will no longer have no knees

  32. F1 drivers, bosses and fans during 2020: how good is it racing at these old school circuits! Let’s find room for them on the calendar

    F1: ok so what you’re saying is let’s have a street race in Saudi Arabia? Done!

  33. A total disgrace. It’s time for F1 to drop those crappy PR slogans. Just curious to see if Hamilton will have the same courage to ask justice for Jamal Khashoggi – as he did with Breonna Taylor – and all his killers to be tried as only five persons were given 20-year jail and some of them were not investigated and could actually attend the race since they are high state officials.

  34. Putting the hypocritical criticism on display aside… 3 races is simply way too much in such a small region

    1. small region but biggest and deepest pockets in the world.

      capitalism

      1. Really? For the paragon of socialism that is F1?

  35. I hope Lewis protests at this venue seeing as he has a bazillion records and zero damns left to give.

  36. This is not a good idea or a popular move for F1. What with all the support this year for the We Race as One campaign and Black Lives Matter, Liberty have completely undermined the whole efforts of those involved.

    This is the worst decision Liberty have made since becoming involved with the sport. They look like shallow, insincere money grabbers. Rushing to grab the money on offer from the hyper-wealthy and damn the consequences. This has nothing to do with improving the quality of life for people living in Saudi and we all know it.

    Now people will say what the races in other countries with dubious regimes and aren’t the critics of this move being hypocritical? In my opinion they should not be holding events in Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Azerbaijan, China, etc. The list goes on. We cannot change this though now though as these events are established.

    The world is changing and attitudes are changing. The time to stop this happening is now before we start racing in yet another country with a poor human rights record. But no Liberty turn a blind eye. This decision at this particular time flies in the face of all the progress that is being made and most of us can see this..

    1. A wild idea – the majority of infuential people F1, even prominent journalists, are millionaires at least. A good PR full of feel good stories and fight for justice sells well nowadays. These people see the opportunity. I don’t think there’s much more to add.

    2. To play devils advocate, there would be a whole heap of F1 fans, who until this was announced, would have had no idea about Saudi Arabia and their human rights record. So this announcement has now helped educate a new breed of F1 fans about Saudi Arabia’s regime. It will also be much talked about in the general media and will put the spotlight on these issues all over the world.

      If the stated figure of 70% of the population being under 30 is correct, then this is the generation who will have the power in the future to implement change in Saudi Arabia. Exposing this generation to what the bulk of the world sees as acceptable behaviour, in the treatment of all humans, can surely only be a good thing? It’s no overnight or single solution but I believe the positives might outweigh the negatives. I hope the drivers and teams make an effort to show what they stand for.

      *The below 30 year olds being 70% of the population is an extremely high %. Usually these types of figures represent a young workforce who get in, earn big bucks and then get out, I’m not sure if this is the case in Saudi Arabia, just an interesting stat. In Australia it is about 39% and in hot mining areas about 45%, so 70% is massive.

      1. there would be a whole heap of F1 fans, who until this was announced, would have had no idea about Saudi Arabia and their human rights record

        They already gained worldwide notoriety for the Jamal Khashoggi killing and the way they did it in front of the whole world in a foreign country inside their embassy. Their human rights record is well known to the whole world unless for underprivileged people who don’t have the television or the internet or people living in the north pole.

  37. Really? Really? Really? Really? Really?

  38. Can’t wait to go to the embassy to get my visa.

  39. Bye bye to me watching f1 in 2021 then. After all the races at imola portimao mugello etc… the fact these circuits can’t stay and instead we get another random boring street circuit or some tilkedrome.

  40. After all the good work F1 and Lewis have done this year, then they go there? No offence to their citizens but a lot has to change before they should entertain going there.

  41. How in the world do think a vanity sport like F1 survives? $$$ This is NOT a new thing and certainly not an invention of Liberty. Even prior to the F1 world championship Nazi regime was permitted to flaunt its blood money. Wake up. This is the way the sport has ALWAYS operated. Not saying anyone has to like it but let’s not trip over ourselves with naïveté. Even in the most peaceful of countries often times the race deals are not paragons of virtue. The reality is if you want teams spending hundreds millions to race 2 cars in a world which increasingly ignores Motorsport deal with it. Or don’t. The train will keep moving.

  42. F1 would race around a North Korean Labour camp if it paid well.

  43. This is a bit cynical but I predict there is an 80% chance they will design a track with no overtaking points usable for a modern formula 1 car.

  44. Yeah well we all knew it was coming still disappointed. But F1 is a business first and foremost so as I have said before business is a moral free zone particularly at the corporate level.

    1. James Whiteley
      6th November 2020, 1:11

      It is but there should be limits. This reeks of massive hypocrisy when you consider the “we race as one” agenda they have been pushing this year.

  45. now how do we spell hypocrisy?….hmmmm

    1. It’s spelt ‘we race as one’

  46. ‘We race as one.’

    Boy, does this smack of hypocrisy.

    1. They probably meant we race as one piece.

  47. Right now Donald Trump is trying to steal tge US election and is letting over 100,000 people get infected with covid daily and over 1000 dieing from it daily. If he gets reelected, F1 should immediately cancel US gps for the next 4 years. Saudi Arabia is a much choice then that demented ununited States of america.

  48. Im excited for it! However i think two races in the middle east are enough so maybe Abu Dhabi should be dropped or Bahrain

  49. It’s not as if this was unexpected. I just find it quite sad that despite F1’s stated aim to become as green as possible and this year’s “we race as one” they’ve shown that commercial interests will always trump moral ones.

    The only time I’ve seen any sport boycott a country was back in the apartheid days in South Africa.

    It’ll be interesting, given how late in the season it will be held, to see whether or not a team or drivers might elect to miss the race if they had already won the WCC or the WDC.

    1. @dbradock What does the aim to become green have to do with this? I don’t see a correlation.

      1. @jerejj I guess I’m drawing a link between a desire to be “green” and having Aramco and one of the biggest oil producing countries on board. Tenuous I guess but still driven by corporate interests.

  50. I would like to know more about how Frank (Williams) got that deal in the 70s when Saudia was the main sponsor for Williams. I doubt there is any connection from that period of time to this deal which was kinda expected but not a very good one.

  51. Does anyone know if Formula E fans also tried to boycott the Saudi Arabian ePrix?

    1. I think there was doubts how that would work out. It’s a great track for FE though but I’m not sure has that changed anything in SA

  52. Can’t wait for Lewis Hamilton to wear his T-shirt that says “Justice for Loujain al-Hathlou”. He’s certainly not afraid to speak truth-to-power, or is he?

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