Jeddah Street Circuit rendering, 2021

Saudi Arabia sprint event could replace Abu Dhabi as final race of 2021 season

2021 F1 calendar

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The 2021 Formula 1 season could conclude in Saudi Arabia instead of Abu Dhabi as originally planned, RaceFans has learned.

The mooted change would see the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the new Jeddah Corniche Circuit swap weekends with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina.

The change is believed to be under consideration because the United Arab Emirates is on Britain’s ‘red zone’ list of countries. F1 staff visiting Abu Dhabi would therefore have to quarantine for 10 days on their return from the race on December 12th.

Moving Abu Dhabi forward by a week would allow most of that period to expire during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend, which would become the final race on the calendar.

Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal, the president of Saudi Arabia’s motorsport federation, said the Jeddah race promoters had not been approached about a potential date swap.

Jeddah Corniche Circuit track map, 2021
Track data: Jeddah Corniche Circuit
“Nobody mentioned something like this but if something helps Formula 1, I need to go back to see if it’s something that we are willing to do,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans. “But as of now nobody mentioned it so I cannot comment on a thing like this.

“I know by contract Abu Dhabi want to be the last race. For us I prefer not to be the last race but if it’s something that will help Formula 1 then maybe we can discuss it with them.”

Saudi Arabia has a late slot on this year’s calendar to accommodate the construction of its new venue. Prince Khalid said the promoters would prefer to have an earlier date in future seasons.

This year’s Saudi Arabian race could also see the third running of Formula 1’s new sprint qualifying race weekend, which debuted at the British Grand Prix last week. Prince Khalid was impressed with the revised format.

“I was there in Silverstone last weekend and I really enjoyed it as a spectator and a promoter,” he said.

“I think it’s good – you have more races to see more action on Saturday and still the qualifying. If you qualify on pole that doesn’t mean that you start the race from pole so this will give pressure on the teams and the drivers so I really enjoyed it. We would love to be one of the countries that have the sprint race.”

Formula 1 is also seeking a race to replace the cancelled Australian Grand Prix. Prince Khalid confirmed Saudi Arabia have not been approached about potentially holding a second event.

As reported previously, RaceFans understands the Losail International Circuit in Qatar is likely to replace the cancelled Melbourne event. Its promoters are believed to be in discussions over a 10-year race deal beginning this season, but skipping 2022 to avoid a clash with the football World Cup, which Qatar will host.

Losail International Circuit – an F1-ready, FIA grade one facility – is to be the venue for the race, though it could move to a new street circuit later in the contract’s duration.

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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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  • 36 comments on “Saudi Arabia sprint event could replace Abu Dhabi as final race of 2021 season”

    1. Well I won’t beheading there any time soon…

      1. The days of racing in apartheid SA seem quaint compared to where they are going now.

      2. I believe UAE has executed a contract to hold the last race and Liberty Media is making a killing from the fees.

      3. Just… awesome comment.

    2. The fact that the UAE is on Britain’s red list is an insult frankly. Our vaccination rates are incredibly high and our infection rates are low and have been for ages.

      1. @geemac IKR. Considering this, UAE still being on UK’s red list presently is weird.

      2. Exactly. Just another kind of discrimination. UK covid rates are worse than many of its apparent red list countries.

      3. Indeed @geemac. I could see many (sad) reasons for the UK being on the UAE’s/SA’s or Quatars red list. The other way round is awkward @jerejj, since they return from a relatively safe environment to what is the hotbed of infection of the UK.

      4. Isn’t that because of it’s role as a transit hub for the aviation industry, rather than specifically against those in the UAE (i.e. to stop people entering the UK from a red list country by transiting through the UAE and appearing as if they came from there)?

        1. It is in theory @anon, but the UAE (unlike the UK which just sticks people in hotel prison for 10 days at great cost) blocks inbound flights from countries where infection rates are going out of control (such as India a few months ago). I have colleagues who flew to India and got stuck there months ago and have no way to get back. In addition, the UAE isn’t the only travel hub around, London is a transit hub, as are Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, New York, Singapore and many others. So the transit hub argument doesn’t hold water either.

          1. A puzzling situation indeed. I too live here and echo what you’ve said. Hope it gets sorted by summer end.

            Maybe it’s something to do with the type of vaccine a person has taken? Some countries now have only certain approved brands accepted for visitors.

            Not sure if any of the RF community here encountered any such challenges.

            Reply moderated
            1. I am now (thank goodness) double vaccinated but spent the early half of this year having to negotiate the UK travel rules. The Red List for UAE is to stop UK people going there – when UAE was a travel corridor, the UK was responsible for sending people there and rocketing the infection rate around Christmas.

              A lot of the Green list/Red list stuff is to do with whether the country allows British people in rather than whether it is safe for someone to come from there. Petty and silly but well, the current government….

    3. Booooooooooooo

      Let’s wait for one race at this track. A new experiment at a new track for the first time could end horribly. Well, sprint race is not new cause it has been done at Silverstone. But I think we should do one race at Jeddah before going into any crazy ideas on format changes. Of course, we could consider Abu Dhabi as a new track due to the changes, but the race will not be a sprint. I’d prefer a normal weekend at Abu Dhabi if it’s for the final race.

    4. I’d be surprised if Abu Dhabi willingly surrendered being the curtain-closer, even if only for this one-off occasion. Realistically, the only way for the Abu Dhabi GP to go ahead except if UAE gets removed from UK’s red list in time for December.
      An interesting note about Qatar, though, as I thought it might only make a one-off appearance in F1 this year but instead may even join as a regular.
      I wonder, why would early-season be a preference, given temperatures are roughly the same in November/December versus March/April?
      Impossible unless temporary structures could stay in place between the 4-5 month gap.

      1. Abu Dhabi to give up hosting the last race of the season? 🤣

    5. Sprint race for the last weekend? Does Formula One want to be in a position where the title gets potentially decided on a Saturday

      1. someone or something
        26th July 2021, 21:24

        If the title can be decided on a Saturday, it wasn’t really worthy of going down to the wire in the first place.

    6. Love this. Qatar, Abu Dhabi and season finale of fossil fuel sport in Saudi feels like a football coming home.

      1. Follow the money……

        Reply moderated
    7. Gavin Campbell
      26th July 2021, 17:29

      Well if they swap the events for over sure;y they would do the same with the planned sprint.

      If anything a Sprint in Abu Dhabi seems to most sense considering they have modified the track so much – its worth having 2 bites of the cherry on it to see what fits best.

      The Losail rumours are interesting as the track is already the Moto GP opening round and WSBK closing round (and pre-season test host) so I’m not quite sure where it would fit in the Calendar. Furthermore it would be quite interesting as aren’t Bahrain meant to hold some veto over other races in the Middle East? Lets just say the relations between Qatar and the other nations that currently hold a GP in the region have been less than cordial. They are also all in a bit of a sports arms race – I would be quite surprised to see a race agreed for anything more than a pandemic special (then again I’m quite surprised they’ve ended up going to Saudi but $$$)

    8. But why do we need 23 races? Why?

      1. Ca$h m0n£¥ that’s why

      2. @wsrgo Not about ‘needing’ per se.

      3. Because more is better, and biggest is best! Progress! Other nonsense!

    9. Why should the rest of the world give a damn about British lists? I know that F1 is mostly UK based, but it pretends to be the World championship. I don’t know what’s worse, having to watch more of Saudi Arabia on TV or having the championship decided by some “sprint”.

      1. I assume because most of the teams and the rest of the circus is coming from the UK.

        1. @ryanoceros Indeed, although more relevantly, because the England-based teams would face an impractical 10-day hotel quarantine on return. A non-issue for Turkey as the following weekend is a race weekend, but Brazil and Abu Dhabi precede a non-race weekend, so a different story.

      2. @Dex Seems you don’t get the issue, which is that the seven England-based teams would face a mandatory 10-day hotel quarantine on return. Simply impractical, even if no races are on the horizon following the Abu Dhabi GP.

    10. Pretty strange the UK has other countries on the red list, while the number of infections in their own nation is so high. What are they afraid of, that people will come back without infection?

      1. There is much about how the UK is being run these days that is pretty strange, if not downright irrational.

      2. The “red list” is mostly political in nature. This needs to be considered first.
        The only European nation that supported Brexit was Portugal. Low and behold Portugal was the only European nation on the “green list” when the “lists” were created. The other thing to consider is that being on the “red list” provides protection to the nation on the “red list”. It isnt a finger pointing exercise! While the lists are definitely political in nature, it isnt a slight to the country in question. How many countries have the UK on their red list for instance. Rightly or wrongly.
        Infections in the UK are pretty high at present (I can personally account for that! I spent a couple of days in hospital last week with Covid) So be glad if your country is on the UK red list.
        Each country approaches this pandemic in their own way. It’s really not worth getting upset about your country being on the UK red list. On the contrary…

        1. You do raise an interesting take.

          Reply moderated
    11. Boycott Saudi Arabia F1 race!

      1. Five months left! There’s still time.

      2. I’m not watching the weekend. Hopefully the championship is over by then or I will be sad to miss out.

        I truly wonder why so few people and companies are speaking up that F1 shouldn’t be racing in Saudi Arabia any more than in North Korea but I guess money is doing all the talking. Way to have a positive impact on the world. Cool.

        I wonder if they will stone to death any drivers instead of issuing penalties? Maybe cut a hand off…

    12. No, no, no. Let Abu Dhabi be the season finale.

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