MARCH 19, 2023
Saudi Arabia eyes second spot on F1 calendar
Saudi Arabia is launching an audacious bid to add a second Formula 1 race to the sport's annual schedule.
It was already known that the high-speed street layout in Jeddah was only intended as a stop-gap solution while construction of a permanent facility in Qiddiya.
Construction of the entertainment megaproject Qiddiya, in the capital Riyadh, got underway in 2019, but the finish-date for the F1 venue has reportedly been pushed out from this year to as long as 2027.
In the meantime, therefore, Saudi automobile federation chief Prince Khalid bin Sultan al-Abdullah al-Faisal said Jeddah can keep hosting the race - with Quiddiya to then be added as a second venue at a later date.
"The popularity of Formula 1 is growing, including here," he said in Jeddah. "Saudi Arabia is a big country, and if there are three races in the US, we can host two."
Saudi Arabia and surrounding regions are indeed ramping up their presence in F1, with Aramco-sponsored and partly Saudi-owned Aston Martin roaring up the grid and Qatar Airways recently unveiled as a new F1 sponsor.
Quiddiya, however, will be a jewel in the crown of Saudi's F1 involvement.
"There will be hotels, parks, there will be a lot of things," said al-Faisal, "but for now we cannot move the grand prix there - it's just a large construction site.
"We do want to bring Formula 1 there when the project and the city are completely ready, but it will take longer than we expected."
He admitted, however, that it is not yet confirmed that Saudi Arabia will be able to host two races per season.
"Many factors need to be considered," said Prince Khalid, a member of the ruling royal family.
"Even if we want to have two races, will it be practical and feasible for FOM and the teams? But the track in Jeddah is no longer considered temporary, so in the future we will theoretically be able to host two.
"I wouldn't be surprised if that's how it ends up."