RACE DEBRIEF

    In 2021, Saudi Arabia will become the 33rd country to host a round of the Formula 1 world championship when it showcases the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Here’s everything you need to know about this exciting addition to the calendar…

    Where in Saudi Arabia is the race taking place?

    The inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will take place in the nation’s second-biggest city by population – Jeddah, on the west coast of the country. The race will be run on a street track, however there are plans for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to move to a purpose-built circuit at some point in the future.

    What makes the location special?

    Jeddah is a picturesque city of around 3.5 million people, situated on the beautiful Red Sea coast. The final track layout is still to be confirmed, but it’s set to be situated on the Corniche - a 30 km coastal resort area of the city. As such, the track is expected to hug the seafront, providing a stunning natural backdrop for the action.

    Saudi Arabia joins 2021 Formula 1 calendar

    What kind of circuit will it be?

    As mentioned, the final track design has not been decided, but organisers say it will feature a good flow of long straights and tight corners, with no equivalent track on the calendar.

    Anything else unique about the race?

    Organisers hope that the race will take place at night under lights, adding another layer of atmosphere. They expect the city to come alive with excitement for the race, with everyone coming together to celebrate a festival of F1.

    F1 has never raced in Saudi before, but does it have motorsport heritage?

    Yes, Saudi Arabia has connections with F1 that stretch back to 1978, when the airline Saudia sponsored Williams, alongside a few other Saudi businesses. The investment proved a significant event in the team’s history, with the 'Fly Saudia' branded team winning their first world championships in 1980 with Alan Jones.

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    In 1980, Alan Jones became world champion and Williams won their first constructors' title, with a Saudia Airlines sponsored car

    More recently, Saudi Arabia has played host to both Formula E and the Dakar Rally, while Saudi Aramco - the world’s leading integrated energy and chemicals company - are a global F1 partner, with both sides saying the partnership has the potential to further develop and accelerate plans towards a power unit fuelled by advanced sustainable fuels. No Saudi driver has ever raced in F1, but at the 2018 French Grand Prix Saudi woman Aseel Al-Hamad drove some demonstration laps in a Renault F1 car, on the same day Saudi Arabia allowed women to obtain a driving licence.

    Has Saudi Arabia hosted any other major sporting events?

    In addition to Formula E and the Dakar Rally, Saudi Arabia has hosted international football – including the Spanish Supercup and the Italian Supercup - European Tour men’s and ladies golf, WWE, boxing, international tennis, FEI equestrian championships and the Saudi Cup. It is also set to host the first stage of Extreme E in 2021 – the new off-road championship in which Lewis Hamilton is a team owner.

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    Jeddah's King Abdullah Sports City hosted Milan and Juventus in the Italian Supercup in 2019 - and the Spanish Supercup the following year.

    What do the people of Saudi Arabia think about F1 coming?

    It’s fair to say they are excited. In 2018, when Riyadh hosted Formula E, there were live music concerts and entertainment alongside the racing action, with over 40,000 people attending each of the three nights - a first for the country. With 70% of the population under the age of 30, Saudi people want to be like the rest the world – they want to go to the biggest live events, they want to have fun and they are embracing and welcoming new opportunities. Formula 1 has worked hard be a positive force everywhere it races, including economic, social, and cultural benefits. Sports like Formula 1 are uniquely positioned to cross borders and cultures to bring countries and communities together to share the passion and excitement of incredible competition and achievement.

    A UNIQUE MOMENT: Saudi Arabia's Aseel Al-Hamad’s drives an F1 car