Saudi Arabia outlines its Formula 1 strategy as Jeddah circuit to face competition

Saudi Arabia joined the Formula 1 calendar in 2021 with the Jeddah street circuit.

With Formula 1 continuing to grow its audience in North America and the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has revealed that they “would love” to host two races a year, with the new Qiddiya circuit set to be completed in 2026.

The plan originally was for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to switch to Qiddiya once the facility was completed, with the Jeddah street circuit more of an interim host.

However, the country has now raised the idea of hosting a race at both circuits every year, something that is highly controversial.

Missile strikes during this year’s Saudi Arabian GP just a few miles from the circuit threw the safety of the paddock into question, with smoke having been seen billowing into the air whilst cars drove around the street circuit.

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Human rights also continues to be an ever-present issue for the country; however, the money they generate for the sport will likely overshadow the concerning issues in the nation.

Saudi Arabian oil company Aramco are actually one of the sport’s title partners as well as being Aston Martin’s title partner, meaning that the sport might be open to a second race in the country due to the millions they are given by the company.

“We won’t say no,” said Saudi Arabia’s minister for sport HRH Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal, when asked if the country would like to host two races a year.

“We really see the benefits of having these events for the Kingdom and that’s why we’re investing so much.

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“Maybe you’re focused more on sports, but we’re doing the same in culture, and entertainment and even exhibitions, and a lot of things that that we look at.

“We definitely could host two races already for that. But I think that’s something that we have to discuss with F1 and see how it goes. But we definitely would love to have that.”

Should F1 decline Saudi Arabia the chance to host two races a year, then the country would be interested in a rotation system between the circuits at Jeddah and Qiddiya, similar to what used to happen with the German Grand Prix.

Whilst Jeddah wasn’t meant to be used permanently, the country is looking into making it a permanent race on the calendar, with huge sums of cash having been injected into the venue.

“That’s happened in Germany, between Nurburgring and Hockenheim,” added Prince Abdulaziz, on the circuits taking turns hosting F1.

“So that could be an option.”

Qiddiya is already set to host MotoGP when the circuit is developed, with the venue set to be an “iconic place”.

The Prince says that Qiddiya will offer a “totally different” experience, one that will need to be exceptional to tempt the sport to allow for two Saudi Arabian races a year.

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“It will be an iconic place to have an F1 race with a theme park that’s next to it,” he said.

“We think it’s a good transition from Jeddah], because it’s a totally different environment. So you won’t have two races that are the same in one region: in Jeddah, it’s by the sea. But when you go to the other, it is the desert, it’s more of a different vibe to it.

“Qiddiya is a huge project. Hopefully they finish on time. So it could finish plus or minus, within their targets. But if it does, then that’s the idea to move there. But definitely the MotoGP will be there because we can’t host the MotoGP in Jeddah.”