Saudi Arabia unveils ambitious 20-year plan as it targets first-ever Saudi F1 driver

In the long and rich history of Formula 1, there has never been an Arab driver.

Formula 1 is becoming more influential all over the globe, as Netflix’s ‘Drive to Survive’ shows the sport off to previously unaware audiences and sponsors continue to invest in F1.

There will be three Grand Prix in the USA next season as F1 becomes increasingly popular, but there will also be an increase in the number of races in the Middle East.

Alongside the Bahrain and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which have been a part of the calendar for some time now, F1 will also race in Saudi Arabia and Qatar all in the same season, as it did back in 2021.

Saudi Arabia’s F1 debut was at the end of the 2021 season and the highspeed street circuit has led to some thrilling racing in its two appearances so far on the calendar.

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With the Kingdom owning a stake in both McLaren and Aston Martin, Saudi Arabia have said that they would like to lure these teams over to the Middle East, with the aim of allowing teams to set up headquarters in the Kingdom.

Alongside this plan to make F1 more Middle Eastern based, Prince Khalid has explained that there is a 20-year plan in place that aims to see a Saudi driver in the sport in the not-so-distant future, alongside an increased influence in the sport.

“We have a 20-year programme that hopefully will launch at the end of ’23, early ’24,” he said to Motorsport.

“Our aim is not just to host international events, we want to be involved more. We want to have engineers, we want to have mechanics, we want to build cars, we want to be creative.

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“We really want to have a champion, a driver that can compete in the championship for Formula 1, who can compete in MotoGP. We are investing a lot in infrastructures, in building tracks in Saudi Arabia.

“We want to build academies so we can be more involved: Saudi teams with Saudi drivers or other drivers to race in Saudi teams.

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“It’s still a long way ahead, but hopefully by 2030, 2035, 2040 we can achieve our goals.”

F1’s deal to race in Bahrain was extended early last year, with the new deal set to run until 2036, making races in the Middle East a certain on the calendar for the foreseeable future.

A nearby missile strike made the 2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix a controversial one, but the Kingdom have explained that their constant dialogue with the teams has made them confidence of a successful relationship with the sport in the long run.