Formula 1 will race in Saudi Arabia for the first time in 2021 with a night race at Jeddah Street Circuit. Here’s everything you need to know about the latest addition to the F1 calendar.
Rumours of a Formula 1 race in Saudi Arabia have been ongoing for a number of years. In 2019, it was announced that a permanent circuit was to be built in Qiddiya, outside of capital city Riyadh. The plans were confirmed in January 2020. Track designer Alex Wurz appeared with a number of past and present Formula 1 drivers – including World Champion Damon Hill, David Coulthard, Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean – in an event on the proposed site of the circuit. It was confirmed at the event that the circuit was designed to FIA Grade 1 standards, meaning that Formula 1 could theoretically race there – though not until 2023. Instead, for the time being at least, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will take place on the streets of Jeddah, the country’s second-largest city.
Saudi Arabia has attracted other major motorsport events in recent years. The Race of Champions, held at the King Fahd International Stadium in February 2018, was the first ever international motorsport event to take place in the country. Meanwhile, Formula E has raced in Diriyah since 2018 and the Dakar Rally has been held in the country in each of the past two years.
JEDDAH STREET CIRCUIT
The track layout for the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was unveiled on 18th March 2021. The Jeddah Street Circuit is designed by Hermann Tilke, and will be situated on the Jeddah Corniche. It is expected to be the fastest street circuit in Formula, with an average speed of over 250km/h. Race organisers say that the circuit – which has 27 turns set out over 6.175km – will prioritise overtaking, rather than scenic views. The race will take place at night. The Grand Prix weekend will also see Formula 2 race at the circuit for the first time. It will be the penultimate meeting of the 2021 season.
Formula 1’s presence in Saudi Arabia has been criticised due to the country’s human rights record. Amid accusations of “sports-washing” by Amnesty International UK, F1 defended their new race with a spokesperson saying: “For decades, F1 has worked hard to be a positive force everywhere it races, including economic, social, and cultural benefits.”
It is not known how long F1’s contract to race in Saudi Arabia is for, but a spokesperson commented that the sport expects to race in the country for “a decade, if not longer” in February 2021.
JEDDAH STREET CIRCUIT WINNERS AND POLESITTERS
|Year||Polesitter||Team on Pole||Winner||Winning Team|