Formula 1 arrives in Saudi Arabia, a new destination full of controversies

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Petrodollars are a strong magnet for the category, despite reports of human rights violations in the country.

Formula 1 continues to cross borders and conquer new territories. Next year it will arrive for the first time in Saudi Arabia, an oil kingdom as modern in its urban development as it is ultra-conservative in its customs, which will host a premier-class Grand Prix for the first time. The night race will be held in the urban circuit of Jeddah, the most important city in the country, with 3.5 million inhabitants, located on the shores of the Red Sea, as confirmed on Thursday by the Saudi Sports Minister, Prince Abdel Aziz Ben Turki Al-Fayçal.

“I am pleased to officially announce that Jeddah will host one of the Formula 1 races,” the minister declared at a ceremony on the city’s ledge. “This race is part of the project ‘Vision 2030’ and has the support of our leaders and more especially the crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salmán“he continued.

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will be part of a 2021 calendar that will be known in its entirety later and will be held – although there is no official confirmation yet – in November.

Last weekend, as part of the date that took place in Imola, Italy, Chase Carey, CEO of F1, anticipated: “We are excited to welcome Saudi Arabia, which has become a hub of sporting and entertainment events with many events in recent years and we are delighted that F1 is going there.” .

Saudi Arabia will thus become the 33rd country in history to host a race in the most important category in world motorsports.

The official announcement did not specify how many years the contract that binds both parties is for, although there was talk of a deal “for a long period” that includes races in Jeddah, whose seaport is the most important in that nation. that a permanent circuit is ready in Al Qiddiyah, whose construction began in January.

The Saudi government has managed to multiply the major sporting events held in that country in recent years, with the will to develop the entertainment sector and improve its image, obscured by complaints of human rights violations of which it is frequently targeted.

If you talk about motorsport, in January 2020 it hosted the Dakar Rally for the first time. A new edition is scheduled for January 3, 2021. Since the end of 2018, Formula E has also organized one of the World Championship dates in Saudi Arabia, the E-Prix of Diriyah.

F1 itself had also announced in early 2020 the launch of a long-term sponsorship with Saudi Aramco, the country’s oil giant. And this Thursday, he confirmed that he will arrive with all his stars for the first time next year in the Asian country.

Human rights organizations regularly criticize the dispute over these international sporting events on Saudi soil, seeing them as an attempt to “wash” the country’s image and divert attention from serious problems. The arrival of F1 next year will surely generate new controversies around that field, although it will also mark a new chapter in the history of the premier class.

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