The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix appeared on the Formula One calendar for the first time in 2021, becoming the fifth full-night race on the Formula One calendar after Singapore, Bahrain, Sakhir and Qatar. Saudi Arabia had never hosted a Formula One race prior to 2021. But in the first couple of months of 2021, Formula One announced a huge new deal with Saudi Arabia, for the Saudi Arabian GP to be on the Formula One calendar for the next decade.
In fact, F1s global director of race promotion, Chloe Targett-Adams, said that “it’s definitely a decade, if not longer”. In signing this deal, Formula One made it clear that they have faith in the changes happening within Saudi Arabia and the country’s vision for 2030.
Current Track in Jeddah
The inaugural Saudi Arabia Grand Prix was hosted at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Jeddah. The tracks construction only begun in March of 2021, making it the newest track on the Formula One calendar. The 2021 race in Jeddah showed that the track should probably remain temporary.
The track itself is one of the fastest on the Formula One grid, as well as being the second longest track on the Formula One calendar, only behind Spa-Francorchamps. The track is made up of 27 corners, set around an anticlockwise track. The track itself is incredibly narrow, but has some of the fastest corners on the calendar.
The first ever Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was certainly an eventful one. The race featured one safety car, two red flags and four virtual safety cars. Crashes marred an exciting race, including a big crash that took Sergio Perez, George Russel and Nikita Mazepin out of the race. Perez later labelled the track unnecessarily dangerous. The track will likely have more crashes in 2022 if changes are not made.
Formula One drivers managed to handle the fast paced corners of the Jeddah circuit, but it won’t be on the F1 calendar for long.
New Track in Riyadh
The Jeddah Circuit is only a temporary one, built for use in Formula One, F2, GT3 and GT4. In fact it is likely that 2022 will be the last year that we see the Jeddah circuit on the calendar. This is because since 2019, Saudi Arabia has been building a purpose built, permanent track that will feature on the F1 calendar.
The new track is situated about 30 miles from Riyadh and is being built alongside a huge complex designed for entertainment and commercial purposes. The track is being designed by former F1 driver Alexander Wurz and will of course meet F1s Grade 1 standards so that it can become the host for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
When the project to build the track began, they were looking to be ready by the beginning of 2023. It seems as though this is still the plan and that the track is on schedule to be built ready for the 2023 F1 season. The track is set with a beautiful back drop of a 200m sheer cliff, with the track being built on the place where the Dakar Rally ended in 2020.
Formula One received a lot of backlash when they announced the deal with Saudi Arabia. But F1 pointed to the changes happening in Saudi Arabia, mainly down to Saudi Vision 2030.
This is a framework, proposed by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman. The main goals of the vision is to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy as they move away from their dependency on oil. This would hopefully lead to developing public sectors like education, healthcare and infrastructure.
One of the other sectors looking to be improved is tourism. It is why Saudi Arabia is building a permanent Formula One venue, as they hope that by bringing the sport to their country can increase tourism throughout the year, not only during the race weekend.