As Saudi Arabia moves closer to hosting its first-ever Formula One Grand Prix later this year it is hoped the event will inspire young drivers and women to take up motorsports and provide the country with future world champions.
Prince Khalid bin Al Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile & Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), said the kingdom wants the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix slated for December 3-5 to inspire young Saudis to pursue careers in motorsport. “One day we want to have a Saudi race driver, a man or a woman, racing in Formula One and winning the world championship,” he said.
Notable women in Saudi Arabia motorsport are Aseel Al Hamad, the first female board member of the SAMF who performed a celebratory lap before the start of the 2018 French Grand Prix, and Reema Juffali who made history as the first female Saudi female racing driver to participate in a race at the Diriyah Circuit.
The Saudi Arabia GP will be the penultimate leg of this year's F1 season and one of its fastest, with drivers average a top speed of over 250 kilometers per hour.
Construction of the street circuit - billed as the fastest on the F1 circuit - are well under way in the coastal city of Jeddah. The track is estimated to be ready by early October and main buildings and construction including pits will be completed by November, according to Prince Khalid.
"This modern, exhilarating and high-speed circuit stands as a physical representation of the goals we have set for ourselves as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 programme that aims to build a better country, fulfil our nation’s dream of prosperity and unlock the talent, potential, and dedication of our young men and women," Prince Khalid said.
So far only 40 per cent of the tickets have gone on sale with potentially more being made available in accordance with the kingdom's Covid-19 health and safety measures. Main grandstand, premium hospitality, and paddock club tickets went on sale last week, with prices ranging from SR1,800 ($480) to SAR 33,856 ($9,028).
Ticket holders will have access to entertainment activities including music concerts throughout the weekend. “We like entertainment and we like sports, and many Saudis have to travel abroad for many of these events. Now we can offer the people of our country our own unique experience,” Prince Khalid said in a recent interview. Initially authorities planned to build a permanent circuit and motorsports city in the capital, Riyad, Prince Khalid revealed, but decided to build it in Jeddah owing to the “large fan base” in the city.
In recent years, the kingdom has opened doors to foreign tourism and international events in light of Vision 2030.
In an earlier statement, Prince Khalid explained that part of the vision and part of opening up the country is “we would like people to come and see who we really are. That’s why we would like to invite you, we don’t have anything to hide.”
The kingdom has hosted mega motor sports events including the Formula E during Riyadh Season in 2019, the Dakar Rally and the Cross-Country Baja Rally.