Motor racing fans in Saudi Arabia expressed joy and pride after it was announced the country will host a Formula One race in November, 2021.
The grand prix is set to be staged at the coastal city of Jeddah, as part of a long-term partnership between Formula One and the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF).
During the announcement, minister of sport Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal said Saudi Arabia has learnt a lot from hosting the Dakar Rally, the electric Formula E series and other sporting events during the past two years.
“Formula One will be a great opportunity in the future to promote positive developments in our society,” Prince Abdulaziz said.
Mohammed Ghamdi, owner of a gaming app company in Jeddah, told The National it is a moment of pride for the youth of the country.
“This is a dream come true for me and the youth of the kingdom. We have grown up watching and loving F1 races and champions and now we get to invite them into our home country," Ghamdi said.
"We are so proud and glad that our younger generations can witness this at a young age and grow up in a progressive society with so many experiences. We thank MBS [Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] for his Vision 2030.”
Nawal Tayyebah, an event manager in Jeddah, said women in Saudi have even more reasons to celebrate.
“Women in Saudi love F1 as much as the men do," Nawal said. "Especially with the freedom to drive, we are now empowered to embrace new opportunities and witness these world-class events. I am so happy for the nation to be able to host such mega sporting events.”
Riyadh hosted two Formula E championships in Diriyah in 2018 and 2019. This year, Saudi Arabia held its first Dakar Rally, a 7,800km race that began in Jeddah and finished in Qiddiyah, and an entertainment megaproject in Riyadh.
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“I couldn’t be more proud to be Saudi – we are all witnessing history unfold one year after the other,” Majeed Fuad, founder and managing partner at HRMNY, a marketing consultancy in Riyadh, said.
“We all knew that Formula E Grand Prix was only the beginning and now Formula One announced that it will be coming to the kingdom in 2021. It was a monumental moment for the kingdom to host Formula E for the second time and an honour for HRMNY to join hands with Diriyah Season to help push this event forward,” he added.
Chase Carey, executive chairman of the Formula One Group, said the kingdom is an important region for F1.
“Saudi Arabia is growing tremendously to become a major centre for sport in the world, and this is evident through the many international events it had held in past years, and now it will host one of the Formula One tours,” he added.
“Bringing F1 to Saudi Arabia is another step towards making history and showcasing the kingdom’s ability to present itself on an international stage. We are all excited to experience another successful global event in F1, and see Saudi Arabia take another big stride in developing sport within the country.”
Adam Alalwan, a Saudi marketing expert leading the digital communications and social media coverage of all events during Diriyah Season, told The National: "Experiencing the Formula E Grand Prix last year was a significant milestone for sport in Saudi Arabia. The way the E-Prix was put together at Diriyah Season in such an organised and efficient manner was testament to the kingdom's ability to hold even more events that are global.
"Being present at the event and covering it on social media showcased how hungry the country is to experience more international events of its kind."
The race will be held in the kingdom as part of a 15-year partnership between SAMF and the Formula One Group. The race will take place in Jeddah until the new purpose-built track at Qiddiyah is completed in 2023.