Saudi Arabia will host a Formula 1 Grand Prix next November after plans for a night race on the streets of Jeddah are confirmed.
The Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Association said the race marks the beginning of a “long-term partnership” with the sport.
Limited details were released about the Jeddah Street Circuit, but SAMF confirmed that the start-finish route would be along the city’s waterfront and the race would take place at night.
The event is expected to be relocated to Qiddiya, an hour’s drive from the capital Riyadh, as soon as a purpose-built racetrack is ready in 2023.
The race in Saudi Arabia was all but confirmed last week when F1 listed the country on a tentative calendar for 2021 that was distributed to the teams.
“We are pleased to welcome Saudi Arabia to Formula 1 for the 2021 season and to welcome their announcement after speculation over the past few days,” said F1 CEO Chase Carey.
“Saudi Arabia is a country that is rapidly developing into a center for sport and entertainment. In recent years, many major events have taken place there. We are very pleased that Formula 1 will be racing there from next season.
“We will be releasing our full tentative calendar for 2021 in the coming weeks to be submitted to the World Motorsport Council for approval.”
The inclusion of Saudi Arabia on the F1 calendar has already been criticized by the human rights organization Amnesty International, which warned last week that the race was an attempt to “sportwash” Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
Saudi Arabia has received increasing international criticism in recent years after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered by Saudi activists in his Istanbul consulate in 2018.
When ESPN contacted F1 to ask if Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and laws were in line with its own Declaration on human rights and his diversity initiative “#WeRaceAsOne”, a speaker gave the following answer.
“Formula 1 has worked hard for decades [to] be a positive force wherever there is racing, including economic, social and cultural benefits, “he said.
“Sports like Formula 1 are uniquely positioned to cross borders and cultures and bring countries and communities together to share the passion and excitement of incredible competition and performance.
“We take our responsibility very seriously and have made our position on human rights and other issues clear to all of our partners and host countries who undertake to respect human rights when organizing and staging their events.”
The news of the race follows the inclusion of the Saudi Arabian state oil company Aramco as a global partner of Formula 1 in March.
Saudi Arabia has brought a number of motorsport events to its country in recent years and will host the Dakar Rally in January. In addition, two races in the all-electric Formula E series will take place in Diriyah from February 26 to 27.
The new Extreme E off-road electric series will also take place in Al Ula from March 20-21. Tennis, boxing, and golf have all held events in the country.