F1: Saudi Arabia has big plans for Formula 1
With just one month to go before the start of the FORMULA 1 STC SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX 2023, organizers are planning another action-packed weekend that will ensure the third F1 race held in Jeddah will be the most spectacular yet. The world’s longest and fastest street circuit is all set to host this year’s Formula 1 race over the weekend of March 17th -19th, 2023 and fans visiting the Jeddah Corniche Circuit are set to experience a thrilling weekend of racing action.
Speaking ahead of this year’s race, HRH Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, Chairman of the Saudi Automobile & Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) and Saudi Motorsport Company (SMC), says fans will experience an unforgettable weekend as three days of exciting on-track action will be matched by evening music concerts headlined by some of the biggest music stars in the world. Already announced to perform at the FORMULA 1 STC SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX 2023 will be Calvin Harris, Travis Scott, DJ Afrojack and Egyptian music artist Ahmed Saad.
“We are looking forward to another incredible race weekend as we host the FORMULA 1 STC SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX 2023 is just one month’s time,” said HRH Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal. “Following on from our first two races, we have worked tirelessly to improve the experience and to make visiting the event more entertaining for the many thousands of spectators that will attend the race. From the non-stop track action to the family-friendly Fan Zones and A-list music concerts there is something for everyone at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in 2023.”
With the Red Sea venue set to host the second round of this year’s FIA Formula 1 World Championship, the third F1 race to be held on the stunning Jeddah Corniche Circuit in less than 16 months is the continuation of a long-held association between Saudi Arabia and Formula 1. Starting with the Saudi Air sponsorship of the Williams team in 1978 and today hosting a Grand Prix, the future looks bright with ambitious plans to develop the motorsport industry in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“When I was young, I was really proud to see the name of a company from Saudi Arabia in such a prestigious, international sport such as Formula 1,” said HRH Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal. “The link between Saudi Air and Williams has progressed to us hosting an F1 race and now we see more Saudi companies partnering with F1, including Aramco with Aston Martin and NEOM with McLaren. In the future I expect this relationship to grow and play a bigger role so we might be able to have our own Saudi F1 team, or F1 driver in the future.”
Q&A with HRH Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal
Chairman of the Saudi Automobile & Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) and Saudi Motorsport Company
We are one month away from the FORMULA 1 STC SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX 2023. How is the planning for the third edition of this race and what can fans expect?
“Everything is on course for us to deliver another incredible, unforgettable race weekend. As well as the main event, we’ll have support races from FIA Formula 2, the Porsche Sprint Challenge Middle East and our own Saudi Supercar Club. We constantly want to improve the experience for our visiting spectators so we’ll have bigger and better F1 Fan Zones which will have activities for families and end-of-day music concerts featuring the world’s biggest stars such as Calvin Harris, Travis Scott, DJ Afrojack, and regional favorite Ahmed Saad headlining this year.
“Spectators visiting the Jeddah Corniche Circuit have high expectations and we have learned a lot in the first two races about how to improve their experience and make it more entertaining. So when they come to the FORMULA 1 STC SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX 2023 they will experience not only a race, but a full, three-day entertainment sports event that ends with a music festival.”
Initially built as a short-term venue, the Jeddah Corniche Circuit is taking on a more permanent feel, how important is the track as a major piece of the city’s infrastructure?
“Very important. We all know this race is going to move to a different location in the future, but we have invested a lot in this area of the Corniche and it is beginning to feel like a permanent facility. It could last into the long-term. This track is amazing and it’s going to be difficult to leave Jeddah unless we can deliver a better racing experience for the driver and the spectators. It’s the same for any motorsport competition we host, be it Formula E, Dakar, or Extreme E, we invest a lot and the event must deliver an outstanding experience for everyone.”
How important has a Formula 1 race been in terms of its legacy for the city of Jeddah and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?
“Formula 1 is a very important international event for us. The city has benefitted a lot because the land we built the circuit on, next to the Red Sea, is in a great location and we have developed the area around it. So we now have a marina, the Corniche now has restaurants and cafés — and this is the legacy we are offering to the city of Jeddah. Also we wanted to inspire the youth, the local community, and Saudi companies and to enable them to be a part of this exciting transformation. We have created a lot of jobs and many people are today working on the Formula 1 project.
“We created the Saudi Motorsport Company to manage and organize these big international events like Formula 1 and in line with the Vision 2030 policy, the intention is to inspire people, to give them new career prospects. We want to create future engineers, team managers, team principals — and to have companies attracted to motorsport so we have cars being constructed here and more people engaged with the industry. This all comes back to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit and the hosting of a Formula 1 race and this is the lasting legacy we have created.”
It’s fair to say the motorsport relationship between F1 and Saudi Arabia first began over 40 years ago — did it inspire you back in the day?
“We have a lot of history with motorsport as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was the first Middle East country to be involved in Formula 1. It dates back to the sponsorship deal with Williams in 1978 and yes, I remember when I was very young, watching Formula 1 and seeing the Fly Saudi logos on the Williams cars. It was inspiring for me and that was one of the aspects that attracted me to motorsport.
“I was really proud to see my country and the name of a company from Saudi Arabia in such a prestigious, international event such as Formula 1. This is what inspired me to work closely with Formula 1 and I’m happy to see how this journey has progressed over the past 40 years. This legacy that has taken us to hosting a race may one day expand to us having our own Saudi F1 team. Today we see many more Saudi companies partnering with F1 and teams such as Aramco and Aston Martin and NEOM and McLaren so I expect our relationship to grow and play a bigger role in the future.”
Do you think the young generation in Saudi Arabia today will be inspired to work in motorsport when they come to Jeddah to watch the FORMULA 1 STC SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX 2023, just as you did?
“Yes, for sure. For me it started with the 1978 Williams car and for anyone coming to Jeddah for the race, when they see the cars and the drivers close up, it can give them the motivation to become marshals, mechanics, engineers, part of the medical team or organizing committee — or even drivers themselves one day.
Hosting an F1 race and allowing people to have a look behind the scenes and get close to the action will definitely have a big effect on them. The Saudi Automobile & Motorcycle Federation and Saudi Motorsport Company want to capitalize on this because we have big plans for the future!
What is the long-term plan for the growth of motorsport in the Kingdom — what is your vision?
“We’re investing in new tracks, big infrastructure and new cities and we are opening new factories for Ceer Motors and Lucid — new manufacturers and partnerships with NEOM and McLaren too. We want Saudi to be a hub and to help attract teams to open facilities here and that will benefit the big companies we have, like Aramco. We started in 1978 by sponsoring a team and now we need to look at the next step which is a joint venture or a partnership.
“Our vision is to develop technology in schools and have manufacturers supplying materials and building parts so that cars can be assembled here. It could even be investment into synthetic fuels, biofuels or even hydrogen or other technologies that we could help with in the future.
“We would also like a Saudi champion, a driver who is capable of winning an international racing competition. We are really enthusiastic about motorsport and have big plans and we want to contribute by having a big role in the future of the sport. Hopefully in 10 to 20 years from now you will see Saudi Arabia and Saudi companies and more people engaged globally with Formula 1.”
Finally, what would you say to someone who has yet to buy a ticket for this year’s FORMULA 1 STC SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX 2023?
“Nowhere else will you see the best drivers in the world going head-to-head with each other in such a thrilling and exciting race. You have the top champions such as Lewis Hamilton wanting to break Michael Schumacher’s record to score eight world titles. Then you have Max Verstappen who is young, ambitious, and very thirsty for victories. He wants to continue to build his career to achieve more and rival Hamilton as the best driver in the sport. But it’s not just these two, the level of commitment from all 20 drivers and their ten teams is amazing.
“This is a great opportunity to be a part of one of the most exciting — and popular — sports in the world right now. Visitors to Jeddah can also experience the music festivals, the F1 Fan Zones and you can explore the city, the restaurants, and hotels on the beautiful Corniche. Jeddah is the longest and fastest street circuit in the sport and there is always a lot of action on track. So don’t miss it — come and enjoy it.”