Aston Martin and McLaren targeted as Saudi Arabia plans motor sport hub

Jamie Woodhouse
The Formula 1 and Saudi Arabia flags. Saudi Arabia, March 2022.

The flags of Formula 1 and Saudi Arabia together.

Established as a stop on the F1 calendar, and soon to be the season-opener, now Saudi Arabia wants some teams that call the nation home.

Currently seven of the 10 Formula 1 teams have bases in England, that including 2022’s double champs Red Bull who operate out of their Milton Keynes facility.

But, if Saudi Arabia is successful in its mission, then among this group of Mercedes, Red Bull, Alpine, McLaren, Aston Martin, Haas and Williams, some teams and their staff will decide to relocate.

President of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal, has told Motor Sport Magazine that the nation wants to “create a hub” for motor racing, adding that Saudi Arabia has “big companies that can help the future of motor sport”.

And two obvious targets are McLaren and Aston Martin, Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund holding stakes in the parent organisations of both F1 teams.

Asked by Motor Sport Magazine if it is possible that an F1 team could move its base to Saudi Arabia, Prince Khalid replied: “This is what we are hoping for and this is what we are working for. Hopefully we can bring one of the big manufacturers.

“With all the investing we are doing in cars — the private investment fund bought shares in McLaren and Aston Martin — we are heading that way. Hopefully we can open and bring headquarters to Saudi Arabia or we hire people that can help us manufacture cars or technology, to create our own brands and have our own IPs [intellectual property rights].

“We have a 20-year programme that hopefully will launch at the end of ’23, early ’24. Our aim is not just to host international events, we want to be involved more. We want to have engineers, we want to have mechanics, we want to build cars, we want to be creative.

“We really want to have a champion, a driver that can compete in the championship for Formula 1, who can compete in MotoGP. We are investing a lot in infrastructures, in building tracks in Saudi Arabia. We want to build academies so we can be more involved: Saudi teams with Saudi drivers or other drivers to race in Saudi teams. It’s still a long way ahead but hopefully by 2030, 2035, 2040 we can achieve our goals.”

The report adds that Saudi Arabia’s ‘Neom’ future city project is where the motor sport hub would be based, which would include the ‘Oxagon’ campus where McLaren, as a founding tenant, would have an office.

Aston Martin relocating to Saudi Arabia seems unlikely

While the nation’s sovereign wealth fund owns a stake in the Aston Martin organisation, the Formula 1 team, which is owned by a consortium led by Lawrence Stroll, is currently constructing a state of the art new factory, one which visited as part of a select media group.

And so, considering this huge investment, it would be a very surprising turn of events if Aston Martin then gave up on that in the coming years to move to Saudi Arabia.

McLaren meanwhile recently sold and leased back their Technology Centre in Woking, and so currently in that UK environment around an established network of staff, teams and suppliers, it also seems unlikely that the team would take a risk in moving to a brand new motor sport project in Saudi Arabia, especially at a time when they need stability to climb back up the Formula 1 grid.

The organisation is also nearing the completion of its new wind tunnel, with the team expecting to rejoin the battle at the front in F1 from 2024, when all of their infrastructure upgrades are finished.

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