Formula 1 will be heading to Saudi Arabia as part of the 2021 calendar, the country’s Ministry of Sport has confirmed.
A provisional calendar has been shown to the 10 respective teams and, while the full schedule has yet to be made public, one event that is set in stone is a street race, at night, in Jeddah, on November 28, 2021.
It is being widely reported that a 10-year deal with Saudi Arabia has been agreed and the race will move to a purpose-built circuit in Qiddiyah from 2023.
— SaudiArabianGP (@SaudiArabianGP) November 5, 2020
Prior to the official confirmation Formula 1 had already been facing some criticism for agreeing to a race in Saudi Arabia, with Amnesty International stating that the Saudi authorities are still “sport-washing” their “country’s abysmal human rights record”.
“The Saudi authorities apparently still see elite level sport as a means of rebranding their severely tarnished reputation,” head of campaigns Felix Jakens said.
“In the lead-up to a race in Jeddah, we would urge all F1 drivers, owners and teams to consider speaking out about the human rights situation in the country.
“If it goes ahead, at the very least F1 should insist that all contracts contain stringent labour standards across all supply chains, and that all race events are open to everyone without discrimination.”
But a Formula 1 spokesperson defended their position, saying the sport has the ability to be a “positive force” by having a presence in the countries they decide to race in.
“For decades, F1 has worked hard to be a positive force everywhere it races, including economic, social, and cultural benefits,” they said.
“Sports like F1 are uniquely positioned to cross borders and cultures to bring countries and communities together to share the passion and excitement of incredible competition and achievement.
“We take our responsibilities very seriously and have made our position on human rights and other issues clear to all our partners and host countries, who commit to respect these rights in the way their events are hosted and delivered.”