Saudi Arabia organisers address Middle East race saturation point concerns

Michelle Foster
The Formula 1 and Saudi Arabia flags. Saudi Arabia, March 2022.

The flags of Formula 1 and Saudi Arabia together.

Despite the F1 season starting with back-to-back races in the Middle East, Saudi Motorsport Company CEO Martin Whitaker isn’t at all worried about the market becoming saturated.

This season there’ll be four races in the Middle East with the season beginning in Bahrain before moving onto Saudi Arabia.

Later in the year the sport will race in Qatar for the second time, with the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi once again hosting the season finale.

But despite playing host to four races, Whitaker isn’t worried the Saudi Arabia race will lose spectators to rival events.

Instead he believes they are “stronger together”, each evet bring more attention to Formula 1 in the Middle East.

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Whitaker said as per GPFans: “You only have to look at either automobile franchises or global consumer brands and they all tend to congregate in the same area on the high street.

“Yes, there is competition between them, but they are stronger together than they would be if they were all disparate.

“The analogy with F1 races is the same. Saudi Arabia is part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and it’s beneficial for all of us in the region to have Formula 1 races as it increases awareness and helps develop the sport.

“Actually, while it might seem close — the distance between Bahrain and Jeddah is about 1,500km further than the distance between Silverstone and Budapest [2,000km] — and there are a lot of races that are held between these two European venues.

“So the location of the races in the Middle East are not as close as you think.”

But what about America?

Although the Middle East has four races, they all take place in different countries. This year for the first time America will have three races within its borders.

The Miami Grand Prix takes place in May, the drivers racing around the Hard Rock Stadium while in October the sport heads to Austin to race on a purpose-built track, the Circuit of the Americas.

The final American event, the brand new Las Vegas Grand Prix, offers another alternative for American fans with the Formula 1 drivers taking to the streets of Sin City in a Saturday night event which will include a 1.9km-long run down the Las Vegas Strip. That race will be held less than a month after the COTA race.

Formula 1’s American bosses, Liberty Media, are convinced there’s a market for three races but, while the first year of Las Vegas will do well, only time will tell if it’s sustainable.

The one thing that is going in America’s favour is that all three events take place on different layouts.