Saudi Arabia and Formula One in talks over F1 race

Bahrain will host the second round of this year’s season, and Abu Dhabi will hold the final rounds. (File/AFP)
Updated 07 August 2019

Saudi Arabia and Formula One in talks over F1 race

  • The Times said an F1 race in Saudi Arabia may become a reality by 2021
  • The Middle East host two at Sakhir in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina

LONDON: Saudi Arabia and Formula One are discussing the possibility of holding a race in the country, and team bosses have been asked for an opinion, sources said on Tuesday.
The Times newspaper reported that Formula One and the 10 teams would seek reassurance on issues including human rights, gender equality and media freedom before any race could happen.
Multiple informed sources confirmed to Reuters the substance of the report.
They added, however, that Formula One had discussions with many would-be hosts around the world which ultimately came to nothing.
The Times suggested a Saudi race could become a reality as soon as 2021, with the schedule already expected to stretch to a record 22 races in 2020.
Formula One and the teams are discussing major sporting and technical rule changes from 2021 and Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto said in Hungary at the weekend that could see an expansion to 24 races.
A Formula One source said that was more to allow flexibility, replacing the existing rule that states teams must agree to expand the calendar beyond 21 races rather than being a target number. The Middle East already hosts two races, at Sakhir in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina, with lucrative long-term contracts in place.
Bahrain was the first in 2004 but the race has proved controversial, with rights groups accusing the country’s rulers of using it to ‘whitewash’ abuses and improve their image abroad.
The kingdom lifted a ban on women driving only last year.
Formula One published a commitment in 2015 to respect “internationally recognised human rights in its operations globally”. Should the talks with Saudi Arabia move up a level, the kingdom would likely be looking at a third regional slot.
This year, Bahrain was the second round of the season after Australia, while Abu Dhabi will be the final round in early December.
Any Saudi race would likely need to be separated from the other two regional rivals to protect their investment and the uniqueness of the event.
Formula One is broadcast live and free-to-air in the Middle East and North Africa region under a five-year deal struck last March with MBC Group, founded by Saudi businessman Waleed Al-Ibrahim.
The rights previously belonged to Qatar’s BeIN media group, which blamed broadcast piracy of its pay TV feed as a reason for not renewing.
Saudi Arabia already features on the all-electric Formula E calendar and hosted its first race last year on a street circuit at Ad Diriyah, near Riyadh.
Saudi companies have been involved in Formula One in the past, with Albilad and the national airline Saudia sponsoring Williams to their first title in 1980. Formula One’s US-based commercial rights holders Liberty Media have stated already that they want to add races in the United States, with Miami in line to join the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, and China — both key markets for the sport’s growth.
There have also been talks with Argentina, South Africa and Morocco, with Africa the only major inhabited continent currently without a race.
Europe, the sport’s historic heartland, currently has 11 rounds of the championship when Russia and Azerbaijan are included.


Saudi minister hails ‘special relationship’ with Japan

Updated 22 October 2019

Saudi minister hails ‘special relationship’ with Japan

  • “We share common values,” said Majid Al-Qasabi

TOKYO: Saudi Arabia has a “special relationship” with Japan, which is “reliable strategic partner and friend” of the Kingdom, the Saudi Minister for Commerce and Investment Majid Al-Qasabi said on Monday.

The minister was speaking at the launch in Tokyo of the Japanese-language online edition of Arab News, in the latest stage of its global expansion. The event came on the eve of Tuesday’s ceremonial enthronement of Emperor Naruhito in the Japanese capital. “This is a great opportunity, a moment in history,” Al-Qasabi said.

The news website, published in Japanese and English, will focus on enabling the exchange of information between Japan and the Arab world in business, current affairs, and arts and culture. “It will be good to have news in Japanese so many Japanese can read about the Arab world,” Japan’s Defense Minister Taro Kono said at the launch.

Common values

“We share common values, we have a high respect for the elders and we think that the family is very important … to me we are friends and I think we need to work together.

“In order to do that we need to know what people in the Middle East are actually thinking, what is happening on a daily basis, and we haven’t got the source for that — but now Arab News is in Japan.

“This is a very good means to exchange information between the Middle East and Japan, so I am very much looking forward to it.”