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 railway wins international award for safety measures

Updated 26 min 10 sec ago

Saudi railway wins international award for safety measures

RIYADH:  The Saudi Railways Co. (SAR) won the International Safety Award for 2020 from the British Safety Council for the second time in a row for its exemplary management of health, safety and environmental risks.

CEO of SAR Dr. Bashar bin Khalid Al-Malik said that the company puts at the forefront of its strategic plans the application of the highest safety standards in operating the rail network in the Kingdom.

He said that SAR accords top priority to the culture of safety in the management, operation and maintenance of its trains by following international laws that have proven effective in ensuring safety in the work environment.

Al-Malik said: “We are proud that SAR wins such international awards, which reflect the efforts and decisions taken to apply and develop health and safety measures.”