JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s first Formula 1 Grand Prix will leave a legacy in Jeddah long after the chequered flag ends the race itself, the CEO of the event has vowed.
The racing world will descend on the city at the beginning of next month, with the race itself scheduled for December 5.
Speaking to Arab News, Martin Whitaker talked up the developments the city will see as it hosts the global sporting event, including outdoor gyms, beach volleyball, beach soccer, paddle tennis, and 18 restaurants in total being built on the Jeddah Corniche promenade.
“So all these facilities are going to be here long after the Grand Prix. And so essentially, they're here 365 days of the year. So it's an extension to that community value and a real positive legacy for the city of Jeddah,” he said.
Whitaker added: “As we know many thousands of people visit the Corniche every day and every night, and this is going to allow us to lengthen the walkways and cycleways, increase the leisure opportunities.”
The race will be the first ever Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia, and around 500 million people are expected to watch its broadcast.
“This is a special event for Saudi Arabia, the first Formula One Grand Prix to take place in the Kingdom. It's a massive event not only for the city of Jeddah, but more importantly for the Kingdom as a whole,” he said.
Whitaker believes Jeddah’s geographical location gives it an edge when it comes to hosting such events,.
“It's got fantastic heritage, great culture, fantastic community, the warmth of the Saudi people, the hospitality that they show - it’s on the shores of the Red Sea,” said Whitaker, who described it as “a fantastic advertisement for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Arab News was shown the four 2022 model Formula One cars in the logistics area of the event.
“This is just an example of the type of activity that's already happening here. Thousands of people are already employed clearly on the construction, as well as the organization of the race,” Whitaker told Arab News.
These cars demonstrate the new aerodynamic profile that Formula One cars will have in 2022.
“You can see they are different in their look to the current car; the rear wing is completely unique. And the idea is that this design aerodynamically is going to make the spectacle even better,” he said.
“Formula One is a fantastic global sport, as we know it's watched by millions of people every single weekend. The racing is just going to get better with this particular design of car, and this designer car will be the platform on which the new regulations will come in not just in 2022, but as we evolve the sport in the years to come,” he added.
As Formula 1 is approaching their future regulations, sustainability and environmental concerns are clearly very much at the top of the list, said Whitaker.
He explained there are new regulations coming into place in 2026 for engines.
“More hybrid engines which are going to have a greater focus on the sustainable activities that Formula One is embracing,” he said.
Pointing to the four 2022 show cars, he said they are the new designs for Formula One that will be seen on track next year.
“These cars are more efficient and provide much better racing. And so essentially, that's what is happening from the formula one perspective from a circuit perspective, we’re very keen on sustainability,” he said.
The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is working with the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the United Nations and with the Ministry of Sport to make sure that the event is as sustainable as it possibly can be.
“There are lots of things that we're working on. Whether it's the redevelopment of, for example, the lagoon area here on the Jeddah Corniche or many activities that we're embracing inside the circuit during the race weekend. But there's a lot to come, a lot that we're doing for the first race. We're very keen on the sustainability element of this race, and it's something I think for everybody to look out for and be proud of as we move forward into the future,” he said.