F1’s global head of race promotions Chloe Targett-Adams stressed that the event is part of the country’s Vision 2030 strategy, which is a programme to reduce its dependence on its oil reserves and invest in other areas.
The first race is scheduled for December 5 on a street circuit in Jeddah, but it will move to a purpose-built venue at Qiddiya in 2023.
“In terms of Saudi Arabia, it was phenomenal to be able to get that deal agreed and signed and announced during the pandemic,” Targett-Adams said in a Blackbook web seminar.
“It’s somewhere we’re really excited about going racing, and it’s a longer-term vision of how we want to build our sport in the Middle East.
“We’ve got two amazing partners in the Middle East already on the promotion side, with Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, both long-term relationships, incredibly successful.
“And so to bring on a new Middle Eastern race in a location like Saudi with a hugely young demographic, vast population, interest in the motorsport and automotive sector, and the ability then as a market to tap into Northern Africa and other aspects of the Middle East, provides a really interesting framework for F1.
“The first race this year in Jeddah is on a temporary street circuit, which is coming into shape already, which is no easy feat during a pandemic either. The team in Saudi are doing a phenomenal job in doing that.
“So really looking forward to racing there and just launching F1 in a new market, because that’s always an exciting time.”
Asked about how long the race will be on the calendar she said: “Well, as a minimum we’re looking at definitely a decade, if not longer.
“It’s important when you go into such a key new market like Saudi to really be able to invest.
“Saudi, given their 2030 vision, what they’re looking to achieve, their objectives, that longer-term investment made sense for how they want to build F1 and motorsport interest within the country.
“And you look at some of the initiatives that the country is doing currently, and obviously it’s an education process on both sides.
“But it’s a fascinating country, and the culture and how we relate to that is, is an area that we’re looking forward to really, really working together with the promoter on.”
The Saudi event has led to questions about human rights issues in the country. Targett-Adams insisted that the sport addresses the subject when it deals with new venues.
“I think it’s really important to ask the question,” she said. “From F1’s perspective, we choose to engage with partners.
“And we have a framework contractually to set out our expectations on human rights and how we expect to work and our staff expect to work and be treated.
“And we have good engagement with our promoters and their government stakeholders on that on those requirements.
“So it’s something that we actively lean into and learn and educate ourselves about that culture and custom and work with our promoters as it relates to our F1 event.”