until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Jeddah set to keep Saudi GP for longer than planned

by Edd Straw
4 min read

The Jeddah Corniche Circuit that hosted last year’s inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix could continue to host the race until 2025, an extension of two years beyond the original plan.

F1’s contract with Saudi Arabia covers 15 years with the intention to move to a brand-new facility in Qiddiya, which is a new entertainment complex for ‘entertainment, sport and arts’ just outside capital Riyadh.

The original timeline was for Jeddah to hold the race for three years before moving to Qiddiya, but Saudi Arabian Grand Prix CEO Martin Whitaker suspects that it will likely host another two races in order to give time for the new circuit to be completed and mature.

“We’re all waiting on what’s happening with Qiddiya, because the contract for a grand prix in Saudi Arabia is for 15 years,” said Whitaker. “The majority of those years, it will take place in Qiddiya.

“Qiddiya is effectively in the planning stage. There’s no track there, there’s no buildings – nothing to speak of anyway. So there’s a lot of work to go now.

“The agreement with Formula 1 is very clear that when Formula 1 moves to Qiddiya, it is a full-blown Formula 1 circuit with all the right environment around it – the infrastructure and everything – so it doesn’t look like a building site. That’s very important.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Race Day Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

“And essentially, that’s one of the things that we were keen to achieve in Jeddah. It’s always difficult in the first race, particularly in a desert environment because your palm trees are all tied up, so it looks slightly odd now.

“The original plan was for it to be in Jeddah for three years. But suspect that it will probably be there for probably another two [additional] years to allow Qiddiya to properly mature – so five years in total.”

As the Qiddiya facility is part of a much larger entertainment facility, described as a ‘megaproject’ the construction of the F1 circuit is likely to be impacted by wider infrastructure work that will contribute to any delay from the original timeline. The transition can also be managed easily given it will continue to be run by the Saudi Motorsport Company that promotes the Jeddah race.

But the Jeddah circuit, which held its first grand prix after just seven months of construction, can continue to host the race until the Qiddiya track is ready given its longstanding intention for it to continue to operate as a racing facility after F1 departs.

A raft of upgrades have been made to the track since last year’s race following feedback from drivers, while further changes are planned ahead of the 2023 race.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Race Day Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Whitaker re-iterated the desire for the track to host other forms of racing outside of F1 in the long-term, as well as the hoped-for long-term impact on developing the Jeddah Corniche area.

“The circuit is very much part of the community in Jeddah and we want to use it as a going concern,” said Whitaker.

“We have a lot of events that are interested in coming to Jeddah, we also have a lot of local events as you would expect – corporate events, product launches, community events, charity events, etc. And we’ve already started to run those – our first event was a Ferrari Owners’ Club event, which we ran in in December.

“And don’t forget the legacy of the circuit is that there’s now a marina, there are now 18 or 20 restaurants on the promenade area and we’ve extended the corniche so that the Jeddah community have access to this wonderful facility and the leisure facilities. There are outside gyms, beach soccer, beach volleyball, paddle tennis, cycling, etc. So there’s a lot of good stuff which will remain there even after the circuit’s gone.

“But we would certainly hope that the circuit has a long term future. Not necessarily as a Formula 1 circuit, but certainly as a circuit.”

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks