until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Saudi F1 circuit getting Masi inspection as deadline looms

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
2 min read

FIA race director Michael Masi will visit Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah track on Tuesday to inspect the circuit’s progress ahead of its tight deadline for next month’s grand prix.

Saudi Arabia’s first F1 race is scheduled to be the penultimate round of the season on December 5 at a new street track.

The deal to add the race was only done one year ago and construction was always likely to run close to the date of the grand prix.

Images from a recent F1 visit to the facility showed extensive development work is still ongoing on the track itself and its infrastructure and last week Masi admitted there is still “a lot to do” but expressed his confidence the race will happen.

He left Brazil on Sunday after the grand prix as he is visiting the Jeddah venue on Tuesday due to Saudi Arabia’s proximity to Qatar, where F1 is racing this weekend at the end of a triple-header.

“I’m confident that it’ll be ready but obviously the fact it’s a three-hour flight it became quite convenient just to go there and have a look,” Masi said.

He added: “It was always going to be very close. There’s no doubt about that.

“Everything that I’ve seen, the progress day on day, week on week, has been amazing since I was there last.

“I’m looking forward to having a look on Tuesday.”

The race is under increased scrutiny because of the country’s human rights record, and accusations the grand prix is the latest effort to ‘sportswash’ its image.

Saudi’s grand prix is part of the Vision 2030 initiative that comprises a wide-ranging economic and social reform programme under the leadership of the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

He is a controversial figure who has been widely criticised for being an autocratic leader who has not taken reforms far enough and continues to be strongly linked to the assassination of US journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Various human rights activists also remain detained after alleged unfair arrests and trials.

Organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have warned F1 and governing body the FIA that without the proper action they risk enabling a cynical strategy to distract from major problems with high-profile events.

Drivers and teams have previously been urged to brief themselves on the country’s record and speak out in support of jailed activists while F1 has been called upon to ensure all the projects associated with the race protect the rights of those involved.

In response, F1 has said it takes its “responsibilities very seriously and have made our position on human rights and other issues clear to all our partners and host countries who commit to respect human rights in the way their events are hosted and delivered”.

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