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F1 in talks over Saudi Grand Prix

The Formula One motor-racing series is in talks over the possibility of staging a grand prix in Saudi Arabia, according to multiple reports.

The Reuters news agency, citing sources familiar with the matter, reported that team bosses have been consulted on the matter, with reassurances sought over Saudi Arabia’s human rights and gender equality practices.

Reuters added that F1 has held similar discussions with many other prospective hosts.

According to UK newspaper The Times, the Saudi Grand Prix could be held as early as 2021, by which point the F1 calendar could feature as many as 24 races. The series is already expected to include 22 races next year following the addition of events in Vietnam and the Netherlands and extended deals for the Australian and British grands prix.

A Saudi grand prix would be F1’s third race in the Middle East, joining Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

F1’s media rights in the Middle East and North Africa are currently held by Dubai-based media group MBC, which agreed a five-season deal with the series ahead of the start of the 2019 campaign.

BeIN Sports was the previous rights-holder. In February, it confirmed that it would not renew its deal for the series and made it clear it would only be partnering with rights-holders that take a hard line against beoutQ, the Saudi-based channel that is pirating beIN content.

In a recent statement reported by the GrandPrix247 website, beIN said it was “curious” that F1 “continues to turn a blind eye” to the piracy of content following the recent joint statement by Fifa, the Asian Football Confederation, England’s Premier League, Spain’s LaLiga, Germany’s Bundesliga, Uefa and Italy’s Serie A condemning beoutQ.