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Formula 1 in talks over Saudi race deal

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc leads teammate Sebastian Vettel on the parade lap during the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix (by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Formula 1 is in talks over staging a grand prix in Saudi Arabia, with reports claiming that a deal worth £50m (€58.3m/$64.9m) per year is under discussion.

The motor-racing series could stage its first race in Saudi Arabia as early as 2021, according to the Daily Mail. It is claimed that the inaugural Saudi GP could be held as a street-race in Jeddah, before moving to Qiddiya, a huge multi-purpose project being developed around 45km from the capital Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia already has motorsport events in its events portfolio. In May 2018, a 10-year deal was agreed with Formula E to stage the electric street racing series’ first race in the Middle East.

The agreement allowed the capital city Riyadh to host the opening round of season five in December 2018. Formula E signed the contract with the General Sports Authority and Saudi Arabian Motor Federation as part of Vision 2030, which is seeking to diversify Saudi Arabia’s interests away from the oil sector.

A Saudi GP would become the third Middle East race on the F1 calendar after Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

Formula 1 declined to comment on the reports when contacted by SportBusiness.

It is claimed in the latest reports that Formula 1 has already agreed a global sponsorship deal with state-owned oil giant Aramco, that would likely result in title sponsorship of the new grand prix. Qiddiya is said to be viewed as the long-term home of the race, although Riyadh remains an option.

In June, Qiddiya Investment Company (QIC) unveiled the masterplan for its sports and entertainment resort in Saudi Arabia, with the ‘Giga Project’ to feature a 20,000-seat cliff-top stadium, 18,000-seat multi-purpose indoor arena and a circuit suitable for F1.

Qiddiya is designed to become the Kingdom’s ‘Capital of Entertainment, Sports and the Arts’ with facilities and experiences that will bring together new opportunities and exposure at a scale and format never before seen.

The motor-racing circuit would be located within a ‘Speed Park’ including showrooms, retail, a driver’s club and a luxury hotel within its gates.

A spokesman for Bahrain International Circuit, which hosts the Gulf country’s grand prix in late March, told the Mail: “Since our first race in 2004, our goal has been to grow the fanbase for motorsport in the region. We would, therefore, welcome initiatives which can support that growth and believe that a future race in Saudi Arabia would be complementary.”