The streets of Jeddah will light up for a night race in 2021 as Formula One added yet another Saudi Arabian city to its calendar for next year, the organisers confirmed on Thursday. The move is aimed at attracting well-heeled globe-trotting visitors and raising the kingdom’s profile internationally as a tourist destination.
The kingdom said Thursday it will host the race in November 2021 in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, using scenic roads along the coast.
Gulf locales including Manama, Bahrain, and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, already host F1 races, which see A-list Hollywood stars, royals, billionaires, ministers and social media influencers gather for days of partying, discreet talks and deal-making.
Last year, 21 cities hosted races, but that has been scaled back this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some cities in 2020 have hosted multiple races. Concerns about large crowds amid the pandemic have also caused most races to be held without fans.
“Motorsports for us is very important,” Prince Khalid bin Sultan al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday.
“We would like to host these events as long as we can because our local people here in Saudi Arabia like to attend these events and be entertained and meet people from all around the world.”
Formula One has yet to publish its schedule for next year after a season hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, but Saudi Arabia is set to be paired with the season-ending round at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina.
“Saudi Arabia is a country that is rapidly becoming a hub for sports and entertainment with many major events taking place there in recent years and we are very pleased that Formula One will be racing there from next season,” said F1 chairman Chase Carey in a statement.
“The region is hugely important to us and with 70% of the population of Saudi being under 30 we are excited about the potential to reach new fans and bring our existing fans around the world exciting racing from an incredible and historic location.”