Qiddiya eyes mooted F1 race for Saudi Arabia

Qiddiya Investment Company (QIC) has said its motorsport venue that is being developed as part of a vast sports and entertainment resort in Saudi Arabia will be ready in 2023, adding that it hopes to be part of talks to bring Formula 1 to the country.

Qiddiya gave an update to its development plans over the weekend as it hosted the final leg and closing ceremony of the 2020 Dakar Rally motorsport event. In June, QIC unveiled the masterplan for its sports and entertainment resort, with the ‘Giga Project’ to feature a 20,000-seat cliff-top stadium, an 18,000-seat multi-purpose indoor arena, and other facilities Almamoun Alshinghiti, executive director of sports, told TheStadiumBusiness.com in July will make it the “motorsports capital of the world”.

Located around 45km from the capital Riyadh, Qiddiya aims to deliver on many of the central tenets embodied in Vision 2030, an initiative that seeks to diversify Saudi Arabia’s interests away from the oil sector.

Formula 1 is in talks over staging a grand prix in Saudi Arabia, with UK newspaper the Daily Mail last week claiming that a deal worth £50m (€58.3m/$64.9m) per year is being negotiated. The Mail said F1 could stage its first race in Saudi Arabia as early as 2021. It added that an inaugural Saudi GP could be held as a street-race in Jeddah, before moving to Qiddiya.

Michael Reininger, Qiddiya CEO, has now confirmed that negotiations are ongoing between Saudi authorities and F1. He said: “The formalisation of a race is not for us at Qiddiya. It is outside the confines of the project itself. But we are building a facility that will be able to host a really world-class event as one of the signature items we will have on offer here at Qiddiya as we open in 2023.

“We’re building a facility in the hope there will be a (F1) deal struck and that there is a race here in Saudi.”

A QIC spokesman added to TheStadiumBusiness.com: “In the near future we will make an announcement about the full range of facilities that we will host at our Motorsports Zone, that together will make Qiddiya the Motorsports Capital of the World.”

Speaking to the Autosport website, Reininger said QIC also hopes to host the likes of MotoGP motorcycling and World Endurance Championship (WEC) motor-racing events, with the circuit layout being designed by former F1 driver Alex Wurz up to the Grade 1 standards of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) that are required for Formula 1.

Reininger added: “It has the backdrop of this 200-metre sheer cliff on one side, and then the circuit really has two zones. One zone is inside a stadium, where you’ll be able to see as much as six kilometres of the race as a spectator in the stadium. And then it has another portion of the circuit, which is what we call the city portion.

“The circuit will leave the stadium and become integrated with the rest of this entertainment capital that we’re building. So it will buzz by hotels and shops and restaurants, and there will be rollercoasters and rides that weave their way around the circuit. It will be the best of a stadium course and the best of the city course all looped into one.”