The Middle East already hosts 2 F1 races, at Sakhir in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina
Saudi Arabia and Formula One (NASDAQ:FWONK) are discussing the possibility of holding a race in the country, and team bosses have been asked for an opinion.
It has been reported that F1 and the 10 teams would seek reassurance on issues including human rights, gender equality and media freedom before any race could happen.
Multiple informed sources confirmed to Reuters the substance of the report.
They added that F1 management had discussions with many would-be hosts around the world which ultimately came to nothing.
Our source says that a Saudi race could become a reality as soon as Y 2021, with the schedule already expected to stretch to a record 22 races in Y 2020.
F1 and the teams are discussing major sporting and technical rule changes from Y 2021 and Ferrari (NYSE:RACE) boss Mattia Binotto said in Hungary at the weekend that could see an expansion to 24 races.
A F1 source said that was more to allow flexibility, replacing the existing rule that states teams must agree to expand the calendar beyond 21 races rather than being a target number.
The GCC hosts races at Sakhir in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina, with lucrative long-term contracts in place.
Should the talks with Saudi Arabia move up a notch, the Kingdom would likely be looking at a 3rd regional slot.
This year, Bahrain was the 2nd race of the season after Australia, while Abu Dhabi will be the final race in early December.
Any Saudi race would likely need to be separated from the other 2 regional rivals to protect their investment and the uniqueness of the event.
F1 is broadcast live and free-to-air in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region under a 5-yr deal struck last March with MBC Group, founded by Saudi businessman Waleed al-Ibrahim.
The rights previously belonged to Qatar’s BeIN media group, which blamed broadcast piracy of its pay TV feed as a reason for not renewing.
Saudi Arabia already features on the all-electric FE calendar and hosted its 1st race last year on a street circuit at Ad Diriyah, near Riyadh.
Saudi companies have been involved in F1 in the past, with Albilad and the national airline Saudia sponsoring John William’s to its 1st chanpionship in Y 1980.
Formula One’s US-based commercial rights holders Liberty Media have stated already that they want to add races in the United States, with Miami in line to join the US Grand Prix in Austin, and China, both Key markets for the sport’s growth.
There have also been talks with Argentina, South Africa and Morocco, with Africa the only major inhabited continent currently without a race.
Europe, the motorsport’s historic heartland, currently has 11 rounds of the championship including Russia and Azerbaijan.
HeffX-LTN overall technical outlook for FWONK is Bullish in here.