The Jeddah street track in Saudi Arabia is set to host the country’s Formula 1 race for at least four years, said the event promoter’s managing director Martin Whitaker.
The Gulf kingdom made its Formula 1 debut last year on a 15-year deal with a night race in Jeddah in December.
It is expected to eventually move to Qiddiya, a planned entertainment resort about an hour’s drive from the capital Riyadh, once a permanent circuit has been built.
The Qiddiya is at the heart of an ambitious strategy to open up the economy and ease social restrictions.
“I think we’re going to have the race there for another four years,” Whitaker, who runs the Saudi Motorsport Company, the race’s promoter, told a select group of reporters during the final practice session of last week’s pre-season in Bahrain.
“That would be my thought…simply because I think it gives us the time we need to build the Qiddiya.
“Formula 1 made it clear in their contract with Saudi Arabia that they don’t want to race at Qiddiya when Qiddiya is actually a construction site. It makes perfect sense.
“Once Qiddiya is ready and ready to host Formula 1, then it will move.”
The 6.1km Jeddah Corniche Circuit, a thrilling layout featuring mostly flat-out blasts along the city’s Red Sea waterfront and a succession of high-speed bends hemmed in by walls, served a thriller in the spotlight as host of the penultimate round of the season last year.
Whitaker’s four-year schedule includes the 2022 event, which is scheduled for March 27 as the second round of the season this year – a week after neighboring Bahrain’s season opener.
Whitaker said the race wanted to hold onto a spot at the start of the season, even though it was the penultimate round last year, as the title battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen raged towards its conclusion, gave the event a high-profile start.
“There’s no doubt about it, being the second to last race last year was fantastic,” said Whitaker.
“But, to be honest, I think we have to remember that Saudi Arabia is now one of 23 countries in the world that hosts a Formula 1 race.
“Wherever you are on the championship calendar, you have the opportunity to shine and embrace what Formula 1 has to offer,” he added.