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Saudi Arabia eyes early 2022 slot on F1 calendar

Saudi Arabia Formula 1 chiefs are hoping their race can switch to an early calendar slot in 2022, amid mounting speculation the season will begin again in the Middle East.

Pitlane building, Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Pitlane building, Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Saudi Motorsport Company

The inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will be the penultimate round this year, taking place on 5 December, one week before the finale in Abu Dhabi.

But despite its positioning for its first event, the promoter of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal, says that the preference for 2022 is to be nearer the front end.

"For us as a promoter we prefer not to be the last races," he said, with ticket sales for this year's Saudi race having just been released to the public.

"Teams can do good really in the first races and then the other races have become not so interesting, as a promoter.

"We wanted to have race in the beginning [of the season] but in the time we had to do the work for the track and prepare the track, we couldn't have a race in 2021 at the beginning of the year.

"Our decision was to have a race at the end of 2021, or [wait to] have an early race in 2022. Our decision was we wanted the race in 2021.

"So we are now discussing with F1 about what is best for us to have our race in 2022, and hopefully we can get to an agreement."

Team building, Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Team building, Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Photo by: Saudi Motorsport Company

With the impact of the COVID pandemic still likely to weigh heavy on the shape of the 2022 calendar, there is an increasing likelihood that the Australian GP will again be shifted back to later in the schedule to give the country more time to deal with international travel restrictions.

That would leave the way open for Bahrain to again open the season, as it did this year. It would then make a lot of sense for Saudi Arabia to form a back-to-back.

Preparations for this year's street race in Jeddah are on schedule, and Price Khalid has also expressed some interest in Saudi Arabia winning the third slot for a sprint race trial.

"I was there in Silverstone last weekend and I really enjoyed it as a spectator and as a promoter," he explained.

"I think it's good. You have more races to see, more action on Saturday. We would love to be one of the countries that had the sprint race.

"The decision now is F1's and we will see. Is it going to be another country, with three countries in Europe, or will the Middle East will be one of them? I would love to see it in Saudi."

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