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Saudi Arabia eyes late 2024 slot if it doesn’t secure F1 season opener

Saudi Arabia’s Formula 1 race would likely need a date in October or later in 2024 if it does not secure the season-opening slot, event chiefs have said. 

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75, lead the field away at the start

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75, lead the field away at the start

Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

The possibility of the grand prix in Jeddah becoming the first race next season emerged late last year when Australian Grand Prix bosses revealed that Saudi Arabia had requested it because of Ramadan. 

The Islamic holy month of fasting will take place from 11 March to 10 April in 2024, and it means that Saudi Arabia is not able to hold its race during this period. 

But while it had appeared that Saudi Arabia’s request would be set in stone, chairman of the Saudi Automobile & Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) Prince Khalid bin Al Faisal said on Friday that no final decision has been taken yet. 

He explained that he was still awaiting discussions with Formula One Management (FOM) and the teams to work out how best things could work. 

“It's still too early,” he said, when asked about how firmed up the plans were for Saudi Arabia to have the first race. 

“We would love to have the opening race, and I'm sure this is something that we should discuss now before the announcement of the calendar.  

“We want to see the feedback of the teams because we want what's best for FOM, and what's best for the teams. If it's the best solution we would love to have the opening race, but nothing is set now.” 

An aerial view of the circuit

An aerial view of the circuit

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Prince Khalid said that if the Saudi race could not be slotted in before Ramadan starts then it would probably need to move towards the end of the year, because it quickly gets too hot after March for the race to take place any earlier.

“It's either going to be Saudi or Bahrain that can have a race before Ramadan,” he said.

“After Ramadan, the weather in April and May is hot, so March is the last time where the weather is suitable. We saw when races used to happen in April in Bahrain it was too hot. 

“But we need to discuss with FOM and the teams, and then we'll make our decisions. Otherwise, it will shift to somewhere [later] like October, or after October, where the weather starts to get better in our region.” 

Jeddah to remain until 2027 

The Jeddah street circuit had originally only been intended as a short-term home for the Saudi Arabian GP before it moved to a permanent facility in Qiddiya

However, with construction work of the new city near Riyadh not progressing as fast as originally anticipated, Prince Khalid said he expected Saudi's F1 race to remain where it was for at least another four years. 

“Things change in these big projects and we can't just build a track and be surrounded by construction sites, as part of the circuit is going inside the city,” he said. 

“We want to go there when the city is completed. This will take longer than we expected because we are now redoing the master plan, and we think that we will go there in 2027 or 2028.” 

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Price Khalid also reiterated the fact that Saudi Arabia remained open to the idea of holding two races once Qiddiya was ready. 

“The idea of having two races is Saudi is doable,” he said. “F1 is growing. There's a lot of demand here because Saudis big regions are so far away. 

“The sport is growing; the demand is growing. So, I will not be surprised if Saudi in the near future will host two races.” 

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