Saudi Arabian Grand Prix managing director Martin Whitaker has dismissed claims that the recent increase in Formula 1 races held in the Middle East could lead to saturation.
Bahrain broke new ground when it became the first-ever Middle Eastern country to host an F1 race in 2004, with its success and ever-present status since prompting the introduction of further races in Abu Dhabi (2009) and Saudi Arabia (2021).
With Qatar also opening its door to the sport during the closing stages of that 2021 season and penning a long-term agreement to be on the calendar from 2023 onwards, there will be a quartet of races in the region from this season and beyond.
As a further sign of the region’s growing influence on F1, Abu Dhabi continues to pay a premium fee to host the opening final round of the World Championship, while Bahrain joined their Middle Eastern counterparts two years ago by taking on the rights to be the traditional curtain-raiser for the season.
Nevertheless, Whitaker believes the changing landscape over the past decade has been a positively constructive one and favourable to the region’s attempts to expand its involvement in motorsport.
“You only have to look at either automobile franchises or global consumer brands and they all tend to congregate in the same area on the high street,” Whitaker said.
“Yes, there is competition between them, but they are stronger together than they would be if they were all disparate. The analogy with F1 races is the same.
“Saudi Arabia is part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and it’s beneficial for all of us in the region to have Formula 1 races as it increases awareness and helps develop the sport.”
Whitaker also contends the number of races that have propped up across the Middle East in recent times provides no geographical problem by pointing to the multitude of events that have been held within close proximity in Europe for several years longer.
“Actually, while it might seem close, the distance between Bahrain and Jeddah is about 1,500km, which compares with the distance between Silverstone and Budapest,” he said.
“And there are a lot of races that are held between these two European venues.
“So, the location of the races in the Middle East are not as close as you think.”