The head of Saudi Arabia’s motorsport federation and its grand prix has suggested that the country could one day operate its own Formula 1 team.
Saudi Arabia has expanded its reach in Formula 1 in recent years, with a grand prix in Jeddah, its oil company Aramco a global partner of the championship and Aston Martin, while Neom is a partner of McLaren.
Wealthy Gulf nations have also expanded into ownership in other sports, notably football, with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund acquiring Newcastle United in 2021.
Speaking in an in-house interview to mark a month until the third edition of the country’s race, Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, Chairman of the Saudi Automobile & Motorcycle Federation and Saudi Motorsport Company, said that “we have a lot of history with motorsport as Saudi Arabia was the first Middle East country to be involved in Formula 1 – the [Saudi Air] sponsorship deal with Williams in 1978.
“I was really proud to see my country and the name of a company from Saudi Arabia in such a prestigious, international event such as Formula 1. This is what inspired me to work closely with Formula 1 and I’m happy to see how this journey has progressed over the past 40 years.
“This legacy that has taken us to hosting a race may one day expand to us having our own Saudi F1 team. I expect our relationship to grow and play a bigger role in the future.
“We’re investing in new tracks, big infrastructure and new cities and we are opening new factories. We want Saudi to be a hub and to help attract teams to open facilities here and that will benefit the big companies we have, like Aramco.
“We started in 1978 by sponsoring a team and now we need to look at the next step which is a joint venture or a partnership.”
Prince Khalid also explained that Saudi Arabia wants to see greater prominence of its own citizens in Formula 1 long-term.
“We would also like a Saudi champion, a driver who is capable of winning an international racing competition,” he said.
“We are really enthusiastic about motorsport and have big plans and we want to contribute by having a big role in the future of the sport.
“Hopefully in 10 to 20 years from now you will see Saudi Arabia and Saudi companies and more people engaged globally with Formula 1.
“We want to create future engineers, team managers, team principals — and to have companies attracted to motorsport so we have cars being constructed here and more people engaged with the industry.
“This all comes back to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit and the hosting of a Formula 1 race and this is the lasting legacy we have created.”
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