Saudi Arabia target 2021 Grand Prix, building track at Qiddiya

Saudi Arabia are on course to host a Grand Prix in the country, with former Formula 1 driver Alex Wurz a driving force behind the massive Qiddiya entertainment mega-city project, on the outskirts of Riyadh and are even prepared to host the first two races on a street circuit before moving to the permanent facility.

Wurz, part of the team developing a purpose-built race track in the kingdom, believes the massive project could become the “motorsport capital of the world” and that hosting a round of the Formula E Championship was the proverbial ‘toe-in-the-water’ ahead of an F1 bid.

Wurz is behind the design of the new race track, which has been touted as a future venue for Formula 1 in 2023.

The country already hosts a round of the Formula E Championship, while the new state-of-the-art track will be designed to FIA Grade 1 standards suitable for F1.

Wurz, chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, told Arabian Business website, “The visionary Qiddiya project offers us amazing opportunities to design a track, a true racing arena for drivers, spectators, as well as the viewers at home.

“The design offers amazing elevation changes, making use of the stunning natural landscape. Equally the design is made to challenge drivers and engineers alike. And from our simulation runs, I can assure you it is absolutely thrilling as an on- and off-track experience.

“Qiddiya has all it takes to become the motorsport capital of the world,” added the Austrian.

The track was officially unveiled at an event last week with guests including F1 World Champion Damon Hill, ex-F1 drivers David Coulthard and Nico Hulkenberg, current Haas driver Romain Grosjean and former MotoGP rider Loris Capirossi.

F1 is reportedly in the process of negotiating a $65-million-a-year with organisers whose ambitions appear to be limitless but the construction of a new facility is likely to take at least a couple of years – thus 2023 is a realistic target.

However, Saudi pockets are deep and it is believed that there is a budget to host a Grand Prix as soon as next year, with the option of running the race on a street circuit in Jeddah before the main track comes on stream.

Mike Reininger, CEO of the Qiddiya Investment Company, told reporters, “We are building [a track] so we’re able to host MotoGP events, WEC, regional and national championship events, and all the way up through to F1.

“We’re building the facilities so that we can ultimately host the biggest and the best motorsports events, really in all categories. And Grade 1 is synonymous with F1, so we’re hopeful that that comes to pass for us,” added Reininger.

In November last year, Diriyah ePrix was held in the country while Qiddiya was the location for the final stage of this year’s Dakar Rally.