Saudi Arabia tempting F1 to it’s Kingdom

Since Saudi Arabia entered the F1 calendar it’s been a controversial subject for just about everyone. Whether it was specifically due to fans and teams that became concerned the Jeddah track itself was too dangerous, to those who were more concerned with the human rights violations that the country has become synonymous for, and perhaps what most fans will remember is the pre-race missile strike which left plumes of smoke within camera view of Free Practice. Given all of this, you’d be forgiven for the expectation that perhaps F1 might be considering replacing Saudi Arabia with one of the multitude of other places that would love to run a less controversial F1 GP. 

Interestingly though, this could not be further from the truth. Not only has Saudi Arabia been given a 10-Year contract for it’s race, that will be seen out in Jeddah until the new Qiddiya circuit is complete, but will likely see Saudi Arabia take over as the opening race in 2023, and possibly beyond. 

 

 

If that weren’t enough to revoke the previous assumption, Saudi Arabia is now doubling down on F1 by pushing forward a new plan that it become a hub for the sport, replacing the UK. A plan that would likely be laughed at by all of us fans, is seemingly being taken seriously by F1 and, of course, some teams.

British Bases

Out of the 10 teams on the grid, seven of them currently operate out of the UK, with thousands of businesses surrounding this area of the UK built to provide services and parts for the massive motorsport business in the region. 

These teams have been there for decades, most going through name changes over the years, with others sticking to their monickers. McLaren being the obvious example.

These locations have always made sense as F1 was traditionally a primarily European championship, with a few small global races sprinkled on top to fulfil the World Championship name it had so proudly boasted. 

In recent years though, it has become a truly global championship and is only carving its way further down that path with three races in the UK. While this is clearly a good road to go, it means having a main base in Europe is no longer a massive benefit in terms of centrality. Hence why Andretti is happy to push its bid with a US HQ and just a forward operating base in the UK as the military would say.

Kingdom of Parts

It’s no secret that the Saudi Kingdom under the thumb of the Crown Prince MBS has been keen to invest its massive oil fortunes into every possible area of global economics possible, in an effort to dull the impact of the globes push away from the black stuff. 

As such Prince Khalid, who pushed successful to get the first Saudi Grand Prix and now successfully a 10 year contract, is now doubling down on what the Kingdom would like to do in terms of investment in F1.

They have stated they would like to create a hub similar to the UK’s congregation of teams within Saudi Arabia.

This might sound outlandish, but Saudi Arabia has something that every F1 team is highly addicted to. Money.

Lest we forget, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund has already bought stakes in both McLaren and Aston Martin. Which would likely be two teams they’ll target over the next decade.

The Benefits

While the teams would likely be reluctant to give up the infrastructure they’ve spent millions (in some cases billions) constructing over decades, the offer of a massive investment from the Saudi Arabian Kingdom would likely be able to offset the cost of doing so, on top of this the teams would likely receive massive incentives and tax breaks. Which they’d likely need for air conditioning.

The problem is, as far as we can see, this is where the upside would end.

The Downside

Although the country’s leaders have what would seem like a bottomless pit of money, that pit will at some stage, quite literally, run out. At which point no amount of money would make up for the money lost by the lack of sponsors. It’s important to remember than F1 is by all measures a game of Marketing. 

Basically unless the Kingdom miraculously changes its image, then these teams would be not only down on direct sponsorship income, they’d also likely lose sales of whatever it is they’re flogging.

Especially as the world is seemingly becoming more and more adverse to any type of controversy as the days pass by.

The Saudi dream of F1 Valley in the desert then, for the moment at least, will stay a dream.