Saudi Arabia joins 2021 calendar
Formula One has announced Saudi Arabia will join the calendar next season with a night-time street race in Jeddah were officially announced on Thursday.
F1 officially confirmed a deal to stage a Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia as part of a “long-term partnership” with the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation.
For 2021 and 2022 the race will be held on the streets of Jeddah, before moving to a new circuit in Qiddiya. First reports of the race, surface when a drat calendar for was communicated to teams last month, with the event being included on the draft calendar that was issued.
The announcement confirmed the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will take place on in November, and is likely to run one week before the season finale in Abu Dhabi. A full calendar is set to be made public in the next few weeks.
Saudi state energy giant Aramco became a major partner of F1 back in March and has been the title sponsor for three Grands Prix through 2020.
F1 CEO Chase Carey, “We are excited to welcome Saudi Arabia to Formula 1 for the 2021 season and welcome their announcement following speculation in recent days.”
“Saudi Arabia is a country that is rapidly becoming a hub for sports and entertainment with many major events taking place there in recent years and we are very pleased that Formula 1 will be racing there from next season.”
Carey says that with 70% of the population under thirty, F1 was excited about the potential to reach new fans and bring our existing fans around the world exciting racing from an incredible and historic location.
He announced the full provisional calendar will be published and submitted to the World Motor Sport Council in the coming weeks.
HRH Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal, the president of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, added, “I firmly believe the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will be the biggest sports event hosted in our country’s history and has the potential to change lives, perceptions and reach new audiences and communities like never before.”
“To have the icons of the sport and historic teams race in Saudi in front of young fans and families is truly game-changing. We don’t have a rich motorsport heritage, but in a short space of time as a federation, we’ve earned a strong reputation of delivering world-class international events such as Formula E and the Dakar Rally.”
Human Rights group condemn the announcement
Human rights groups including Amnesty International have condemned the announcement of the race in Jeddah. The organisation says the race will be used to sports-wash Saudi Arabia’s “appalling” human rights record.
Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s head of campaigns, told BBC News, “Presuming this race now goes ahead, Formula One should insist all contracts contain stringent labour standards across all supply chains, and that all race events are open to everyone without discrimination.”
Saudi sports minster HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal said staging the race “perfectly reflects the transformational journey the country is on”.
Prince Abdulaziz insisted staging an F1 race in November in 2021 will result in “positive change”. he told BBC News, “Saudi Arabia was criticised for being closed off to the world, and now we’ve opened up, we’re criticised for sports-washing.”
Human rights groups have in the past criticised races in Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Russia, Abu Dhabi and China.
In a statement, Liberty Media which owns F1, said: “We take our responsibilities very seriously and have made our position on human rights and other issues clear to all our partners and host countries who commit to respect human rights in the way their events are hosted and delivered.”
There have been concerns about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, pointing to long-standing issues including women’s rights, the treatment of the LGBT community and the restriction of free speech.
Saudi crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman is alleged to have ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the countries consulate in Istanbul in 2018. Saudi authorities blamed a “rogue operation” for Khashoggi’s death.
Prince Abdulaziz added: “If we can use sport to get people together and they understand Saudi Arabia, then why not? This is the biggest issue we had in the past and now people are coming and understanding the culture.”
Saudi Arabia hosting a growing number of international sports events as part of the country’s ‘Vision 2030’ programme, designed to increase participation and tourism.
Formula E has regularly raced in Diriyah just outside Riyadh since 2018, next year it will also host the Dakar Rally and will host the integral Extreme E rally.
Wo11 best Mercedes ever produced
Lewis Hamilton believes that the 2020 Mercedes Wo11 is the “best” they ever produced and the result of setting “ridiculously high goals” ahead of every season in searching for improvement.
The German manufacturer became the first time to win seven constructors’ championships in succession at last week’s Emilia-Romagna GP. The team also secured the driver’s championship for either Hamilton or teammate Valtteri Bottas, meaning the
Hamilton, who could clinch the drivers’ crown in Turkey next week, spoke glowingly about the “remarkable” team and motivation behind Mercedes’ success – and described being a part of it as a “completely unbelievable honour”.
The Englishman told Sky Sports, “What we have done is no coincidence. Valtteri (Bottas) and I are just a part of this incredible chain of people who are collectively working and all rowing in the same direction. People will probably want to understand how we do it and I think it’s just continuing to set ridiculously high goals every year.”
He says that he remembers in 2013 sitting down with the team and always would move the aero target higher, to which they agreed to. Hamilton says year on year the target continues to be raised, with the car largely being carried into 2021 this car could be one of the best-ever car but the greatest in F1’s history.
“Very difficult” to fight for third – Ferrari
Ferrari has admitted it is now going to be “very difficult” for the team to fight for third in the constructors. The Italian manufacturer was hoping to close the gap on Renault, McLaren and Racing Point to move up from its current sixth spot in the standings.
Ferrari is currently thirty-one points behind McLaren and Racing Point, with Renault another point further clear of these two teams. However, with Sebastian Vettel struggling to get regularly in the points, and Ferrari not quite having the pace to lead the midfield battle.
That means with four races to go, the Italian team is running out to time to make progress in the championship.
Speaking about Daniel Ricciardo’s podium at Imola, team principal Mattia Binotto told Motorsport.com, “We got the project wrong, looking for a path of development that turned out to be wrong. Then COVID arrived, stopping [work on the car], and this penalised us for the whole season.”
“We had to comply with the measures that caused nine weeks of work stoppage, plus immediately afterwards it was decided to freeze the 2020 projects. I see this season in a different context than normal but we will be able to react.”
“We have very challenging goals for 2021. I see a very united team that wants to do well. It feels the weight of responsibility and the desire to redeem itself.”
Next season Ferrari will have a completely new engine, but Binotto warned realistically Ferrari will not be able to fight for the world title in 2021.
Teams remain spilt on the two-day format
Formula One teams remain split on whether or not two-day race weekend formats should be pursued in the future following its trial for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
At Imola, the sport tired a two-day format because of the logistical pressure of a double header and hundreds of miles between Portimao and Imola. The trial for a possible format change that has been mooted for the future, reducing the amount of practice running given to teams and limiting the total time spent at the circuit.
Drivers were given a single 90-minute practice session on Saturday morning before qualifying later in the day, marking a significant reduction from the existing four hours of practice currently on offer.
The reduced running divided opinion throughout the paddock, with Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer saying the format was “not Formula 1”.
Szafnauer told Motorsport.com, “I think it’s got to be from a fan’s perspective – do the fans like this kind of format?. I thought I would like it, but it’s a bit foreign to me. After 23 years of having Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it feels a little bit odd and unnatural”
Szafnaur feels that the bigger teams with greater resources would still retain an advantage with limited on-track running, even if they could not pore over their data typically picked up on Fridays.
Szafnauer told Motorsport.com, “If you have greater simulation tools and techniques back at the factory, being prepared to come here helps in such a compressed practice and qualifying sessions.”
“If this is what is going to happen in the future, then we’ll start putting infrastructure in place back at the factory in order for us to be able to optimise, just like some of the others.”
Williams head of vehicle performance Dave Robson felt it would not be “too difficult” for teams to adjust to reduced running as they would all face a similar proposition, but said engineers would be eager to maintain as much track time as possible.
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl welcomed the additional challenge of the two-day format but questioned the commercial impact of reducing on-track action. Saying “We like this additional challenge in order to get on top of your own game within this ninety minutes on Saturday morning.”
He says if it allows them to save money, and spend more time at home McLaren can be positive about it.
F1 posts loss of $104m in Q3
Formula One has posted a $104m loss in the third quarter as it continues to feel the loss of revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but the sport’s income streams are starting to recover.
The F1 Group earned revenues of $597m for July to September, compared with $633m in 2019. Its also declared an operating loss of $104m for the period, having made a profit of $32m last year. Income from race fees, TV and sponsorship is allocated pro-rata per quarter, reflecting how many races take place during the period.
The second-quarter results were significantly impacted by the pandemic, with no Grands Prix took place during the period. The organisation declared an income of just $24m for the second quarter, down from $620m in 2020.
However, ten of the season’s planned total of seventeen were held in July to September of 2020, compared with seven out of twenty-one in the same period last year.
Many of the race hosting fees were either waivered or reduced leading to a greater percentage of annual income being allocated to it, there was a fall in overall income relative to 2019.
Liberty Media said: “Results in the third quarter of 2020 were impacted by the absence of fans, the location of races as well as the timing of the revised race calendar and pro-rata recognition of certain revenue streams.”
Liberty explained how income from TV and sponsorship contracts has been impacted, as well that from race hosting fees. It noted: “Primary F1 revenue decreased mainly due to the limited race promotion revenue received since fans were prohibited at all but one race during the third quarter.”
Many of these contract changes with advertisers and broadcasters are expected to be a one year change to due to the lack of races in Q1 and Q2.
In July-September the 10 F1 teams received total payments of $440m, substantially up on last year’s figure of $335m “due to one-time fees paid to teams upon signing the new Concorde Agreement.”
CEO Chase Carey remains upbeat about the way that the sport has tackled the coronavirus crisis. Adding “We are incredibly proud of the way our F1 community has come together to face the challenges and safely return to racing, and we’ve seen excitement both on and off the track.”
Eight new cases of coronavirus
The latest Coronavirus figures for the week Friday 30th October and Thursday 5th November, 1,781 tests were carried out resulting in eight new cases. That’s down one on last week but is in line with the average number reported over the last month.