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Saudi Arabia announces plans for new Qiddiya F1 circuit next to swimming pool and theme park

Saudi already hosts one Formula 1 grand prix but the Gulf country could stage two races in the future

Kieran Jackson
Formula 1 Correspondent
Wednesday 06 March 2024 11:37 GMT
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Saudi Arabia has revealed extravagant plans for a new motorsport circuit in the proposed new city of Qiddiya – with the prospect of two F1 races in the Gulf country in the future not out of the question.

The new track, one feature of the major Qiddiya construction project 30 miles from the capital city of Riyadh, will have 21 corners and a unique elevated first corner, known as Blade, which rises 70 metres above a concert space below it.

The holograms released also show a theme park running parallel to the circuit – including what is set to be the world’s tallest, longest and fastest rollercoaster – and a glass-bottomed swimming pool overlooking the track. The project will not be completed until 2027 at the earliest.

A street circuit on the Jeddah corniche has hosted the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix since 2021, with the fourth iteration scheduled this weekend.

The original plan in Saudi was for Qiddiya to replace Jeddah when construction is complete, though the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation made it clear last year that they would be keen to host two races if an agreement could be reached with F1.

Saudi signed a 10-year deal with F1 to host one race a year, starting from 2021, worth £50m-a-year to the sport.

The new circuit has been designed by motorsport’s most famous circuit designer, Herman Tilke, as well as former F1 driver Alex Wurz.

Two-time F1 world champion Fernando Alonso, who drives for Aston Martin whose major sponsor is Saudi’s state-owned oil company Aramco, endorsed the new plans on Twitter/X on Wednesday, commenting: “The proposed new circuit at Qiddiya City looks set to be one of the most impressive facilities for motorsports worldwide.

“With high-speed thrills, incredible elevation, immersive attractions and experiences that’ll excite the fans like never before.”

A view of the new track proposed in Qiddiya, Saudi Arabia (Saudi Press Agency)
The 21-corner circuit will not be ready until 2027 at the earliest (Saudi Press Agency)
The expansive Qiddiya construction project is 30 miles outside the Saudi capital of Riyadh (Saudi Press Agency)

F1 has a 10-year sponsorship agreement with Aramco – which sees the petroleum giant sponsor billboards and barriers throughout the season – worth around $450m.

Abdullah Aldawood, managing director of Qiddiya Investment Company, said of the planned new track: "The Speed Park Track will be a true embodiment of Qiddiya’s power of play philosophy and position Qiddiya City as the home of Saudi motorsport and one of the world’s leading motorsport venues.

"Visitors and spectators will be treated to one of the most unique race experiences in the world with a pioneering track that will be ready to host some of the world’s biggest motorsport events."

Saudi’s mass investment plans in sport – with football, golf and tennis all part of major plans for the kingdom to expand its revenue stream – have come with numerous complaints from human rights groups of sportswashing, given the country’s poor human rights record.

The 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix takes place this Saturday, 9 March.

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