It is no secret that the sport’s owner, Liberty Media, is eager to expand the presence of Formula 1 around the world but it appears to be proceeding cautiously over the possibility of hosting a race in Saudi Arabia.
It is reported that ongoing discussions between F1 and Saudi Arabia are centered around ensuring gender equality, freedom of the press, and respect for human rights at a possible race. While the sport already hosts two races in the Middle East, in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, talk of a race being held in Saudi Arabia is particularly controversial after the murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi operatives in Turkey last year.
In addition, Saudi Arabia only lifted a ban on female drivers last year. Sources tell Reuters that all 10 teams have been asked to express their opinions about racing in Saudi Arabia but added that just because discussions are being held, there’s no guarantee that a race in the kingdom will eventuate.
Saudi Arabia only came to the attention of the motorsport world back in 2018 with the Race of Champions. In mid-2018, the kingdom also signed a deal to host a Formula E race every year for the next decade.
Liberty Media is in discussions with a number of other nations and cities to host F1 races in the coming years. One new location already confirmed for the 2020 season is Vietnam with a temporary street circuit to be constructed in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi. There are also talks for a London street race and an event in Miami.