Formula 1: Saudi Arabia rejects criticism as debut race in 2021 confirmed

Formula 1
Sports Minister HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal

Saudi Arabia has rejected criticism over its hosting of Formula 1, insisting confirmation of its first race in 2021 “perfectly reflects the transformational journey the country is on”.

The Arab kingdom will make its debut on the Grand Prix calendar next year with a night-time street race in Jeddah as part of a “long-term partnership” announced by the sport.

It is understood the deal is for at least 10 years.

Amnesty International has said the event will be used to sportswash Saudi Arabia’s “appalling” human rights record.

But Sports Minister HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal insisted staging F1 in November in 2021 will result in “positive change”.

“Saudi Arabia was criticised for being closed off to the world, and now we’ve opened up, we’re criticised for sportswashing” he told BBC Sport.

“For many Saudis this will be a dream come true. It’s a very special moment. We can showcase to the world what we’re capable of.

“More people are taking part in more sports than ever before. Formula 1 is another chance for us to drive forward these positive developments.

“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.

“We have to…make sure we abide with international regulations and rules, that we reflect positively towards all of this.”

More to follow.

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