Saudi Arabia plans to hold a race in the W series for women only as part of the race sponsorship programme for the first Formula 1 race next year.
The new night race in the streets of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s second largest city, will take place on 28 January. November as part of the 23. race of the Formula 1 calendar 2021.
Formula 2 is also set to participate in the Jeddah races as a side event of the W series, which this week announced that the calendar of eight races will support Formula 1 in next year’s unconfirmed race series.
In Saudi Arabia, women have only been allowed to drive since 2018. Following the announcement of the next Grand Prix last month, the human rights organization Amnesty International has paid special attention to women’s rights in the Kingdom.
But the President of the Saudi Arabian Motor and Motorcycle Sports Association, Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al Faisal, said that he would welcome the series of women.
I would like to see and receive them in Saudi Arabia, he said. I know there are eight rounds and I hope we will be one of the lucky countries to accept them in Saudi Arabia.
The past two years we have really worked for women, especially in the field of motorsport. So that’s what we want to love and we want to inspire our people and offer them these kinds of events. We want to see more women running in Saudi Arabia.
Fault! The file name is not specified. The competition takes place along the Jeddahkade. AMER HILABI/AFP about Getty Images
In recent years, Saudi Arabia has faced increasing international criticism of the human rights situation in the country after journalist Jamal Hashoggi was murdered and chopped to pieces by Saudi agents at his consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
Amnesty International warned that the Formula 1 race would be an attempt to fight back, and news of the race has been criticized by fans on social networks.
Prince Khalid said he understood the concerns of a community of Formula 1 fans, but hoped that the race would change the perception of Saudi Arabia.
I know I don’t blame them, he said when asked about the social media race. If you don’t know the country, and if you have a certain image of the country… I remember my parents telling me we were going to the United States, especially New York. I was scared, I thought I’d walk down the street and someone would come and shoot me because I’d never been there.
So I know why they don’t like it, because they have a lot of human rights problems, because they have never been to Saudi Arabia. Now that we open up and hope that the people will come to Saudi Arabia to see the country and then come back to tell us what they have seen, maybe that will change people’s minds and they will come.
One of the problems explaining this bad image is that we were closed. Our country is closed. Therefore, part of the vision and discovery of our country is that we want people to come and see who we really are.
We have nothing to hide. If we wanted to wash our image or anything else, we would close our country because we would not allow you to come and see our people.