F1 2021 Calendar: Amnesty International has warned Formula 1 against hosting a race in Saudi Arabia next season, due to the country’s human rights’ violation record.

The F1 Commission released its provisional 2021 race calendar, with Saudi Arabia set to make its F1 hosting debut. But human rights organization Amnesty International has come in the way, asking F1 to be careful before confirming the Middle East country as a venue. Amnesty’s concern is the rampant human rights violation, the country is infamous for.

“Formula 1 should realise that a Saudi Grand Prix in 2021 would be part of ongoing efforts to ‘sportswash’ the country’s abysmal human rights record.”

Felix Jakens, the head of Amnesty International campaigns in the UK, also highlighted the country’s failed bid to acquire Newcastle United from Mike Ashley. It was shown the red light by the Premier League and regulatory authorities in the UK.

“The failed attempt to buy Newcastle United obviously hasn’t deterred the Saudi authorities, who apparently still see elite-level sport as a means of rebranding their severely tarnished reputation. Despite the fanfare over Saudi women finally being allowed to drive a car without being arrested, the authorities have recently locked up and tortured several leading women’s rights activists – including Loujain al-Hathloul and Nassima al-Sada.”

Formula One’s response to Amnesty on Saudi Arabia

Formula One did not give an official response, but their spokesperson maintained that everything F1 does is without any discrimination. It calls itself a “positive force’ for the places it takes it ultra-fast racing to. It maintained they are committed to taking human rights issues seriously. As per the spokesperson, if Saudi Arabia is chosen, it will be after clearing all issues in due course.

“For decades F1 has worked hard to be a positive force everywhere it races, including economic, social, and cultural benefits.”

“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 these rights in the way their events are hosted and delivered.”

Saudi Arabia going aggressive with Business and Sports

Saudi Arabia, apart from being a contender to host F1 races in the future, has already hosted Formula E races since 2018. A street race in Jeddah is on the provisional F1 2021 calendar schedule that looks likely to get approved. And going forward, the oil-rich country plans to hold the race at the Al-Qiddiya entertainment complex in Riyadh.

The country boasts of links with F1 via its partnership with oil major Aramco. Aramco was the title sponsor of the Hungarian and Spanish GPs. It also has a stake worth $418m stake in Live Nation, a sister company to F1.

Also read: Aramco F1: Who are oil-riched Saudi F1 global sponsors 2020?

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has also invested in MNCs like Uber, BP, Boeing, Citigroup, Facebook, Marriott, Disney, Cisco, Bank of America, Shell, Total, Qualcomm, IBM and Starbucks.

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