Formula 1 has announced Saudi Arabia will host its first-ever Grand Prix in the 2021 season, which will further help integrate the nation with the rest of the globe.

“Whatever you do, good or bad, people will always have something negative to say”

This quote holds quite true for Saudi Arabia more than ever in the world of Formula 1 currently. The middle-eastern has been awarded the right to host a race as part of the F1 2021 Calendar. A street race in Jeddah is planned for its debut season, and then gradually a purpose-built track. The deal is for at least 10 years, as per BBC.

Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal feels it “perfectly reflects the transformational journey the country is on”. The country has been oft-criticized for its discriminatory attitude towards women in particular. The wilayah, or the Guardianship System restricts women in matters of work, leisure, finances, law, and health unless accompanied by a male guardian. 

But the country is learning from its mistakes, and now allows women to travel and drive alone. During the 2018 French Grand Prix, Aseel Al-Hamad did demo laps in a Renault F1 car. Remarkably, this was the same day Saudi Arabia allowed women to obtain a driving license.

Prince Abdulaziz continued: “Saudi Arabia was criticized for being closed off to the world, and now we’ve opened up, we’re criticized for sports-washing. 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.”

F1 has a long-standing history with Saudi Arabia

The association began long back in 1978, with the Williams team being sponsored by the airline company Saudia. Aramco, the oil energy major, has a long-term partnership with the sport with a presence in the races this season.

Saudi Arabia has also hosted Formula E successfully, and will now host the first stage of Extreme E in 2021, where Lewis Hamilton is involved as a team owner. F1 had issued an official response to Amnesty International’s warning of hosting a race in Saudi Arabia.

“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.”

No country is perfect, and Saudi Arabia has been trying earnestly to improve themselves in every way possible. If Germany could be what it is today notwithstanding the World War era, and Great Britain is still looked upon positively despite the (in)famous British Empire colonial rule, the oil-rich country deserves every chance to come out of its dark days. And the F1 race in Jeddah could be a huge, and right step in that direction.

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