Stefano Domenicali has stated that F1 does not plan to abandon Saudi Grand Prix from its calendar despite what transpired during the race week this year.
An attack on an oil storage facility near the track prior to last weekend’s race and criticism of the nation’s human right record are seen by many as reasons to draw curtains on this partnership.
The attack by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi group cast doubts on whether Sunday’s race in Jeddah would even take place but after discussions, F1 and the drivers decided collectively to carry on having received security assurances from Saudi authorities
“Yes, it’s part of the calendar,” Domenicali said when asked whether F1 would be back in Saudi Arabia for the third edition of the grand prix next year. He added that the decision come from the sport’s leadership with input from drivers and others.
“It is part of our job to make sure that we talk with all the stakeholders. Relevance is absolutely important for us as is open dialogue. But in terms of who is responsible for the commercialization of the business, that’s the entity that I represent.”
Saudi Arabia has signed a 15-year deal with F1 to host a race with the fees contributing significantly to the bottom line for Formula One’s owners Liberty Media.
The grand prix is seen as a reflection of the Middle East’s growing profile and influence within the sport, with state-owned energy giant Aramco a major F1 sponsor and joint title partner of the Aston Martin team.
Domenicali believes F1 can act as a force for change in the region so there are no reasons to abandon a Saudi Grand Prix.
“We always talk about the fact that Formula One and sport puts a spotlight on the positivity,” he said.
“Our lens on every place we go gives an extra responsibility in the areas where they are trying to progress. And Formula One will make sure that will happen in a faster time.