Formula 1’s long-rumoured first race in Saudi Arabia has been officially confirmed.

A night race on the streets of Jeddah, the second-largest city in the Middle Eastern kingdom, will hold a November round of the 2021 F1 season.

An F1 race in Saudi Arabia has been widely expected since Saudi Aramco became a global partner of the sport earlier this year.

However concerns have been raised over F1’s decision to hold a grand prix in what is regarded as one of the world’s most repressive regimes, particularly for women, government critics, religious minorities, human rights supporters and the country’s LGBTQ+ community.

Amnesty International warned the country is using Formula 1 as a distraction from its human rights record. It urged the sport to ensure its events in the country are open to all without discrimination.

Qiddiya plan, 2019
Qiddiya: The Spa-beating longest F1 track Saudi Arabia is building for its grand prix

Formula 1 team principals defended the plans last week. Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said the sport would be “a vector of positivity” in Saudi Arabia.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, who has attended a Formula E race in Saudi Arabia, said he was “impressed by the change that I’ve seen” in the country.

Jeddah may prove a temporary site for the race. As RaceFans revealed last year a purpose-built circuit is planned at a new multi-billion pound entertainment “giga-project” called Qiddiya.

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The race was announced by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sports. Formula 1 chairman and CEO Chase Carey said the series is “excited to welcome Saudi Arabia to Formula 1 for the 2021 season and welcome their announcement following speculation in recent days.”

Formula E and the Dakar Rally have held events in Saudi Arabia over the past two years. “Saudi Arabia is a country that is rapidly becoming a hub for sports and entertainment with many major events taking place there in recent years,” said Carey “and we are very pleased that Formula 1 will be racing there from next season.

“The region is hugely important to us and with 70% of the population of Saudi being under 30 we are excited about the potential to reach new fans and bring our existing fans around the world exciting racing from an incredible and historic location. We will be publishing our full provisional 2021 calendar in the coming weeks and this will be submitted to the World Motor Sport Council for approval.”

The 2021 F1 calendar is expected to be confirmed later this month. The addition of a new race in Saudi Arabia could increase the total number of rounds to a record-breaking 23.

This article will be updated.

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