Formula 1 closing in on mega race deal with Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is set to become an F1 venue, perhaps as early as next year, with the controversial Kingdom reportedly forking out over $60 million for the privilege.

According to a report from the Daily Mail, an interim event could be held in 2021 on the streets of Jeddah while a dedicated permanent track is built for 2022.

Saudi Arabia's inaugural F1 race would take place in the early part of the season in order to avoid the country's scorching temperatures that prevail in the late spring and summer.

Furthermore, the Daily Mail contends that F1 commercial rights owner Liberty Media has "struck a global sponsorship deal" with Saudi-based oil and natural gas giant Aramco which started trading as a public company in December.

Rumors of Saudi Arabia's candidacy for a spot on F1's calendar emerged last year, with reports suggesting the Kingdom was eager to host a Grand Prix as part of its Vision 2030 plan, a strategic social, economic and cultural program spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman which ambitions to diversify the oil-rich kingdom's revenue streams and promote international tourism.

However, as enticing and lucrative as a deal with Saudi Arabia could be for Formula 1, it's likely to generate controversy among the public and the sport's fans given the conservative country's poor human rights record and the shortfalls of bin Salman's reforms.

A race in Saudi Arabia would provide the region with a third event, with sport already enjoying a presence in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

A spokesman for the Bahrain International Circuit welcomed the news of a potential race in the neighboring Kingdom.

"Since our first race in 2004, our goal has been to grow the fanbase for motorsport in the region," he said.

"We would, therefore, welcome initiatives which can support that growth and believe that a future race in Saudi Arabia would be complementary."

Finally, the Daily Mail's report also states that Liberty Media is close to sealing a deal with Miami, with Liberty Media and the event's promoter now apparently confident of overcoming a barrage local opposition to a project centered around the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.

Like Saudi Arabia, a race in Florida's Magic City could also take place in 2021, potentially boosting the sport's calendar to a record 24 events!

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Phillip van Osten

Motor racing was a backdrop from the outset in Phillip van Osten's life. Born in Southern California, Phillip grew up with the sights and sounds of fast cars thanks to his father, Dick van Osten, an editor and writer for Auto Speed and Sport and Motor Trend. Phillip's passion for racing grew even more when his family moved to Europe and he became acquainted with the extraordinary world of Grand Prix racing. He was an early contributor to the monthly French F1i Magazine, often providing a historic or business perspective on Formula 1's affairs. In 2012, he co-authored along with fellow journalist Pierre Van Vliet the English-language adaptation of a limited edition book devoted to the great Belgian driver Jacky Ickx. He also authored "The American Legacy in Formula 1", a book which recounts the trials and tribulations of American drivers in Grand Prix racing. Phillip is also a commentator for Belgian broadcaster Be.TV for the US Indycar series.

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