March 29, 2023 10:46 pm

Ideas that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund explored generating a $20 billion bid to take more than Formula A single have been “purely speculation,” according to the nation’s sports minister.

In January, Bloomberg reported that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund explored a bid final year to obtain the sport from Liberty Media, which completed its acquisition of F1 for $four.four billion in 2017.

F1 presented no comment on the report.

“What I know is what I study in the news, honestly. I assume it is just purely speculation, I do not assume there was any severe speak about that,” Saudi Arabia’s minister for sport, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal, told The Athletic in Jeddah.

“It took a lot of heat and a lot of response and issues in between them, with the FIA and so on. But I am in charge of establishing sports inside the kingdom, not investment or all of these issues — (the Saudi Arabian state’s sovereign wealth fund) is. But from what I know, it is purely speculation.”

The heat Abdulaziz referred to was the claim by the FIA’s president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, that a $20 billion valuation of F1 was “inflated” and that any achievable purchaser would want to “apply typical sense, take into consideration the higher great of the sport and come with a clear, sustainable program — not just a lot of funds.”

Ben Sulayem’s comments sparked an angry response from F1, whose legal division sent a letter to the FIA president saying he had interfered with the series’ industrial matters. The FIA is not permitted to get involved with industrial matters, which stay purely below the jurisdiction of Liberty Media as the sport’s industrial rights holder.

The Saudi sports push

Saudi Arabia has a sizable involvement in F1 currently. Apart from its grand prix in Jeddah, which has been on the calendar because 2021, the state oil enterprise, Aramco, is also a international companion for F1. Aramco has trackside branding and title sponsorship for races, which includes final year’s United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, and is also a title sponsor of the Aston Martin group.

Along with soccer, tennis, and boxing, F1 is 1 of a quantity of sporting series or leagues to have held an occasion in Saudi Arabia for the initially time in current years. These debuts have led to criticism that the push is a kind of sportswashing, meant to deflect interest from the state’s human rights record.

The sports minister stated the objective of the push is to boost participation in sport. “It aids us create our youth and develops our applications and delivers on what they want. They have observed it all more than the globe and they ask why can not we have it in our cities.”

A second Saudi F1 race?

The Jeddah Corniche Circuit, exactly where F1 debuted in 2021, was initially planned to be a short-term residence for the grand prix in Saudi Arabia prior to moving the race to the new entertainment city of Qiddiya, which is getting constructed on the outskirts of the capital, Riyadh.

Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, the chairman of the Saudi Motorsport Enterprise that runs the race, stated he anticipated it to stay in Jeddah till at least 2027 or 2028 as building continues in Qiddiya. But he was open to the notion of getting a number of races in Saudi Arabia in the future, believing the demand is there to maintain F1 at each venues.

“The notion of getting two races in Saudi is doable,” he stated at a media roundtable. “I would not be shocked if Saudi, in the close to future, will host two races. The demand is there and we will have two gorgeous facilities.”

Saudi Arabia is also in contention to host the opening race of the 2024 F1 season. It and Bahrain are each aiming to host their races prior to the holy month of Ramadan starts March 11. Australia, which had been due to get started the season subsequent year, has provided up the slot to help the Middle Eastern races.

Khalid stated that when Saudi Arabia “would like to have the opening race”, he added: “Nothing is set now. Hopefully we can finalize it quickly.”

(Photo of Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal: Rania Sanjar / AFP through Getty Pictures)

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