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F1: Saudi Arabia to stage Grand Prix from next year, McLaren reveal launch date

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Bahrain Grand Prix
Bahrain Grand Prix

F1 already has a race in Bahrain

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Bahrain Grand Prix

Desert kingdom has been accused of using sport to deflect attention from its human rights record

One-Minute Read
Tuesday, January 14, 2020 - 11:07am

F1 set for Saudi

Saudi Arabia could join the Formula 1 circuit in 2021, with the sport set to agree a £50m-a-year deal to host a race in the kingdom.

According to the Daily Mail the “inaugural event could be staged as early as next year”. It says: “An option under consideration is a one-off street race in Jeddah in 2021 while a purpose-built circuit is completed for 2022.”

See related 
F1 2020 season guide: grand prix calendar, drivers, car launch dates, TV coverage, title betting odds

It also claims: “F1 and Aramco, the desert kingdom's state-owned oil giant — the richest company in the world, valued at $2trillion — have already agreed a global sponsorship deal. This affiliation, which has not yet been made public, is likely to result in the event being called the ‘Aramco Saudi Arabian Grand Prix’.”

However, the deal is likely to lead to accusations of ‘sportswashing’. In recent years Saudi Arabia has moved to attract big sporting events, which some see as an attempt to deflect attention away from its appalling human rights record. F1 meanwhile already stages races in countries like Bahrain, China and Russia, whose regimes have also attracted scrutiny.

The Mail adds that Miami in the US is also set to host a race from next year.

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McLaren launch date revealed

McLaren will unveil their car for 2020 model on February 13, after driver Lando Norris accidentally (or possibly not) revealed the date.

“During a livestream on the team's YouTube channel, Norris walked in on a meeting with his colleagues at the McLaren Technology Centre and accidentally told thousands of viewers when their new challenger will emerge from its covers at their Woking headquarters,” reports F1.com.

He said: “I heard it was on the 13th of February… Zak [Brown, McLaren CEO] told me it was on the 13th!”

The announcement promoted an awkward response from those in the room and soon afterwards the livestream ended abruptly. However, some think the move was a clever marketing ploy.

Ferrari will launch their car on Tuesday, February 11, while Alpha Tauri, the team formerly known as Toro Rosso. are set for February 14.

LeClerc vows not to hit Vettel

Ferrari driver Charles LeClerc has insisted he and team-mate Sebastian Vettel will not clashon the track or off it in 2020. The pair collided at the Brazilian Grand Prix at the end last season, a coming together which capped a frustrating season for Ferrari, who were only able to convert nine pole positions into three wins, despite showing promise at the start of the year.

LeClerc, 22, told Autosport that he and Vettel got on well away from the paddock.

He said: “We are extremely competitive and sometimes on track, we might have some frictions, but at the end, we are mature enough to know that what’s happened on track is on-track, and off-track, we are different persons.”

He said they were determined to work well together this year, “and, of course, not exceed the limits whenever we are on track, like we’ve seen in Brazil. But I think it was a good lesson for both of us and it won't happen again.”

Will F1 be slower than F2?

Formula 1 could end up slower than Formula 2 in 2021 when new rules come into force, Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer has warned.

New rules, including a budget cap, will come into place next year with the aim of closing the gap between the teams and making the racing more exciting. Although the smaller teams are set to be the beneficiaries, Szafnauer told Autosport: “If we go six seconds a lap slower, it’s not Formula 1 any more. And before you know it, we're going to have to slow F2 down.

“In F2, $2million will buy a ride, but if we’re not careful in 2021, those F2 cars that you spend $2m on it will be faster than we are with what we’re spending $200m on. There’s something wrong about that.”

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