Dubai: The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship rounds 2 and 3 will take place in Saudi Arabia on Friday and Saturday after the season opener was held in Mexico City.
The 2023 Diriyah E-Prix is the only night race of the 16-race calendar and it should provide plenty of excitement for racing enthusiasts.
Fans will have the chance to see the all-new GEN3 cars compete in the Middle East for the first time on the 2.5km street circuit in the first double-header of Season 9.
The cars will be performing at the very limit of innovation and pushing the boundaries of EV technology and Sattam Al Hozami, CEO of Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, believes the sport is helping Saudis understand more about sustainability.
“We started international motor sport events with Formula E in 2018 and it was inspiring people - even those who were not fans of motor sports,” he says. “They started following Formula E and the fan base of Formula E is growing more and more.”
He believes Formula E is important for the development of the racing scene in the country as it steps up its green initiatives.
“Saudi Arabia has a lot of green initiatives and one of them is to support the alternative sustainable energy sports like Formula E and Extreme E,” he says. “We are also doing trials with hydrogen technology too. It is part of the whole plan to have more sustainable and green initiatives in Saudi Arabia. We embraced Formula E five years ago and we are continuing in this and growing it. It is one of the best races and we will continue to raise the bar of the quality of the event.”
More international sporting events are being hosted by Saudi Arabia thanks to the country’s wide-ranging social and economic transformation plan, Vision 2030. Saudi's sports entertainment infrastructure has improved leaps and bounds which is why it was able to host the biggest boxing rematches in sporting history between Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk and British fighter Anthony Joshua. It also boasts a silky smooth track for Formula 1 and epic routes for the Dakar Rally while country's successful bid to host the 2034 Asian Games is more proof of their long-term plans. The Kingdom also wishes to host the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2026 and the Asian Winter Games in the planned megacity of NEOM in 2029.
Al Hozami emphasises the importance of how staging the races in Saudi is contributing to the Kingdom’s growth and as a sporting destination hub. “We are extremely happy with the partnership we have with Formula E. Today, fans in Saudi Arabia have begun to take an interest in motorsport thanks to Formula E and the competition is growing rapidly worldwide, which is really good for the sport in general. The Diriyah races are really popular as it’s the only track in what is a historical venue that takes place in the night, which makes the races more entertaining and fun for people to watch. We look forward to welcoming as many people this weekend.”
Saudi F1 champion
Al Hozami hopes to one day see a champion driver in Formula E and Formula 1 but understands the challenges. “We need to work hard to have a Saudi champion but it will not be easy because Formula E, Formula 2 and Formula 1 are all extremely competitive. We need to ensure we give our drivers proper training starting from karting and then hopefully they make the step up to Formula E, Formula 2 and Formula 1.”
There has been talk of McLaren or Aston Martin moving to Saudi Arabia and Al Hozami foresees a Formula 1 team moving its base to the Kingdom in the future.
“If we develop an environment for the teams and create facilities for them to be based in Saudi Arabia they are all welcome. There are a couple of rally teams planning to move to Saudi Arabia plus the electric vehicle factories that we have like Lucid and others are moving to Saudi Arabia to produce vehicles here. If more manufacturers move to Saudi Arabia it will be a boost for the economy and tourism will flourish too so motor sport we believe is part of the plan of Vision 2030.”