In 17 days, Formula 1 cars are scheduled to hit the track for the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. So, with just a few weeks until the racing action kicks off at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, you might think construction of the track, paddocks and grand stands should be finished by now. But it doesn’t sound like that’s the case.
The Jeddah circuit is the second longest on the 2021 F1 calendar, falling just behind the legendary Spa-Francorchamps track in Belgium. Preparing this behemoth in the desert has been no small feat, and organizers admitted that finishing the site in time “was always going to be very close”.
Now, a report from Autosport warned that the build is still ongoing and that construction workers are “up against it” to finish the track in time.
According to the report, race director Michael Masi and Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali remain confident that the track can be finished in time. But admitted that this could mean non-essential construction is not completed in time for this year’s race.
This means the track and paddock buildings could be completed in time, but other areas of the complex may receive further construction and development ahead of F1’s return to the site in 2022.
The report quoted Domenicali as saying:
“It will be perfect, I’m sure, in the next season, but it will be very, very, very good already for this year.”
Delayed construction of modern race tracks isn’t a new thing for F1. The sport’s 2010 running of the Korean Grand Prix was threatened due to similar issues.
But, in an already packed schedule, did F1 need to encourage a 24-hour work schedule for builders in Saudi Arabia ahead of a squeezed-in running of the event this year?
After all, the inclusion of the race on F1's calendar has already been met with criticism from human rights organizations like Amnesty International, which accused F1 of “sportswashing” ahead of the inaugural event.
At the time, the charity called on F1 to “insist that all contracts contain stringent labour standards.” Now, I’m no construction expert, but a rushed 24/7 build doesn’t sound like the kind of environment that is conducive to “stringent labor standards.”
As Masi flies to Saudi Arabia to check on progress at the site, we’re sure to have an update on the build soon. Hopefully we won’t be faced with any last-minute schedule changes.
But, with a hotly contested championship fight, the uncertainty around one of the final three races of the 2021 season isn’t something many F1 fans will be excited to hear.