LONDON (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia would welcome hosting the women-only W Series as a support race for the country’s first Formula One grand prix next year, the head of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF) said on Friday.
W Series announced on Thursday a deal for it to support Formula One at eight, as yet undecided, rounds on the 23-race 2021 F1 calendar.
Formula Two, the feeder series one rung below Formula One, has races scheduled already for the Saudi Arabian GP weekend in Jeddah on Nov 26-28.
“Hopefully we will be one of the lucky countries to host them,” Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal, president of the SAMF, told reporters in a video briefing when asked about W Series.
“We would like to inspire our locals and bring them these types of events. We would like to see more women racing in Saudi Arabia.
“Sport is for all and we are really pushing women in motorsport in Saudi Arabia and we are really taking it seriously... so hopefully we can get an agreement and host it with Formula Two.”
Saudi Arabia’s first female racer Reema al Juffali, who comes from Jeddah, has been competing in the British Formula Four championship.
Women were not allowed to drive cars in Saudi Arabia until a ban was lifted in 2018. At least a dozen prominent women’s rights activists, who had campaigned for the right to drive, remain in jail.
“The bitter irony over a Saudi Grand Prix is that the very people who fought for the rights of Saudi women to be able to drive are now themselves languishing in jail,” said Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s Head of Campaigns.
W Series founder and chief executive Catherine Bond Muir said the 2021 season might not stretch as far as the November street race in Jeddah.
“I have no objection about going to Saudi Arabia, provided we can establish a meaningful relationship,” she told reporters separately. “And I think that would take some time to put together.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis
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