Haas F1 Team driver Romain Grosjean has given his enthusiastic backing to bring Formula 1 to Saudi Arabia.
Grosjean visited the city of Qiddiya last month as part of the official launch event for the project. Also attending were former drivers Nico Hulkenberg, Damon Hill and David Coulthard.
“I sincerely hope that the project will go ahead and that it will progress as it should,” Grosjean subsequently told Motorsport.com in an exclusive interview.
“The project is huge, super beautiful, and the place is extraordinary. I really hope there will be a Grand Prix.”
The proposed new FIA Grade One circuit is expected to be the centrepiece of a Qiddiya entertainment mega-project aimed at helping the country diversify away from its traditional dependency on oil exports.
The country already hosts a round of the Formula E Championship on an improvised street circuit, but this would be a brand new custom-made permanent facility for the city.
The track is being designed by another former F1 driver Alex Wurz, who took part in 69 Grand Prix races between 1997 and 2007 for Benetton, McLaren and Williams. He has also served as chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association since 2014.
“The track Alex has designed is great,” commented Grosjean, who has himself been a GPDA director since 2017. “He knows what we like and what we don’t like.
“He’s lucky to have this close relationship with us, he comes to ask us questions,” Grosjean added. “We are the ones who are on the tracks, the ones who know what is good or not for overtaking and for the fun of it.
“It’s great to talk about it, to share our opinions.
“For example, we drove around in the simulator and there’s a corner he’s not sure about. I said ‘I don’t know about this one!’ and he said he didn’t really know what to do with that corner either.”
Grosjean said that he was glad to see F1 track design follow the lead of other sports when it came to designing and building new venues for competitions.
“When you look at golf, as soon as a new course is built, you go straight to a golf player to get his opinion,” the French driver pointed out. “That’s not something that’s been done in Formula 1.”`
A race in Qiddiya is far from a done deal, however, although the Daily Mail newspaper suggested that it could reap as much as $60 million for Formula 1.
Event chief executive Mike Reininger said last month that negotiations between Saudi authorities and Liberty Media are ongoing and that the circuit infrastructure would be ready to host a race as early as the 2023 season.
“We are building a facility that will be able to host a really world-class event as one of the signature items,” he said.