Mashael Al Qahtani

Mashael Al Qahtani


Saudi women power up the region’s first Formula E race out of Riyadh

Alejandro Agag, the CEO of Formula E, the worldwide electric street racing tournament, has revealed that the Saudi General Sport Authority has set official terms in favor of women’s participation in this first-time tournament for the Middle East. Saudi Arabia will be hosting the launch season of the tournament.

Established in 2011, the Formula E is an auto racing event powered solely by electric cars. Its regional launch out of Riyadh is a dual milestone for Saudi Arabia, both for its efforts to open up economically, and to empower women across sectors. It is also a strong statement by the Kingdom as it reverses a somewhat and traditionally restricted environment for women in the local, male-dominated sports sector.

Saudi Arabia’s official request to allow women’s participation in the tournament, Agag stresses, comes in the context of the Kingdom’s 2030 vision to empower women, and to broaden their participation in both the sports sector and the wider local community.

He is personally proud to see Saudi Arabia’s efforts to include women across sectors bear fruit; the Formula E is one prime example of these efforts, he adds, as the Kingdom is pushing for women’s participation across the board, be they drivers, racers, reporters covering the event, or organizing team members.

Green opportunities

In recent years, the Formula E, with a proclaimed mission to “reinvent racing”, saw its steady rise in the motor racing community, as it pushes its efforts to drive motorists toward clean energy-operated vehicles.

The tournament has secured the backing and support of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, the governing body of motor sport) since its launch; many environmentally active public figures across the world have since rallied behind it, including American actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio, and business mogul and Virgin Group founder, Richard Branson.

In its first seasons, the tournament proved for adrenaline-packed, competitive motor racing experiences, while it continued to pursue its rigorous clean energy agenda and objectives; its success came as a  surprise to many skeptics who had not associated electric cars with the thrill of motor racing.

The Formula E Saudi launch

The Kingdom has already reached an agreement with the organizers of the Formula E competition, stipulating that Saudi Arabia would host the opening round of the tournament in its fifth season (2019/2018) next December.

Several international outlets also reported that the Formula E has signed a 10-year contract with each of the Saudi General Sport Authority and the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, entailing the organization of several race car tours in the capital of Riyadh.

Al Diriyah district in Riyadh will serve as the starting point for the tournament’s new season first round races, and according to the tournament organizers, the platform for the next stage of the championship, officially named the “ABB FIA Formula E Championship”, as well as for the launch of the next generation of electric cars.

Saudi Arabia’s future-proof vision and focus make it an ideal launching pad for the next generation of Formula E cars, organizers add, as it enters its next transformative growth stage – particularly since the Kingdom chose the Formula E over other motor racing events under its strategic sports investment and diversification efforts.

Gaining momentum

Saudi Arabia’s official inclusion of women in the next Formula E season builds on massive momentum in the Kingdom, as it approaches the due date to lift an enduring driving ban on Saudi women.

On June 23, Saudi women will be officially allowed to obtain driver’s licenses. A number of frameworks and processes have been put in place in anticipation of this milestone development in the Kingdom. Most recently, a series of traffic signs have been dispersed across the Kingdom’s main streets, speaking openly and directly with Saudi women. It is a first and milestone move for the Kingdom in moving on-the-ground progress for women’s driving ban lift – and certainly not the last.

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