|Source of wealth||Aramco|
|F1 involvement||F1 sponsor, Circuit promoter|
Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud is the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. He is currently serving as the country’s deputy prime minister. He is also Chairman of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs, Chairman of the Council of Political and Security Affairs, and Minister of Defence.
Click here to subscribe to our print edition!
People describe him as the power behind the throne of his father, King Salman. He was appointed crown prince in June 2017.
Bin Salman is portrayed as a leader who wishes to reform his country with social and economic reforms against a backdrop of alleged human rights abuses.
He has ambitious plans for the country with his Vision 2030 program. It aims to diversify the Saudi economy away from its reliance on oil through investment in technology and tourism. The cost of the project is an estimated $40bn annually.
In November 2017, the announcement was made that Saudi Arabia would start issuing tourist visas for foreigners, beginning in 2018.
Bin Salman’s involvement in Formula 1 comes by default through the Saudi Arabia sovereign wealth fund, which has assets approaching $400bn and Saudi-owned oil company Aramco.
In March 2020, Aramco became a long-term global partner of F1 alongside DHL, Emirates, Heineken, Pirelli, and Rolex.
All the talk was of opportunities to develop sustainable fuels hoping it would align Aramco with F1’s sustainability plans and gloss over the fact it is one of the world’s biggest polluters.
Then in November 2020, it was announced Saudi Arabia would host a Grand Prix starting in 2021 on a street circuit in Jeddah, moving in the future to a purpose-built venue.
The Saudi’s see F1 and sport in general as a vehicle (excuse the pun) to advance their strategy for the Kingdom.
The country has hosted Formula E, the Dakar Rally, ExtremeE, the Spanish football Supercup, the Italian Supercup, the European Tour men’s/women’s golf, WWE, boxing, and international tennis. FEI equestrian championships and the Saudi horseracing Cup – you get the picture!
The Saudi population, of which 70% are under the age of 30, are passionate motorsport fans and when Formula E arrived in 2018, over 40,000 people attend each of the three nights – a first for the country.
In all probability, Bin Salman will go for the hat trick and buy an F1 team with rumours in the paddock that he made an offer to buy out Gene Haas in 2019.
Human rights groups have condemned the race. Amnesty International called Saudi’s human rights record “heinous”, and Human Rights Watch has called the race an exercise in ‘sportswashing’ to legitimise the country’s repressive regime.
Bin Salman owns the billionaire toys with his 255-ft $62m superyacht Pegasus VIII – which features a 39-ft swimming pool.
This yacht pales into insignificance with his ownership of Serene, the 439ft $612m superyacht he purchased from Russian vodka billionaire Yuri Shefler back in 2015.
In what was a year he got his chequebook out, he also purchased the world’s most expensive house, the Chateau Louis XIV, in France for over $300 million, although he did try to hide the ownership by using shell companies in France and Luxembourg!
What influence does Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud have in F1?
Well, the sponsorship deal is a welcome boost to the coffers, but the reported $50m race hosting fees distort the market to host races with the traditional European circuits unable to compete.
F1 races in many countries with poor human rights records, but that doesn’t make it okay. Many observers feel F1 should wait and see advancement in human rights by granting a race a ‘reward’, but sadly that train has already left the station.prev View full list next