New track in Saudi Arabia is reminiscent of Mario Kart

Formula 1 is visiting Saudi Arabia. On the sidelines of the spectacle, the organizers are presenting a new course – which is likely to enrage motorsport purists.

A short Italian plumber with a mustache wouldn’t stand out here. He could race around this racetrack in a red jumpsuit, throwing bananas and shooting turtle shells, and he would still fit perfectly into the scenery.

The future track in Saudi Arabia is causing quite a stir in Formula 1 these days – because it is more reminiscent of Mario Kart than traditional motorsport.

More street circuits and more spectacle

“It almost looks like a video game, but in real life,” says Sauber driver Valtteri Bottas about the vision “Qiddiya City”, which was presented to the world before the race this Saturday (from 6 p.m. in the t-online live ticker). was presented. It’s a future plan that shows pretty exactly where Formula 1 wants to go right now.

More street circuits and more spectacle – these are the goals the American owners of the premier class announced a while ago. So far, Las Vegas is the highlight of this development; last year the Grand Prix celebrated its premiere, which takes place in the middle of the night over the brightly lit Strip and past the most important landmarks and casinos.

Qiddiya is still under construction and is scheduled to take over the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix from Jeddah in 2027 at the earliest. And the project is in every respect an exponentiation of the idea that Formula 1 has to offer more than racing. Nestled in a tourism center with an amusement park and open-air stages, it is set to be the longest route on the calendar.

The first corner in particular, called “The Blade”, creates the video game character: it is supposed to go up 70 meters from the starting straight and then down again. This section of the route is not the only one that is illuminated by colorful LED rails.

Verstappen’s discomfort

World champion Max Verstappen had already expressed his discomfort with how much the show was overshadowing the sport in Las Vegas last year. He sometimes felt “like a clown”.

However, the purists are no longer necessarily in the majority in Formula 1. Lando Norris even sees a necessity. Many Formula 1 locations are “not even remotely as lively,” says the McLaren driver: “If you want to get people interested in the sport, then the track shouldn’t be in the middle of nowhere.”

Old courses that are popular with motorsport fans, such as the Belgian Spa, do not meet these criteria, and they also pay Formula 1 significantly less starting fees than the new locations – and some of the contracts, such as the one in Belgium, end in 2025. Formulated so far The owners of the premier class still have the will to continue offering a mixture of traditional routes and new courses in the future.

However, the wildest fantasies will probably only be fulfilled where money is no object. The contract with Saudi Arabia already runs until 2030.