• Liberty Media Saudi Arabia

Racing Roundup: Why not just say no to Saudi Arabia, others? 

An F1 schedule for democratic countries and all the rest of the racing news

Norris McDonald By: Norris McDonald November 23, 2020

Dictators around the world are not stupid. They know how to appear benevolent, even if they’re the opposite.

It’s not that hard, really. Easy, in fact. You do it through complicit free world media, admission to international bodies such as the United Nations and membership in trade groups like, for instance, the Group of 20. You put on your best face, say the proper things, get yourself in a position to be a player on influential committees connected to the bigger groups and, over time, gain legitimacy and a positive image in the eyes of the world.

This past weekend, for instance, a virtual meeting of the Group of 20 was held. It was hosted and chaired by the Royal Butchers of Saudi Arabia. It was attended by Boris Johnson, one of the three presidents of the EU and our very own Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, among 17 others.

My question: what were Trudeau, Johnson, the UE and other members of the Group of 20 even doing at that meeting? China was there, of course, as was Russia and several other countries where kidnappings, torture, political imprisonment and other human rights abuses are a way of life. But the U.S., the UK and Canada? We should be ashamed of ourselves.

What got me going was Liberty Media’s decision a few weeks ago to award Saudi Arabia a Formula One race in 2021. I couldn’t believe it. Bahrain is bad enough. The United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi) is right behind but Saudi Arabia is second only to Iran when it comes to a total disregard for human life in the Middle East. Does Liberty Media have no shame? Or is the almighty dollar all that matters to that crowd.

There was a full-page advertisement in Canadians newspapers at the weekend (I saw one in the Star), in which the Arab Organization for Human Rights in the UK and a number of individuals urged world leaders to boycott the G20, saying that the Crown Prince of that country – the boss – had three members of his own family arrested in March, locked up hundreds of his relatives in 2017 as well as a number of Saudi businessmen, most of whom were released only after handing over billions of dollars to the royal treasury – in the words of the New York Times: a shakedown. It is not known what happened to the others.

The full-page ad said that independent human rights organizations are banned in Saudi Arabia. Banned. Can you believe that? Eleven women were arrested in 2019 and charged for promoting women’s rights and were subjected to whippings, electrocution and sexual assault. Journalists and scholars are routinely taken into custody, where they’re “re-educated.”

Most egregious, of course, was the slaughtering of Saudi journalist – and Washington Post columnist – Jamal Khashoggi. He was killed and dismembered – the dismemberment was actually started before he died – when he went to fill out some papers at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Saudi Arabia: Just the place where you want to hold a Grand Prix.

Now, my friend Jeff Pappone Tweeted out some of my stuff, and made some observations on his own, and got into a discussion with a fellow named Joe Saward, who is a long-time F1 writer (above, at right, with fellow F1 reporters Mike Doodson, left, Karun Shandhok and David Tremayne in a photo I took in Montreal at the GP in 2019). I – and I’m sure Jeff – have great regard for Mr. Saward as a racing writer but in the exchanges I saw, he said some things that I profoundly disagree with.

One of the things Mr. Saward said, when discussing whether F1 should even go to places like China and Saudi Arabia, is that, “It’s complicated.”

Unfortunately, you hear that phrase time and again from world leaders and their apologists who want to have it both ways: they want to benefit from the economic advantages of doing business with dictators and despots while paying negative lip service to the nasty things going on beyond the borders of places like Saudi Arabia.

In the end, it’s not complicated at all. Just don’t do business with Saudi Arabia. What’s complicated about that?

Do you have principals? Do you have values? Do you have beliefs? If so, just say no.

The prime minister did not have to attend that virtual meeting. And F1 does not have to race in Saudi Arabia, or China, or Russia, or anywhere else where human rights are devalued. All they have to say is no. And that is not complicated.


There are those who will say that in order for F1 to be a truly world series, it has to race in places that do not meet democratic ideals. And I say that’s nonsense. Yes, as professional athletes around the world are coming to the realization that they are not going to be paid the money they enjoyed previously because of the new economic realities brought on by COVID-19, F1 drivers will also have to adjust. They might have to race in places that don’t have the money they were able to pay previously.

Having said that, the teams and drivers will still make way more than Ordinary Joes and the races can be held in countries where the people can vote to change their governments if they so desire. Here, then, is my 20-race F1 Democratic Countries F1 Schedule (using many of 2021’s dates).

March 21 – Australia
March 28 – Japan
April 11 – Singapore
April 25 – India
May 9 – Austria
May 23 – Monaco
June 6 – Spain
June 27 – Scandinavia (Sweden)
July 4 – Portugal
July 18 – Britain
July 25 – France
Aug. 1 – Holland
Aug. 29 – Germany
Sept. 5 – Italy
Sept. 12 – Canada
Sept. 26 – U.S.
Oct. 10 – Mexico
Oct. 24 – Brazil
Nov. 7 – Argentina-Chile
Nov. 28 – South Africa

It’s not perfect, but it can be done. Maybe if that happened, and F1 didn’t go to China and Saudi Arabia to race and the United Nations gave the boot to some of those other countries (fat chance of that happening, but . . .) perhaps they might come to the conclusion that what they’re doing is wrong.

We’ll never know, though, unless we try.

Liberty Media Saudi Arabia


Alex Zanardi, 54, critically injured in a cycling incident early this year when his hand cycle collided with a truck, has been moved to a rehabilitation facility close to his home in Italy. “The patient has reached a generally stable physical and neurological condition that permitted his transfer to another hospital equipped with all the necessary clinical specialties and closer to the family home (in Padua),” the San Raffaelle Hospital in Milan announced.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – yes, it’s called that again – will return to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on Labour Day weekend in 2021, COVID-19 permitting. The trucks first raced at CTMP in 2013, when Chase Elliott won. Elliott is now NASCAR Cup champion, so the level of talent and competition in that series is stupendous. The 2020 race was cancelled because of you-kno-what. The trucks will add a second road race to their schedule in 2021, with a round planned for Watkins Glen. After racing on the dirt at Eldora Speedway in Ohio in recent years, the trucks will now dirt race at Knoxville Raceway in Iowa and at Bristol, Tenn. Two things about Bristol: 1) borrowing a page from Oswego Speedway in New York, where tons of dirt are put down on the normally paved track each October (except this one, of course) in order to host Super D.I.R.T. Week races, tons of dirt will be put down on the normally paved Bristol short track. 2) Canadian company Pinty’s Delicious Foods (chicken wings, etc.), which sponsors the NASCAR Canada Pinty’s Series for late-model stock cars, will sponsor that trucks race at Bristol which will be called the Pinty’s Dirt Race.

Jimmie Johnson, who will be a rookie in certain NTT IndyCar Series Races next season, was presented with the Bill France Award of Excellence during NASCAR’s virtual awards show this past week. The award, which is not handed out often, was for Johnson’s five consecutive NASCAR Cup championships. He won seven, in total. Previous recipients were Jeff Gordon, Dale Earhardt Jr., Joe Gibbs, Richard Childress and Roger Penske.

The American television network, CBS, has contracted with Formula E to broadcast two races on the full network in the 2021 and the rest of the series on various CBS platforms, including the CBC Sports Network that is carried on some Canadian cable systems. The season starts in Santiago, Chile, on Jan. 16.

Seven-time IMSA champions and eight-time Rolex 24 at Daytona winners Chip Ganassi Racing will return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season. The team plans to field a Cadillac entry in the DPi class. No drivers or sponsors were announced.

Kyle Larson finished atop the U.S. National Sprint Car Rankings when the oval-track 410 sprint-car season officially finished at the weekend. Larson will return to NASCAR next season, driving for Rick Hendrick, after being suspended by NASCAR and fired by Chip Ganassi for uttering a racial slur during an eRacing game. Another of the potential greats lost by IndyCar.

TV/radio stock car racing pioneer Ken Squier, who I reported last week was suffering from COVID-19 and recovering at his home in Vermont, has been moved into a hospital, his family reports. Squier is the announcer who first called the Daytona 500 “the Great American Race.”

Speaking of racing announcers, FOX reports that long-time NASCAR and sometimes-IndyCar pit reporter Jamie Little will make history next season as the first woman anchor of a national motorsports series. Little will handle play-by-play for the ARCA Menards Series beginning with the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in February.

Canadian National Superbike Championship Organizers, Professional Motorsports Productions of Toronto, have confirmed the initial dates for the 2021 Championship tour for the National road-racing series (picture above). After delays and restrictions caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions during 2020, CSBK aim to provide a full schedule of events in 2021, and award National Championships in all five National series available to both Pro and Amateur racers. The first races, June 11-13, will take place at Grand Bend Motorplex. Stops at Calabogie and Atlantic Motorsports Parks are planned for July and the traditional mid-August date at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park will be maintained. Organizers also plan to include a fifth event at either the top or the bottom of the 2021 schedule and ask competitors to be prepared to race as early as late May, 2021.

Finally, the Trans-Am Series, which will return to Canadian Tire Motorsports Park next season (cross fingers), wrapped up its 2020 season this weekend at Road Atlanta.Chris Dyson was the winner. Martin Ragginger finished second while Tomy Drissi was third.

By Norris McDonald  /  Special to wheels.ca