The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia hosted its first Formula 1 in Schools event at the King Abdulaziz Center for Culture (Ithra). Over the course of three days, attendees enjoyed F1 race car exhibitions and informative sessions with F1 professionals. The Saudi teams representing the Kingdom in the Aramco F1 in Schools World Finals were revealed: Shaheen, Oryx, and Abiyya from Dhahran and Riyadh.
Teams from Dhahran, Al Ahsa, Riyadh, Madinah, and Jeddah competed, with Dhahran winning seven out of the 13 national awards. F1 in Schools is an educational program that encourages STEM and Formula 1 interest in students. Its curriculum encompasses physics, aerodynamics, design, manufacturing, branding, graphics, sponsorship, marketing, leadership, teamwork, media skills, and financial strategy, offering pupils a variety of stimulating and challenging learning experiences.
The program applies knowledge practically, creatively, and competitively, mimicking a scaled-down F1 team experience. Andrew Denford, the founder and chairman of F1 in Schools, expressed excitement about Saudi Arabia's inaugural national final, noting the significant female participation of 68%. He eagerly awaits the Saudi teams' participation in the World Finals in Singapore, scheduled for September.
At the awards ceremony, Ithra's director, Abdullah Al-Rashid, praised the students and highlighted their potential for accomplishments. Al-Rashid acknowledged the F1 in Schools program's role in nurturing future leaders and fostering lasting friendships.
Aramco, Ithra, and the King Fahd University for Petroleum and Minerals sponsored F1 in Schools as the title partner, announced in 2019. Sixteen Saudi teams were chosen, and each had access to a regional training center and cutting-edge research resources. Training covered brand identity, marketing, and F1 car engineering, facilitated by specialized experts.
Australian judge David Palfreeman praised Saudi Arabian students' impressive competence. He commended their confident and articulate presentations, noting the high quality and consistency of their work.
Alongside the winners' announcement, Ithra arranged engaging activities. The Great Hall showcased F1 simulators, exhibition booths, a Lego workshop, a pit-stop challenge, and a captivating "Formula 1 Through the Years" exhibition. An arresting neon-green Aston Martin automobile bearing the Aramco emblem drew visitors to the main square. Attendees could also purchase official Aramco and Aston Martin F1 merchandise, including gilets, caps, t-shirts, and more, at a dedicated booth.
Team Shaheen emerged as the biggest winners of the day, led by project manager Noor Alsadat. Alsadat expressed her pride in the team's first-place victory and highlighted their diverse backgrounds and the formation of their team at the Khobar Hub. The team name, Shaheen, was chosen to represent the culture of Saudi Arabia and its association with speed, as it refers to the world's fastest supercomputer.