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Formula 1 Saudi Arabian GP

Saudi Arabia would have cancelled F1 race for credible threat

The Saudi Arabian government says it would have had no hesitation in cancelling this weekend’s Formula 1 Grand Prix if it felt there was a credible threat to the event.

Drivers practice their start procedures at the end of FP2

A missile strike by Houhtis on an oil facility less than 10 miles from the Jeddah circuit on Friday prompted a series of emergency meetings in the paddock to discuss the fate of the race.

But after F1 chiefs, teams and drivers met with the local authorities to get a detailed understanding of what was happening, and what security measures were in place, it was agreed that the event could carry on.

Saudi Arabia’s minister for sport His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal is clear that the decisions made to continue with the event were based on detailed information from security services – and there was no question of race organisers blindly ignoring potential risks.

Speaking to selected media including Autosport, Al-Faisal said surveillance operations were clear that there was no risk to the Jeddah circuit.

“All the security agencies were all on the highest alert in terms of safety for any of the threats,” he said.

“Everyone is on 24-hour surveillance, I would say, in terms of where the threat could come from and what to do to action that.

“We have the security levels very high hosting such an event and we know it’s recognised as [being in] the limelight because the media is here, everyone is here. We did realise that from the beginning.

“And if you see the hit that happened, it’s on the outskirts of the city. There were no casualties and it’s on a fuel tank that was burning. I was actually landing from the airport during the time.

“If there is a threat [to the event], then rest assured we will cancel the race. But there is no threat and that’s what we discussed with everyone.”

An airliner is silhoutted by a fire in Jeddah beyond the circuit

An airliner is silhoutted by a fire in Jeddah beyond the circuit

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

While the attack on the oil facility look place within sight of the Jeddah track, Al-Faisal has explained that the anti-missile defence system that protects the track does not cover that area of the city.

“You can’t cover the whole kingdom,” he said. “So the security agencies cover the areas where there is condensed population, where it has to be covered.

“That place wasn’t covered because it’s not a threat to anyone. From the feedback that we have got, we were lucky that that’s where it happened, but they were even surprised it was that area.

“So it’s not a breach of the security. But, as I said, the area that we are in, the city itself, the hotels, everywhere else, is on full security with all the necessary steps to make sure nothing happens."

While the attack has overshadowed the Saudi GP weekend, Al-Faisal says that giving in to terrorists is not an option that should be considered by any country.

“People don’t want these things to happen in our region,” he said. “If you look around us, there are issues all over our country and if you look at Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen. All of these areas have issues.

“We just want to move on with our lives. We want to prosper and we want a good quality of life for our people and we are doing that with the 2030 vision and that is our target, to have a real sustainable future for our kids and our future and to grow.

“But we can’t do it alone. We have to have the international community condemn these attacks and put a stop to this anywhere in the world. You can see what’s happening in Europe now and who would have imagined that would happen in Europe?

“I don’t want to go into details, but it could happen anywhere on the world. But if we don’t all, as an international community, take a stand towards destruction in the world then nothing will prosper. 

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"So I know there are a lot of pictures, and a lot of fabrications of these pictures, that came out and so on, it’s not a good thing. But we have to deal with it and we have to deal with it for everyone to make sure we send a positive not a negative.

“If we talk about the negative or we talk about surrendering to their actions, then they have won and this will never stop anywhere. And this will give them a trigger to try it anywhere else. So I think this is the strong message that we should have here: this is not a Saudi Arabian issue, this an international community issue.”

Al-Faisal was clear, however, that lessons could be learned from the events of the weekend, but thinks the security at the Jeddah circuit is as good as it can be.

“We trust the system that we have,” he said. “But of course, you live and learn.

“With everything we do, we are a developing nation and we are thriving to the future and we want to excel in delivering the best in anyone coming to Saudi Arabia.

“But also for the people of Saudi Arabia to excel in the right way in a safe, enjoyable and fun environment.

“I’m sure the security agencies will assess, go into the details of these actions and if there is a step that we need to do, we will do it to ensure we have more security for everyone in Saudi.”

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