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F1 has no doubts over Saudi Arabia GP following driver concerns

Formula 1 has said there are no doubts that the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix is going ahead as scheduled, despite initial concerns expressed by drivers.

A fire in Jeddah beyond the circuit

A fire in Jeddah beyond the circuit

Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

In the wake of a missile strike by Houthis on an oil facility less than 10 miles from the Jeddah circuit on Friday, the fate of the Saudi Arabian GP was thrown in to doubt.

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali initially spoke to drivers and team principals before second free practice to update them on the situation, before much lengthier talks at the circuit that ran in to the early hours.

While teams had agreed to unanimously go ahead with the race after being given assurances that it was safe to do so, drivers themselves were not so convinced.

Following their regularly scheduled drivers’ briefing on Friday night, an extended meeting of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) went on for hours as the drivers discussed their response.

It is understood that not all drivers were convinced about security at the venue in the wake of the attack, and expressed concerns about the event going ahead. Any boycott by drivers would have forced the event to be cancelled.

That prompted fresh talks with Domenicali and F1 managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn, before team principals were also recalled for further talks with drivers than ran until just after 2am local time.

In the end, the drivers were given enough assurance that the best course of action was to continue with the event rather than have it called off.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR22

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR22

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

A statement from F1 and the FIA on Saturday morning reiterated that drivers and teams were in support of the race going ahead.

“Formula 1 and the FIA can confirm that following discussions with all the teams and drivers, the 2022 FIA Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will continue as scheduled,” it said.

“Following the widely reported incident that took place in Jeddah on Friday, there has been extensive discussion between all stakeholders, the Saudi government authorities and security agencies who have given full and detailed assurances that the event is secure.

“It has been agreed with all stakeholders to maintain a clear and open dialogue throughout the event and for the future.”

The fire from the missile attack continued to burn on Saturday morning, with it suggested that it may not get extinguished until after the weekend.

The wind direction at Jeddah means, however, that the smoke cloud is drifting south over the city rather than towards the track.

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