F1 preview: A lap of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
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F1 team bosses “unanimously agreed” that the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix should go ahead on Sunday, despite the fact there was a missile attack just seven miles from the Jeddah circuit on Friday. Worryingly, the missile attack took place as drivers were undertaking their first practice session.
An Aramco oil depot was targeted by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in a missile attack on Friday afternoon. A huge blaze broke out and thick clouds of black smoke filled the air around the depot.
And the incident could be seen from the Jeddah track. World champion Max Verstappen could be heard telling Red Bull chiefs he could smell burning. “I smell a bit of a burning feeling,” Verstappen said over his team radio. “I am not sure if it is my car, or another car.” He was then told by his team they were confident it was not his car.
The second practice was delayed by 15 minutes after a meeting between F1’s decision-makers and the drivers and team principals. The session went ahead as race organisers Saudi Motorsport Company released a statement to confirm that Sunday’s Grand Prix would not be cancelled.
“We are aware of the attack on the Aramco distribution station in Jeddah earlier this afternoon and remain in contact with the Saudi security authorities, as well as F1 and the FIA to ensure all necessary security and safety measures continue to be implemented to guarantee the safety of all visitors to the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as well as the drivers, teams and stakeholders,” read the statement.
“The race weekend schedule will continue as planned. The safety and security of all our guests continues to be our main priority and we look forward to welcoming fans for a weekend of premium racing and entertainments.”
An F1 spokesperson added: “Formula One has been in close contact with the relevant authorities following the situation that took place today. The authorities have confirmed that the event can continue as planned and we will remain in close contact with them and all the teams and closely monitor the situation.”
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Following the incident, F1 bosses held a meeting with team chiefs, before speaking to drivers afterwards. “We as team principals have been assured that we’re protected here,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
“This is probably the safest place you can be in Saudi Arabia at the moment. That’s why we are racing. Between the team principals yes [the decision is unanimous].”
And Red Bull chief Christian Horner added: “Sport has to stand together. Terrorism cannot be condoned. [F1 chief executive] Stefano [Domenicali] and the [FIA] president [Mohammed bin Sulayem] will take care of it. The race organisers have assured us of safety and we will be racing.”
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