Following a controversial, tumultuous, scary and exhausting weekend in Jeddah, Sir Lewis Hamilton is relieved to be going home.
Missile attacks marred the opening day of the weekend at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, with the drivers eventually coming to the decision to race amid a GPDA statement that they were satisfied that everyone in the paddock was safe due to the “elevated” security at the circuit.
Sadly for the Briton, his weekend was not about to get any easier, and he was knocked out of qualifying in the first phase in a monumental shock.
He had to stand and watch on with concern as Haas’ Mick Schumacher collided with the barrier in the second qualifying session – the same part of the track in which Formula 2 driver Cem Bolukbasi crashed earlier in the weekend, ruling him out of Saturday’s sprint race and Sunday’s feature race.
The 37-year-old affirmed after qualifying that he was “looking forward to going home,” and he reiterated that sentiment after Sunday’s race, which he finished in 10th.
“I am so happy the weekend is done and I am also just so happy that everyone is safe. I am looking forward to getting out,” Hamilton said.
“I just want to go home.”
Reports emanated on Saturday that the drivers had been precluded from speaking on the missile attacks on an nearby Aramco oil facility by the Houthi militants, and McLaren’s Lando Norris conceded that he felt uneasy during the weekend.
“Of course I am relieved [to have got through the weekend],” he explained.
“Under any circumstance all we want to do is race. But it is a nervous place to be and you are going to have these nerves and that is why we had the discussions we did. We were given the reassurances and told it is safe and we had to believe that.”
In light of Schumacher’s accident, Max Verstappen confirmed that the drivers will “sit together” with F1 management and their team bosses to “see what’s happening for the future” regarding the safety of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
That comes after the Dutchman’s comments that the track is “very dangerous,” but Norris would like to find a way to return next year as he is an avid fan of the track.
“Whether we come back or not – I would love to look forward to do that because it is a fun track, but those are discussions we will have after the weekend, the McLaren racer said.
Mercedes took 11 points out of the race at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, but their myriad of issues presented by the new technical regulations have thus far prevented them from running parallel with the pace of Red Bull and Ferrari.
Trackside engineer Andrew Shovlin has recently predicted “easy gains” as a result of new upgrades being brought to the car, but Hamilton has seemingly consigned himself, for now at least, to being in the periphery of the lead battle.
“Right now, we are not fighting for the top step. We are so far off the guys up ahead and we have a lot of work to do. It feels like a long way away,” he stated.
“We need more grip, and we need more power. We are still really down on speed. It is not just one fix. It is several things.”
Despite their woes last weekend, Mercedes sit second in the Constructors’ Championship by virtue of Red Bull’s late reliability calamity in Bahrain, but they got off the mark in Saudi Arabia as Max Verstappen beat Charles Leclerc to victory.