The 2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is set to go ahead as planned this weekend despite an attack on a nearby Aramco facility.
On Friday afternoon, a fire broke out around 10 kilometres from the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, and it transpired that Houthis militants had carried out a missile attack on the oil facility.
The drivers abandoned their media commitments after the second practice session, and spent over four hours deliberating as team principals and members of Formula 1 management met with them, presumably in an attempt to convince them to continue racing.
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali was in the meeting, and he affirmed that he had been given assurances that the paddock is safe.
“We have received total assurance that for the country, Safety is first,” he told reporters.
“Safety has to be guaranteed; they are here with their families, actually here at the track so they have in place all the systems to protect this area, the city, the places where we are going, so we have to feel confident and we have to trust the local authority in that respect, and therefore of course we will help with the event.”
FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem has been thrown into his first real dilemma since taking over from Jean Todt in December, and he echoed the Italian’s thoughts that there is no imminent threat to anyone in the F1 paddock or in the vicinity of the six-kilometre racetrack.
“I would say exactly what Stefano said,” ben Sulayem added.
“We had meetings with high level security, we had meetings with the team principals, we had meetings with the drivers.
“We had the assurance from high level that this is a secure place, the whole team will be secure and let’s go racing.
“For sure, all the families are here, we are looking forward but with an assurance that nothing’s going to happen.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner that Domenicali and ben Sulayem to handle the adverse circumstances with due care, and reiterates that acts of violence should not dictate sport.
“The sport has to stand together collectively,” he told Sky Sports.
“Any act of terrorism cannot be condoned and sport shouldn’t be bullied into a position.
“A situation like that just isn’t acceptable. Stefano and the president, they’re dealing with it, there’s been all the assurances from the organisers and we’ll be going racing.”
The drivers were quick to scurry away to get to bed after their lengthy meeting that continued into the early hours of Saturday morning, while George Russell, head of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, went to race control to hold a further meeting with the team principals and Domenicali.
Sergio Perez took to Twitter to all but confirm that the decision had been taken to go ahead with the rest of the weekend.
“Ready and totally focused on tomorrow’s qualy!” he tweeted, indicating that the decision had been taken to go ahead as scheduled.