Grand Prix under tension in Saudi Arabia

Formula One F1 - Saudi Arabian Grand Prix - Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - March 26, 2022 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton during qualifying REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed/Pool

An attack, with missiles and drones, Friday March 25 against a nearby oil deposit about ten kilometers from the circuit. A violent accident during qualifying on Saturday, which put Mick Schumacher (Haas), the son of Michael Schumacher, in hospital… It is in a particularly conflictive context that the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia will start on Sunday afternoon in Jeddah.

Despite the strong reluctance of the drivers, who met for four hours during the night from Friday to Saturday, and although the British Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), seven times world champion, declared that he had ” expect [s]‘and all “F1’s governing bodies decided, at noon on Saturday, to keep the race going.

“After discussions with all teams and drivers, the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia will go ahead as planned.”said the promoter of Formula 1 and the International Automobile Federation (FIA) in a press release.

“Extensive discussions were held between the stakeholders, the Saudi government authorities and the agencies responsible for security that provided full and detailed guarantees on the security of the event”added these instances.

The pilots were particularly concerned about safety conditions. The attack in Jeddah is part of a wave claimed by the Houthis on Friday, on the eve of the seventh anniversary of the intervention of the military coalition led by Riyadh in Yemen, to support the government against the rebels, close to Iran. It caused a gigantic fire and a cloud of black smoke visible from the circuit.

“It may give the impression that we were worried about our safety but it was for yours, the media, the mechanics, the spectators”, explained the Spanish Fernando Alonso (Alpino) on Saturday night. Through associating him, the pilots then expressed their “Resolve to participate in practice and qualifying and tomorrow’s race.”

On Saturday, a spokesman for the Houthi rebels announced that they would cease their offensives in Yemen and against Saudi Arabia for ” three days “.

Also read: Yemen’s Houthi rebels announce three-day truce in attacks on Saudi Arabia

“We will have to talk about the whole situation again”

“We all decided to race but, after this weekend, we will have to talk about the whole situation again”, warned Lews Hamilton, referring to the already disputed holding of a Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia before this weekend for human rights violations.

“We are not the ones who rule the calendar” but F1 and the FIA, although the teams are consulted, recalled Jost Capito, leader of the Williams team. “If discussions are going to take place, it will be after the Grand Prix, not during, as long as we are safe. »

Meanwhile, on Sunday it is the Mexican Sergio Pérez (Red Bull), 32 years old and with two victories in F1 (in 2020 and 2021), who will start in the lead at 8:00 p.m. local time (7:00 p.m. French time), ahead of the Monegasque Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), winner of the first test of the season, on Sunday March 20.

The Dutch Max Verstappen, current world champion, could not do better than 4me and Lewis Hamilton will just start at 16me position, after poor grades. Mick Schumacher, quickly released from hospital, will miss Sunday, his team said.

The world with AFP

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