Grand Prix under tension in Saudi Arabia

Formula One F1 - Saudi Arabia 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 neighboring oil depot about ten kilometers from the circuit. A violent accident during qualifying on Saturday, which led to the hospital Mick Schumacher (Haas), the son of Michael Schumacher… It is in a particularly troubled context that the Saudi Arabian Formula 1 Grand Prix will start Sunday afternoon in Jeddah.

Despite the strong reluctance of the pilots, who met for four hours overnight from Friday to Saturday, and even if the Briton Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), seven-time world champion, declared that he had ” look forward to [s]‘go “the governing bodies of F1 decided, Saturday at midday, to maintain the race.

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

“Extensive discussions were held between stakeholders, Saudi government authorities and agencies responsible for security which gave full and detailed assurances 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 the 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 Spaniard Fernando Alonso (Alpine) on Saturday evening. Through their association, the pilots then expressed their “resolve to participate in practice and qualifying and the race tomorrow”.

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

Read also: 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 run 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 because of human rights violations.

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

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

Dutchman Max Verstappen, reigning world champion, could do no better than 4and and Lewis Hamilton will only start in 16and position, after poor qualifications. Mick Schumacher, quickly released from hospital, is forfeited on Sunday, his team said.

The World with AFP

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