XIDA – Formula One drivers boarded the Saudi track as planned on Saturday after receiving “detailed guarantees” of their safety a day after an attack on the Huthi rebel kingdom in Yemen.
F1 has confirmed that racing will continue with the third training and qualifying session on Saturday followed by Sunday’s race despite the attack on an oil tank located about 11 kilometers (seven miles) from the racetrack. Friday’s attack occurred during the first training sessions, and the 20 pilots met in talks that lasted past 2 in the morning to discuss safety issues.
“Yesterday was a difficult day for Formula One and a stressful day for us, the Formula One drivers,” the Grand Prix Drivers Association said in a statement on Saturday. “We have had long discussions with each other, with the directors of our teams and with the older people who run our sport. A wide variety of opinions have been shared and debated.”
Ferrari team manager Mattia Binotto said it was “important to listen to the drivers”, but that the decision to continue was the right one.
“It was a long night, but first we focused on the facts. We know this is not the first time this has happened in this country and in this area, “he said. “Leaving the country just wouldn’t be the right choice.”
Binotto said the entire Ferrari team agreed to stay.
“No one left and no one asked to leave,” he said.
The other directors of the team who addressed the media on Saturday – Andreas Seidl (McLaren), Guenther Steiner (Haas), Jost Capito (Williams) and Mike Krack (Aston Martin) – also said that no driver or team member had asked to leave. But they all said they would not stop if they asked.
“You can’t force someone to drive who is uncomfortable,” Krack said.
In an earlier statement, F1 and the FIA’s governing body confirmed that “after discussions with all teams and drivers”, the Grand Prix “will continue as scheduled”.
“Following the widely reported incident in Jeddah on Friday, there has been widespread discussion among all stakeholders, Saudi government officials and security agencies who have given full and detailed assurances that the event is safe,” he said. statement.
F1 added that it was agreed “with all stakeholders to maintain a clear and open dialogue throughout the event and for the future”.
The first three drivers talk to the media after qualifying and team directors.
Hutis have acknowledged Friday night’s attacks and described Saudi Arabia’s state television as a “hostile operation”. Jeddah’s oil tank exploded in flames after being attacked during Friday’s first training session. It caused a fire that shook the drivers enough to hold extraordinary talks about the presence of F1 in Saudi Arabia.
Many drivers expressed concern over racing in the region and Saudi Arabia’s human rights record when F1 held its inaugural event on the circuit last December. Now back on the track just over three months later, tensions are rising between the attacks.
Talks between drivers, team directors and F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali until Friday night focused on safety conditions.
Friday’s second training session was delayed by 15 minutes due to a previous drivers’ meeting attended by Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the newly elected FIA president.
Saudi Motorsport Company race promoter said last Friday that the weekend schedule has not changed. Drivers only left the track a few hours before returning.
The attack targeted the North Jiddah bulk plant, the same fuel tank that the Hutis had attacked five days earlier. The plant is just southeast of the city’s international airport, a crucial hub for Muslim pilgrims heading to Mecca.
The plant stores diesel, gasoline and aircraft fuel for use in the second largest city in the kingdom. It accounts for more than a quarter of all supplies in Saudi Arabia and also provides crucial fuel for the operation of a regional desalination plant.
Hutis aimed twice at the North Jeddah plant with cruise missiles. An attack took place in November 2020. The second attack was on Sunday as part of a larger Huthi bombardment.
An Associated Press photojournalist covering the first practice on Friday saw smoke rising to the east shortly after 5:40 p.m. local time and about 20 minutes from the end of the first practice. As the flames rose, the top of the bulk plant tanks were clearly visible.
“Seeing the smoke from the incident made it difficult to remain a fully focused racing driver and erase natural human concerns,” the drivers ’association said.
In addition, a Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen has unleashed a barrage of airstrikes on the Yemeni capital and a strategic Red Sea city, officials said on Saturday. Night airstrikes in Sana’a and Hodeidah – both held by the Hutis – followed the rebels’ attack on the oil tanker in Jeddah.
More AP car racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
The F1 race is underway in Saudi Arabia a day after the impending attack
Source link The F1 race is underway in Saudi Arabia a day after the impending attack