A Houthi missile attack on an oil facility near the Jeddah circuit on Friday has raised doubts about whether the second round of the F1 championship should go ahead.
Although the team chiefs were quickly won over to continue racing by Formula 1 chiefs after receiving security guarantees from the Saudi authorities, the drivers were not easily convinced as talks with them continued into the early hours of Saturday morning.
In the end, the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA) collectively agreed that they would take part in qualifying and racing following promises made to them about safety at the event.
But while the teams remain convinced that going ahead with the Saudi Grand Prix this weekend is the right thing to do, some believe talks should take place with F1 chiefs afterward about whether or not it’s the right thing to do in the country.
Williams Team boss Joost Capito said: “We are not responsible for the calendar, but the situation has been here for many years.
“I think there was a missile attack during the FE race at the beginning of last year, and there were no concerns about coming here at the end of last year. So this weekend the situation has not changed at all.
“I think the discussion should have taken place before. Now it will be after the event, but not during the event. As long as we have assurance that security is there, we are safe.”
Haas chief Gunther Steiner said: “It is not the time to discuss whether being here at all is right or wrong. I think this is coming in the future, and it will be discussed. The FIA and FOM will look into it and then decide what will be done.”
“But I think right now, we need to focus on the event this weekend and bring it to an end and then start over again.”
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal, Ferrari, Andreas Seidl, Team Principal, McLaren, Mario Isola, Racing Director, Pirelli Motorsport, at the press conference
Photography: Carl Bingham / motorsports pictures
Aston Martin boss Mike Crack added: “Sure, there will be a lot of discussion after this event. But again, I can just reiterate. It’s not the teams that set the calendar.
“It’s the FIA and F1 who make the calendar. Obviously we’ll give an opinion if asked and then move on.”
McLaren Team boss Andreas Seidl insisted, however, that F1 needed to visit places like Saudi Arabia to help act as a force for good.
Asked by Motorsport.com if the financial benefits to Formula One from the race’s hosting fees outweighed the negative criticism the sport faced this weekend, Seidl said: “Honestly, that’s not the point for me.
“I feel comfortable being part of Formula 1 as a global sport, being part of a team and really having the opportunity to help make a positive change in the countries we go to, where there are, for example, different cultures.
“That for me is the point of this discussion and I also think we should not be ashamed, isolating ourselves from these countries because of the criticism we receive.
“I see the unique opportunity that we have as a sport to share this passion for Formula 1 and also to drive this positive change. And not only on the economy, for example, for the country, but also in terms of positive change in society.”
“So, again, I said before I felt comfortable with the decision that Formula 1 is making in terms of racing.”
Ferrari Team principal Mattia Binotto said that while there were concerns in the track after Friday’s attack, he thought it was not appropriate for F1 to pack up and leave.
“We were all worried, because it’s not normal facts that happen near the ring,” he said.
“As a team we have received assurances from F1, from the Saudi government authorities and the security services that everything will be safe under their control. I think that was necessary to explain to the drivers.
“We explained the situation to them, and we made them understand, in effect, that we are safe and secured. And I think after those long discussions, it’s important to be in a transparent way, they simply understood and supported the fact that it was important to stay and stay and continue the weekend and drive here in Saudi for the weekend .
“In a way I think leaving the country just wasn’t the right choice. And I think there wasn’t a valid reason, for us to be here, to leave the country with the assurances we got.”
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