‘Nothing will happen’: FIA and F1 confident Saudi Arabian GP venue is secure after attack

2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem and Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali say they are confident the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will go ahead safely despite an attack near the track earlier today.

They confirmed the event will go ahead following a missile attack by the Yemeni rebel group Houthi which caused an explosion and fire at an oil plant around 10 kilometres from the circuit. The strike occurred during F1’s first practice session which began at 5pm local time today.

Ben Sulayem and Domenicali met with drivers and team principals ahead of the second practice session and confirmed the weekend would go ahead. The pair spoke to media following a second meeting with F1 competitors later in the evening.

“We have done a meeting with the drivers and the team principals together with the maximum authority of Saudi with the Prince Abdulaziz, the minister of sport and Prince Khalid, the president of the ASF and of course with Sheikh Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the president of the FIA and the government of Jeddah,” said Domenicali.

“We have received total assurances that the country’s safety is first. No matter the situation, safety has to be guaranteed.

“They are here with their families, actually here at the track, they have in place all the systems to protect this area, the city, the places we are going. So we feel confident and we have to trust the local authority in that respect.

“Therefore we will of course go ahead with the event.”

Domenicali added the decision to proceed had the unanimous support of the team principals. “We need to trust the local authorities not only here but all around the world because if that is not the case we will be in a situation that’s not manageable.”

Ben Sulayem echoed Domenicali’s words. “We had meetings with high-level security and then we had meetings across the team principals and we had meetings with the drivers,” he said.

“I mean, who are they targeting? They are targeting the economic infrastructure, not the civilians, and of course, not the track.

“Of course we checked the facts from them and we had assurances from the highest level that this is a secure place, the whole thing will be secured and let’s go on racing. For sure all the families are here, we are only looking forward but with an assurance that nothing is going to happen.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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38 comments on “‘Nothing will happen’: FIA and F1 confident Saudi Arabian GP venue is secure after attack”

  1. That’s not entirely the point.

    1. My initial reservations were on the grounds that there are many appalling human rights issues in Saudi Arabia and that by not racing there Formula 1 would be telling the government they don’t get the privilege of running a Grand Prix until they make things better, and potentially actually make a difference. I thought it was highly unlikely that the circuit would actually be in any danger.

      However, on reflection, this Grand Prix could be a great opportunity for this rebel group to raise awareness of the situation; they’ve done that already just with what happened today. Just think how much the situation in Saudi Arabia and Yemen would become known worldwide if the race was attacked somehow. And for that reason we cannot be certain the Grand Prix is safe from another attack. Even if this is unlikely, the risk is still great enough for it to be absolutely necessary to cancel the Grand Prix for safety reasons, even ignoring the previously mentioned human rights problems. To go ahead with the Grand Prix now would be a pathetic act of greed, it is just too dangerous.

      1. Agreed.

  2. Dont worry guys, if things dont go too well, they can always have two laps under the safety car and call it a day. It worked pretty well last time.

    1. They actually changed the rules on that one @apophisjj

  3. Madness to carry on, but with the airspace closed there’s no way out is there. Why the hell are they racing somewhere like this? (Rhetorical que$tion)

  4. saudi arabia is waging war in yemen…i guess unlike other wars…this is okay..or so it seems to everyone else..

  5. “We have received total assurances that the country’s safety is first. No matter the situation, safety has to be guaranteed.

    Yeah, sure. The Saudi Arabian government isn’t able to prevent rockets hitting a oil refinery or storage 5 miles away, but they can “guarantee” the safety of the race track?

    1. No one could have expected an attack in the area.

      There hadn’t been one for almost a week, after all.

    2. @bascb The ‘guarantee’ actually seems to be an ‘assurance’ that the Saudi Arabia’s enemies in a bloody war won’t decide to attack the track because it’s apparently not an economic or infrastructural target. So why are SA insisting the GP must go on? Because it’s so important to the regime politically and, ultimately, economically… But apparently the ‘team managers’ are assured it’s all perfectly safe. The Houthi could simply bomb an empty bit of ground 2 km from the track in P3 or qualifying to make their point and imply that the bombs are getting nearer. Would the race continue then?

      1. I hope we won’t find out @david-br. But I guess the pressure would still be there from S.A. and their allies in Yemen the UAE (and off course the FIA president, since he is part of the UAE elite), but I would hope that most teams would then back their drivers to back out.

  6. What did we expect holding a race in a country that’s at war. F1 is boycotting Russia, time to do the same with Saudi Arabia.

    1. Also never mind they just executed 81 prisoners in one go. (Yes the U.S. also executes prisoners and should be held accountable.)

    2. The problem is that when countries need to wean themselves off Russian energy, the Middle East becomes more significant for both supply and the stabilisation of global prices. As long as we pull a concerned face and promise to and make a strongly worded statement about human rights, then we can take Saudi oil without any sense of hypocrisy.

  7. I posted this in a different article and it’s awaiting moderation, but I hope the drivers and teams protest in a similar way to the 2005 US Grand Prix, making a very very public display of their refusal to race under the current conditions. Maybe then, after a very public display that holds a very large mirror up, F1 and the FIA will have to face themselves in that mirror over their decision making when it comes to venue selection.

  8. “I mean, who are they targeting? They are targeting the economic infrastructure, not the civilians, and of course, not the track.”

    Formula 1 race is definitely an economic asset to Saudi Arabia. As is the oil export important to it, so is the country image cultivated for tourism and investments. Not to speak of the fact that FIA president here somehow assumes 100% accuracy of Houthi-fired missiles (whatever type of weapon they use) & their good intention in not harming civilians.

    If Houthis strike was arranged to coincide with the race, they might as well commit a second strike if they do not see some kind of a response they probably anticipated. And the argumentation that Saudis could be better prepared now for the second strike is questionable at best. The race should be cancelled & removed from calendar, the war in Yemen will go on, the threat will be in the region in the foreseeable future.

  9. I’m confused. Were Formula 1 and the people working in the paddock this weekend informed that there would be a rocket attack within earshot of the track?

    Cause if they were not, why would they believe anything the authorities now claim for the rest of the GP weekend?

  10. According to this article, the assurance is based on the belief that they would not target the track because Houthis do not target civilians, only economic targets.

    F1 is an economic target. And just two months ago they attacked the Abu Dhabi airport.

    Probably nothing will happen. But they should make decisions based on a realistic understanding of risk, not assurances based on false premises.

  11. If F1 thought it had any credibility after last season it has gone after this farce. It seems there are some that think it should go ahead but many more that say they shouldn’t even be there in the first place. Regardless if you think the Saudis are justified in their war, it is a war and so there is always going to be safety issues, never mind the deeper issues.
    Just so sad that money means everything to F1, let’s just hope nothing bad happens this weekend. I’m sure the F1 Circus wil be safe no matter who has to pay the price. What a predictable mess.

  12. It’s reported elsewhere as a drone attack. So what defensive capabilities are there? Pretty much none, I’d guess. Sky reported:

    Ben Sulayem added that attackers were “not targeting the track. We had meetings with the high level security then we had meetings with the team principals and the drivers,” the FIA president said. “And to assure you that, they are targeting the infrastructure of the economy not the civilians and, of course, not the track. Of course we have checked the facts from them and we have had the assurance from the high authorities of the safety here and let’s go racing.”

    So there is no actual security. Only an assumption – an ‘assurance’ apparently – that the track will not be targetted. How can a hostile combatant nation, Saudia Arabia, give any assurance about what enemy forces will or will not attack? It’s just a roll of the dice.

    1. And Toto Wolff:

      We are the team principals, we’ve been assured we are protected here and it’s probably the safest place you can be in Saudi Arabia at the moment and that’s why we are racing.

      Just wow.

      1. He did say, the safest place “in Saudiia Arabia”

        1. @dmw I’d presume that’s wherever the rulers are hanging out. Or a patch of desert nobody is interested in. The GP circuit may as well be a target range for all the protection it offers.

    2. Oh we know they are not targeting the track? Did an official representative of the rebels issue a statement? Both “sides” i this horrible conflict have committed terrible acts against civilians. FIA saying that they are “confident” that they won’t target the track is absurd. You at least have to consider that a ballistic missile or drone attack could miss by a few km. Maybe the FIA can install an “iron dome” AAM system at its sportswashing races where necessary.

      1. @dmw It’s insane. It reminds me of all the ‘assurances’ we heard that Putin, massing his troops on the borders of Ukraine, wasn’t actually going to invade. Everyone remember that one?

        1. Indeed, we remember, @david-br.

          But Liberty/FIA only remember the numbers on the big fat Saudi payment. That’s the most important, most secure form of assurance.

          Still… how do they know 100% the track wasn’t the target and the drone missed? Since the FIA can’t do anything about track safety, maybe the rebels were trying to eliminate some of the pesky barriers that worry the drivers.

          If only the Grand Prix drivers had some sort of association or guild that could pressure the FIA/Liberty for track safety and possibly flac jackets.

          1. I was going to half-joke about having the ‘safety car’ drive round armed with some patriot missiles. But apparently Saudi Arabia has been running out of them. So, yes, really safe everyone. Just focus on those lap times.

  13. “Nothing will happen” said a lot of people before something happened.

    I bet they also thought that refinery was secure! If anything, high visibility events are the greatest, most obvious targets to generate the big impact terrorists want…

    I’m betting they’ll retract tomorrow and the race won’t happen.

  14. So the rainbow shoes and human rights initiatives from F1 are not working..


  15. Pardon my ignorance but that certainly doesn’t sound like the sort of assurance an event organiser can make… 10km is nothing. I’m amazed they stayed after FP1.

  16. I already felt iffy about watching a Saudi event. Despite massively wanting to see the next GP, I would not mind at all if SA were to be cancelled.

  17. Hopefully the driver pressure will change this stance. Absolutely farcical from the FIA, F1 management and the teams. They should be ashamed.

    Why is it that the drivers are the only ones in F1 with a moral back bone? The rest are so blinded by corporate greed.

    1. @skipgamer yep, spot on, I don’t think it’s ever been clearer how the team and F1 management are driven by commerce above all else.

  18. I’m glad I didn’t have to make the call for this situation. I can understand F1’s position being in the home country of a major sponsor. F1 has stayed in Brazil even after members of the circus faced a direct threat of harm when they were held up.

    The question is what happens next year and the year after.

  19. MBS (FIA) says MBS (SA) says ‘there’s nothing to see here’.

  20. Electroball76
    26th March 2022, 8:02

    I guess noone wants to breach contract and face the Saudi legal system.

  21. They should be more careful with how confident they’re.
    No matter how much they assure safety is guaranteed, another missile attack could still occur & even get targeted on the track area. Ben Sulayem rightly said the track hasn’t been a target, but only not yet for now.
    Securing the Corniche area would be easier if an attack attempt came on the ground or waters, but the air is another matter. The race can still get called off if missile attacks in the city continue.
    Targetting circuit boundaries is still possible given Aramco’s trackside presence & international coverage.

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