Formula 1 team principals have defended the series’ decision to continue with the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix following the missile strike in Jeddah yesterday.
Afterwards, both F1 and the FIA said the event would go ahead. However, drivers raised concerns in a meeting which went on until the early hours of Saturday morning at the track. They were eventually persuaded to go ahead with the weekend.
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl said it had been necessary to hear the views and address the concerns of the 20 drivers.
“It was very alarming news yesterday afternoon when we saw the incident,” he said. “Therefore I think it was important yesterday evening to take our time also together with the drivers, the drivers between themselves and together with the FIA, Formula 1 and the authorities here in order to get a good overview in a transparent way also of what happened and what we can expect in terms of safety and security moving forward.
“That took a bit of time, but it was important to invest that time and have this open and transparent dialogue. In the end with all the assurances we have had with the authorities here we cane to the decision that the right way is to continue in the event as planned and we feel comfortable with that.”
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto responded to a suggestion drivers may have been coerced into competing and warned they may have difficulty leaving the country if they did not.
“I don’t think that’s the point,” he said. “The drivers met together. Certainly they were concerned, I think we after the attack yesterday no doubt all of us were concerned because these are not normal facts happening just close to the circuit.
“But the concerns need to be translated into considerations and discussions. We as team principals had assurances from F1, from the Saudi government, authorities and security agencies that everything would be safe and under control.
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
“That was needed to be explained to the drivers and explained to them the situation, make them understand that as a matter of fact we are safe and secure. After that long discussions, which is important to have in a transparent way, they simply understood and supported the fact that it’s important to stay, to remain, and to continue the weekend and drive here in Saudi for the weekend.”
Binotto said staying in the country was the correct thing to do. “I think by leaving the country would not have been simply the right choice,” he said. “I think that there was no right reasons, being here, to leave the country for the fact that happened after all the assurances we get.
“So I think they met, they had their own concerns, they raised them. All together we tried to get the right assurances and got the right explanations for them as well.”
Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack said there was no way the team would have insisted one of their drivers take part in the weekend if they did not want to.
“Obviously you cannot force someone to drive who doesn’t want to drive or is not comfortable to drive,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans. “We were not in that situation but if we were, we would respect the opinion or the concerns of the driver. We would obviously try to talk, try to understand, try to find an agreement.
“But I think ultimately you need to respect what these people wanted.”
Pietro Fittipaldi was on standby to replace either of the Haas drivers had they chosen not to participate, said team principal Guenther Steiner.
“If a driver doesn’t want to drive we would put Pietro in,” he said. “He cannot wait. That would be the solution.”
The teams were reassured by assessments of the security arrangements by defence experts.
“We had quite a few high-ranked authorities yesterday and they explained to us the situation,” said Krack. “They explained it to us in a very credible way, and this made all of us – all the 10 of us that were in the room – confident that they take their responsibility very seriously.”
Williams team principal Jost Capito added “there was also another defence person in there – not from here, from a different country – who looked into that independently and confirmed that everything is in place to have a safe event.”
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
- Vettel will return to race for Aston Martin at Australian Grand Prix
- No decision on Vettel’s return until Friday – Aston Martin
- Jeddah defines track changes in response to drivers’ safety concerns
- “Minimal” changes to Jeddah track for second Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
- Imola replaces China as F1 confirms 23-race calendar for 2022 season