Formula 1 Racing

Hamilton doesn’t share other F1 drivers’ views on Saudi GP safety

Hamilton doesn't share other F1 drivers' views on Saudi GP safety

F1 heads back to Jeddah for the second race of the 2023 season this weekend, the first event after the 2022 edition was marred and nearly aborted following the threat of a drivers’ strike in the aftermath of a Houthi missile strike on a nearby Aramco oil facility during practice. 

The Formula One Management organisation, the FIA and the race promoter have sought to allay fears for competitors and spectators ahead of this year’s race. 

The stakeholders have been highlighting new additional safety measures, as well as the current informal ceasefire in the Yemen conflict, of which Saudi Arabia is part of a coalition trying to restore the government overthrown by the Houthi rebels group in 2014 in what is widely viewed as a proxy war with Iran, the Middle East region’s other dominant power. 

Safety was the subject of much discussion during the pre-event press conferences and driver media sessions in Jeddah on Thursday. 

In the first part of the former, McLaren driver Lando Norris said he was “happy we’re racing here” as “Formula 1 and what we’re doing as a sport is a good thing”, and he is “not worried about anything”. 

Williams racer Alex Albon said “there’s been a lot of work this year put into trying to make it feel safer for everyone”, a view shared by Carlos Sainz

The Ferrari driver added: “I think they’ve given enough reassurance and enough explanations to say that we’re in safe place right now and as far as my understanding goes, I need to guide myself by that, time will tell.  

“But I’m confident that they obviously are not lying to us and they are putting together a safe event.” 

Alfa Romeo‘s Valtteri Bottas pointedly refused to say anything on the safety topic, and only wanted to express his feeling that the “track is cool”, a stance echoed by AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda

In the second part of the official press conference, Kevin Magnussen (Haas), Alpine‘s Esteban Ocon, Lance Stroll of Aston Martin, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Hamilton were also asked to offer their opinions on returning to Jeddah after the missile attack. 

But it was the Mercedes driver’s reply in following the various expressions of confidence in the safety measures outlined by FOM and co from his peers that drew considerable interest.  

The exchange in full: 

Magnussen: “Yeah, last year was pretty ‘special’, I would call it. None of us enjoyed it but I think we… it’s a different situation now, there’s a different political……

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