It took a four-and-a-half hour long meeting between Formula 1 officials, drivers, team bosses, and the FIA, as well as the local authorities, and it has been decided that the 2022 Saudi Arabian GP will go ahead as planned.
The war between Yemen and Saudi Arabia escalated somewhat on Friday when a Houthi-fired missile hit an Aramco oil facility in Jeddah, just 20km from the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, prompting calls for the event to be cancelled.
Following a series of meetings between Formula 1 officials, drivers, team bosses, and the FIA as well as the local authorities, several drivers were uneasy about racing in Saudi Arabia, but it was announced early on Friday evening that the race would go ahead.
“The race weekend schedule will continue as planned. The safety and security of all our guests continues to be our main priority and we look forward to welcoming fans for a weekend of premium racing and entertainment.” a statement from the Saudi Motorsport Company read.
However, the drivers were left to have a meeting of their own and spent over four hours deliberating what should be done, with various personnel entering and exiting the discussions.
Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko gave an update on the situation early on and indicated that Max Verstappen was worried about the situation: “Max is not scared, but Perez is very scared.”
How events unfolded
Following Practice 2, the teams, FIA and Formula 1 officials were given guarantees as to their safety in Jeddah by the local authorities, ahead of a meeting between all parties involved.
After that initial meeting Domenicali assured the press that the Saudi Arabian GP would go ahead, stating: “F1 trusts the local authorities and the guarantees they offer us about the safety of all its members.”
Some drivers had expressed their desire not to race and leave Saudi Arabia, and there was a second meeting between teams and drivers.
“The race will continue and we are totally calm,” Domenicali commented. “The teams have voted unanimously in favour, as have the drivers.”
But, after this statement the drivers were still in a meeting in F1 hospitality building and after over two hours, Domenicali returned to the meeting, joined by F1 technical director Ross Brawn as things took a turn. After Brawn and Domenicali left at around 1am local time, team principals returned.
Just before 2am local time the extraordinary meeting between the drivers ended, after over four hours of discussions, with the drivers agreeing that racing would continue after their security concerns were addressed.
As Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was leaving the track he told reporters “We’ll be racing.” While McLaren CEO Zak Brown also confirmed the race would take place.