Formula One’s drivers opted against boycotting the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix because government ministers assured them security measures were being “elevated to the maximum”, according to the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA).
F1’s 20 drivers held a remarkable four-hour meeting on Friday evening as they resisted F1’s calls to race on as normal after an attack on an oil depot just 10 kilometers (about 6 miles) from the Jeddah circuit.
At 2.30 on Saturday morning, F1 team bosses and CEO Stefano Domenicali emerged from a separate meeting, attended by GPDA director George Russell, and insisted the race was going ahead as planned.
The GPDA said it was natural for drivers to have had reservations about the race, given the circumstances.
“Yesterday was a difficult day for Formula One and a stressful day for us Formula One drivers,” the statement said.
“Perhaps it is difficult to comprehend if you have never driven an F1 car on this fast and challenging Jeddah track, but on seeing the smoke from the incident it was difficult to remain a fully focused race driver and erase natural human concerns.
“Consequently we went into long discussions between ourselves, with our team principals, and with the most senior people who run our sport. A large variety of opinions were shared and debated and, having listened not only to the Formula 1 powers but also to the Saudi government ministers who explained how security measures were being elevated to the maximum, the outcome was a resolution that we would practise and qualify today and race tomorrow.
“We therefore hope that the 2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will be remembered as a good race rather than for the incident that took place yesterday”.
The drivers’ decision means practice and qualifying will go ahead as scheduled on Saturday ahead of Sunday’s race.