until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Ferrari: ‘No right reasons’ to leave Saudi after attack

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Formula 1 had “no right reasons” to leave Saudi Arabia despite the missile attack near the Jeddah circuit on Friday, says Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto.

Several meetings took place on the opening day of practice at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after a nearby Aramco facility, roughly six miles from the track, was attacked by the Yemen rebel Houthi group – which is in its eighth year of war with a Saudi-led coalition.

An initial meeting of senior F1 and FIA figures, team bosses and drivers ended with a public declaration the teams had unanimously agreed to race, but this was then followed by a separate extraordinary, hours-long discussion between the drivers who were not convinced.

Eventually, it was resolved in favour of racing despite a clear undercurrent of tension and a sense that not every driver is convinced this is the right decision, and it has been suggested that drivers were pressured into racing.

“I don’t think that’s the point,” said Ferrari team principal Binotto when asked if there was any coercion involved such as a threat that if the drivers and teams did not race, Saudi authorities might make it difficult to leave country.

“The drivers met together. Certainly, there were concerns, after the facts of yesterday no doubt all of us were concerned because this is not a normal thing that’s happening just close to the circuit.

“Concerns need to be translated into consideration and discussions.

Saudi Arabian GP F1

“We as a team and myself as the team principal had assurances from F1, the Saudi authorities and security agencies that everything would be safe and under control.

“That needed to be explained to the drivers and the situation makes them understand that as a matter of fact, we’re safe and secure.

“We had long discussions which are important to have, they simply understood and supported that it’s important to stay and remain and to continue the weekend and drive here in Saudi for the weekend.

“Leaving the country would have simply not been the right choice. There were no right reasons to leave the country after all the assurances we got.

“They met, they have their own concerns, they raised them, all together, we tried to get the assurance and the right explanation for them as well.”

While the drivers were holding their own meeting, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn returned to the room for a lengthy spell.

Later, past 1am local time, the 10 team bosses rejoined their drivers as well.

The matter was not resolved until well beyond 2am, at which point some drivers had been in the same room for more than four hours.

Two-and-a-half hours had also passed since the drivers’ briefing – which punctuated the two main meetings specifically about the security of the event – turned into the GPDA discussion.

Asked by The Race why the teams swiftly agreed to race after the first conversation with F1 and the FIA but the drivers’ discussion took so much longer to resolve, Binotto said: “Because there are 20 drivers, they have their own single opinions, it’s important for them to have a chat between them, try to raise the right questions.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Qualifying Day Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

“I think they had long and positive discussions. Those guys have a voice, they’re the drivers and the stars of our sport, and I think their voices are important ones.

“As Ferrari team principal, I believe it’s important to listen to them as it as well to explain the situation and considerations and what we believe is right.

“And while they’re the stars, as team principals, we’ve got the duty and it’s our role to try to explain the considerations, so they can have their own proper arguments and conclusions.”

Answering the same question, McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl said: “Our drivers are the heroes of the sport, it’s important that they have a strong voice for what is right for the sport and therefore makes absolute sense that they have this discussion between them.

“At the same time, it was important to also share our different views on what happened yesterday.

“In the end, we all came to the same conclusion that it is the right thing to continue with the weekend after we got assurances that we’re safe here.

“Let’s not forget it’s not just about drivers or team principals here, it’s about 2000 members of the F1 paddock here.

“We had to make the right decision together with the FIA and F1 for all of us.”

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks