MARCH 26, 2022
F1 banned driver comments after missile attack
Formula 1 banned drivers from making comment after a nearby Aramco oil facility was attacked by missiles and drones during free practice in Saudi Arabia.
The second session was delayed after world champion Max Verstappen noticed a burning smell from his cockpit that turned out to be a huge explosion at the facility some 11 kilometres from the Jeddah circuit.
The FIA's official practice session report made note of the attack "for which Yememi rebel group Houthi claimed responsibility".
That triggered "an emergency meeting", with Formula 1 confirming afterwards: "The authorities have confirmed the event can continue as planned and we will remain in close contact with them and all the teams and closely monitor the situation."
The FIA's new and UAE-born president Mohammed Ben Sulayem insisted: "They are targeting the infrastructure, not the civilians and of course not the track.
"We have checked the facts and insurance from the highest level. Let's keep racing."
But that's only part of the story, as multiple meetings in fact took place over several hours until the dead of the night, amid rumours the F1 drivers may boycott.
Iltalehti newspaper reported from Jeddah: "Stefano Domenicali made sure Hamilton was not allowed in front of the microphones."
That ban applied to all the drivers, whose post-session TV interviews were all cancelled.
In the place of driver interviews were multiple team bosses who, like F1 CEO Domenicali, insisted that the situation was "safe".
"I feel safe," Williams boss Jost Capito told Sky Deutschland.
"If I didn't feel safe, then I wouldn't feel safe for the whole team because I have the responsibility for the whole team.
"There was no discrepancy between the drivers and the teams. I think it's right to drive here this weekend because we're all here. If not, it should have been discussed beforehand."
Viaplay correspondent Mervi Kallio scoffed at that.
"If you have to think about whether or not to drive after a missile strike, and the mantra is normally safety first and you say that it is completely safe, I don't think there's anything else to discuss," she said.
Ilta Sanomat added: "F1 received a chilling warning of its negligence, but as usual the existence of the problem was not even acknowledged."