Formula 1 | F1 ‘playing with fire’ and putting credibility on the line in Saudi Arabia

The events of this Friday in Saudi Arabia seem to have damaged the credibility of F1. The Grand Prix which takes place in Jeddah was maintained despite a terrorist attack targeting Aramco a few kilometers from the Corniche circuit.

Several media and members of the paddock, including Ralf Schumacher, reported pressure applied by Saudi Arabia on F1. Indeed, the drivers debated the holding of the Grand Prix for four hours, and it took the intervention of F1 officials and team bosses to convince them.

Despite this, Pierre Gasly seemed particularly uncomfortable, assuring that the pilots were all “aligned” on their decision. So what took so long? It is reasonable to assume that the 20 main players in the championship were initially against racing.

The BBC has also mentioned the pressures of F1 on the drivers and teams, and we find ourselves in an ubiquitous situation, where the paddock will have to act naturally in a context of concern and armed conflict.

“How incongruous is this? Nothing to be alarmed about. The race continues, it will be interesting to see how it is handled. F1 is playing with fire” said 1996 world champion and British TV consultant Damon Hill.

When you realize the pressures that have taken place for the race to be maintained, the words of Valtteri Bottas, questioned before the weekend on the relevance of a Grand Prix in Jeddah, resonate differently.

“It almost feels like we don’t really have a choice where we race” said the Finn. “If we had the choice, maybe we would change the schedule a bit. I think we end up going to those places and trusting Formula 1.”

F1’s credibility ‘evaporated’

Despite its newfound financial power, F1 seems to have little to do with the importance of its partners. We already remember, this winter, the decisions taken regarding winter testing so that Bahrain can enjoy three more important days than those in Barcelona.

Today, it is the strength of Aramco and the contract that binds F1 to Saudi Arabia that can be seen through these events. Remember that Saudi Arabia pays 650 million over ten years to host F1. Faced with this financial pressure, the whole image of F1 is wavering.

“The credibility of the FIA ​​and F1 evaporated like black smoke in the air and the drivers ate their words on the theme ‘No War'” said Mikko Hyytia, journalist for Finnish channel MTV Sport.

“It’s clear that Aramco, one of F1’s main partners whose distribution center was hit on Friday, pulled the strings very hard behind the scenes. But where do you draw the line? Where did F1 take us- she caught up in her lust for money?”

No real fears, but a weakness of F1?

Mervi Kallio, journalist for Viaplay, does not even understand that the question has arisen, let alone that the outcome is this. She regrets that security takes such a back seat in Jeddah.

“If you have to wonder whether or not you should pilot after a missile launch, and the mantra is normally safety first but you say it’s completely safe, I don’t think there’s any other something to discuss” she says.

Another Finnish newspaper, Ilta Sanomat, judges F1 for looking the other way: “F1 has received a worrying warning of its negligence but as usual the existence of the problem has not even been acknowledged.

A political expert in the region, Sebastian Sons, is not worried about an attack on the Jeddah circuit. On the other hand, he believes that F1 is now at the mercy of Saudi interests and their activities and conflicts.

“Formula 1 is extremely important politically for Saudi Arabia” says this researcher from the CARPO research institute in Bonn. “F1 needs to ask itself if organizing a Formula 1 race in such a situation makes any sense.”

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