F1 teams 'threatened their cars would be seized' during Saudi Arabia emergency meeting

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F1 teams 'threatened their cars would be seized' during Saudi Arabia emergency meeting

F1 drivers were threatened by the prospect of Saudi authorities taking serious action during crisis talks on Friday evening. After first practice,

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F1 drivers were threatened by the prospect of Saudi authorities taking serious action during crisis talks on Friday evening. After first practice, a long meeting took place after an Aramco oil facility was set alight by a missle strike just six miles away from the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

And reports suggest that during the gathering, led by former world champions Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, the drivers unanimously decided that second practice on Friday would be the final action of the weekend. However, hours later, it emerged that racing would go ahead as normal, despite the lengthy talks.

According to Roger Benoit, well connected with notable F1 figures, drivers were threatened after agreeing to abandon the weekend and go home. They were told of the possibility that Saudi authorities would seize their cars and prevent them from leaving the country if they refused to race in Jeddah.

The report adds that the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will be stained in the aftermath of the weekend’s events and a return to Jeddah can’t be guaranteed, despite Liberty Media’s long-term deal with the UK. F1 has to listen to the teams when scheduling the race calendar, and they ‘weren’t satisfied’ with Friday’s outcome either.

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However, last week, Martin Whitaker, CEO of the Saudi Motorsport Company, claimed that F1’s three-year stint in Jeddah, which started in 2021, will likely be extended to five years. In the meantime, a purpose-built entertainment centre called Qiddiya, closer to the capital Riyadh, is in the process of construction.

He said: “Jeddah is a fantastic circuit, and it’s difficult to sometimes forget that it is a temporary facility. I suspect the original plan was for it to be in Jeddah for three years, [but] I suspect that it will probably be there for probably another two years to allow Qiddiya to properly mature.”

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Whitaker also clarified that F1’s contract with Saudi Arabia runs for 15 years, with most of that period set to be hosted in Qiddiya. But whilst that plan is in the early stages, Jeddah will likely play host for the Saudi GP for years to come, though more talks with drivers are set to be held about racing in the country in the coming months.

“We’re all waiting now what’s happening with Qiddiya because, as you know, the contract for a Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia is for 15 years,” Whitaker explained.

“The majority of those years will see it taking place in Qiddiya. Qiddiya at the moment is effectively in the planning stage, there’s no track there, there’s no buildings there or nothing to speak of anyway. So there’s a lot of work to go now.”



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