Drivers ‘will have more input into where F1 races’

Jon Wilde
F1 drivers and officials line up for a group photo. Bahrain March 2022.

Formula 1 drivers and officials line up for a group photo at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Sakhir March 2022.

Formula 1 drivers are set to be granted their desire to have more input into where the sport races following last week’s tension in Saudi Arabia.

At one point on Friday night, it had looked as though the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was in danger of being cancelled following a terrorist missile attack on an oil refinery only 12 miles from the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

Max Verstappen reported he could smell burning during FP1, while FP2 was delayed by 15 minutes while drivers and team bosses were briefed by officials about the situation.

A further meeting took place after practice and dragged on into the early hours of the morning, with the drivers having to be reassured about their security over the remainder of the race weekend.

Carlos Sainz and George Russell, a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, both called for future talks about locations of grands prix to include the men who actually contest the races.

Valtteri Bottas said Formula 1 had “promised” drivers the sport would only visit “the right places so they can guarantee our safety 100% every time we go there”.

Smoke seen near the Saudi Arabian GP circuit. Jeddah March 2022.
Smoke seen in the distance from the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix circuit. Jeddah March 2022.

Saudi Arabia is also a contentious venue because of its human rights record.

Sky Sports F1 reporter Craig Slater says the drivers’ voice will indeed be heard – not least because of the increasing power they hold from an image point of view.

“The drivers want to be more integrated into strategic discussions and have more of an input into some of the key decision-making within the sport – and that is going to happen,” reported Slater.

“There will be meetings with themselves and Formula 1’s bosses over the next couple of weeks. They want an input into matters including where F1 goes to race in the future.

“This has been on the agenda, if not where to race exactly but the drivers having an increased role, for some time now. But events in Saudi Arabia have rather accelerated it.

“The justification for the drivers wanting more input is they are very much more the face of the sport these days than they were, say, five to 10 years ago because Formula 1 has much more embraced social media and digital platforms, things like the ‘Drive to Survive’ Netflix series.


“The drivers and their personality have been the key vehicle for F1 getting its messaging across and the drivers think if they are the vehicle for F1’s messaging, then they have to be fully aligned with that messaging and the best way to go about that is for them to have an input in the process and decision-making that works out these major strategic decisions.

“I don’t think F1 has a problem with that, I think they are quite open to the idea of drivers having more input, so it’s a little bit of a change within the sport which I think has come about over a longer period rather than just being sparked by the events of last weekend.But certainly those have accelerated the issue.

“Formula 1, while happy with the decisions it took for the race to go ahead in Saudi Arabia, will make its own assessment of last weekend and what can be learned from the whole episode.”


Drivers, team bosses expect Saudi GP future talks

The paddock wants an open discussion over whether or not they should continue racing in Saudi Arabia.