F1 show goes on after nearby missile attack on oil factory

Jon Wilde
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.

Formula 1 are to stage a second meeting with drivers and team principals after a fire near the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix circuit, which is reported to have been caused by a missile attack.

Security fears emerged in the build-up to this weekend’s race after it was reported a missile aimed towards Jeddah on Sunday had been intercepted and destroyed.

That “hostile air target” was reported to have been fired by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group, who had attacked an Aramco distribution plant in Jeddah.

With Formula 1 having already been reported to be “monitoring the situation”, another incident of concern occurred on Friday when the track action began.

Black smoke could be seen in the sky as the result of a large fire at what was said to be the same Aramco oil refinery facility near the international airport around 12 miles from the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, as reported by Motorsport.com.

Burning oil could be smelt, with local media reporting it could have been caused by another attack from the Houthis. Security at the circuit is reported to have been strengthened.

A Formula 1 spokesman is quoted as saying: “The position at the moment is that we are waiting for further information from the authorities on what has happened.”

News about the fire broke between the FP1 and FP2 sessions with Charles Leclerc, winner of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, setting the fastest time for Ferrari in the initial hour’s running ahead of Max Verstappen.

 

As darkness fell, although the original plan appeared to be to go ahead with FP2, reports began to filter through that the Houthis had claimed responsibility an attack that had caused the fire.

Drivers then attended a meeting with Formula 1 and the FIA minutes before the session was due to commence, presumably in regard to the developing situation, leading to a 15-minute delay to the action.

FP2 did get underway and all indications are that the show is set to go on for the rest of the weekend. Formula 1 and the FIA are set to stage a second meeting after FP2.

During the FP2 session, the Saudi Motorsport Company released the following statement:

“We are aware of the attack on the Aramco distribution station in Jeddah earlier this afternoon and remain in direct contact with the Saudi security authorities, as well as F1 and the FIA to ensure all necessary security and safety measures continue to be implemented to guarantee the safety of all visitors to the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, as well as all drivers, teams and stakeholders.

“The race weekend schedule will continue as planned. The safety and security of all our guests continues to be our main priority and we look forward to welcoming fans for a weekend of premium racing and entertainment.”

We will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.