Saudi Arabia’s minister of sport has offered to sit down with Lewis Hamilton and discuss any concerns he has about racing there.
Formula 1 made its second visit to the nation for the 2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, but after the opening day of practice there was already a strong chance that the race weekend would progress no further.
A missile strike on an oil refinery just miles from the track on Friday prompted emergency meetings, with the driver meeting running for over four hours into the early hours of Saturday morning.
Ultimately, the drivers were give the assurances they needed by government officials to decide that they did feel safe to race on.
One of the drivers who has been most vocal regarding Saudi Arabia, in particular relating to their controversial human rights record, is Hamilton.
The seven-time World Champion had said at the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in 2021 that he felt “uncomfortable” being in the country, while after the 2022 staging, he was quoted by the PA news agency as having said that he was “so happy the weekend is done” and was “looking forward to getting out”.
And now, Saudi’s minister of sport, His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal, who was a part of those driver meetings, extended the offer for Hamilton to discuss with him any concerns that he has about racing in Saudi Arabia.
“I saw the comments that Lewis had, and that he had issues with some of the things in Saudi Arabia,” said Prince Abdulaziz, as quoted by Motorsport.com.
“I told him openly and frankly that you can speak to me. Let’s sit down, discuss what are your issues, and understand where we are, because a lot of these things, you read a lot about Saudi Arabia but you don’t see what are the details.
“We could have said we don’t want a headache, let the international community condemn us as much as they like and have controversy but no one interferes.
“We’re here for an open discussion and that’s what I said, with the FIA and F1. We should sit together and understand the situation, because we’re here together.
“That is why I openly spoke to the drivers, and spoke to Lewis directly, saying that if you want to discuss these issues, you’re more than welcome to discuss it with me because he was saying that he couldn’t find anyone to discuss it with.
“So I’m ready to sit with him. I think a lot of these issues ignite because there is no communication and there is no understanding of what’s happening.
“It’s a small world today in terms of communication, but we really live in different parts of the world with different cultures and different mindsets. We’re open to discussion, we’re open to all of that and we’re happy to do so.”
Price Abdulaziz said that before the race weekend, he had spoken to Vettel, who like Hamilton had been critical of the nation.
So, he went on to do what Prince Abdulaziz had suggested, which was to “talk to the people”.
“I did speak to Seb last year, and I told him, ‘listen, thank you for doing that’, for you to understand more, don’t talk to us, talk to the people,” said Prince Abdulaziz.
“And definitely, that’s the message we give to everyone.
“I’m not saying that we’re perfect. I’m not saying that we’re the best in the world. We have our issues, yes. But we are solving them, and we’re moving forward with the pace that we can move on with.
“We sometimes move very quickly, but sometimes some things change a lot slower. These are very complicated issues that we need to all take care about. And we’re doing it for us, we’re doing it because we believe that we need to prosper in this area. And if we do that, then everyone else really rises up towards where we are.
“It’s our duty to make sure that the future is prosperous for our children, and everyone who wants to live in the kingdom and the area.”
Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Review - Torquing Point
Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez, Max Verstappen and Nicholas Latifi's performances at the Saudi Arabian GP are reviewed on the latest episode of Torquing Point.