Driver boycott avoided after tense Saudi GP talks

Jamie Woodhouse
Formula 1 officials go into a Saudi Arabian Grand Prix meeting. March 2022.

Formula 1 officials go into a meeting regarding the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. March 2022.

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is still set to go ahead after fresh doubt emerged following a drivers’ meeting which lasted over four hours.

Serious question marks over the continuation of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix emerged on Friday, with news of a suspected missile attack on a nearby Aramco oil refinery breaking during practice.

Smoke could be seen in the sky from the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, with flames visible once night fell.

As F1 bosses met before the start of FP2, the session was delayed by 15 minutes, but it did commence and was completed before further discussions took place after the session.

With the team bosses all in agreement and the safety of all those at the track assured, it was confirmed that the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will continue as planned.

But, this was followed by a meeting with the drivers, which was nowhere near as swift.

Formula 1 president and CEO Stefano Domenicali was called in to get involved with proceedings. Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell could be clearly seen from the pictures.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly was photographed too speaking with Hamilton.

From there further reinforcements arrived as Ross Brawn, Formula 1’s managing director entered the room.

The meeting rolled on past midnight, with Alpine’s Fernando Alonso sharing his thoughts with the rest of the drivers.

With a large media presence outside of the meeting room, after 150 minutes of talks, Brawn and Domenicali left, but the drivers have carried on with discussions as the clock ticked past 0100 local time.

Remember the whole team bosses were ready to carry on stuff? Well, the situation shifted again as they returned to the meeting.

Red Bull principal Christian Horner could be seen heading back in.

Poor Mattia had probably nodded off by the time the call came for him to return to the track.

As the clock ticked past 0200am local time in Jeddah, the team principals left the meeting again to head for Race Control, while the drivers stayed put.

Eventually, as it had seemed was the case, it became clear that the drivers were not on the same page as their team bosses and were not, as a group, comfortable about going racing.

At last we had some movement. The drivers some four hours later were out of the meeting room. Most drivers left the meeting room by the rear entrance. GPDA director Russell went with McLaren principal Andreas Seidl to meet with other team bosses and Domencali.

And Horner seemed pretty confident that the race was still on.

With Fernando Alonso heard saying “see you tomorrow” as the drivers left the track, while McLaren’s Zak Brown echoed Horner’s words that we are still going racing, it further suggested that the Saudi Arabian GP was still on.