Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to go ahead despite missile attack near Jeddah circuit

An airplane flies over a smouldering fire at a Saudi Aramco oil depot after the Yemen Houthi rebel attack. Credit: AP

Formula One has confirmed the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will go ahead despite Friday’s missile attack 12 miles from the Jeddah Circuit. A nearby fuel depot was attacked as drivers took part in Friday’s first practice session, with black smoke billowing across the circuit. In a joint statement on Saturday morning, F1 and its governing body, the FIA, said they have been provided “full and detailed assurances that the event is secure”.

The fire began on Friday and Yemen's Houthis rebels have acknowledged their part to play in the blaze. Credit: AP

A statement released ahead of qualifying on Saturday read: “Formula One and the FIA can confirm that following discussions with all the teams and drivers, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will continue as scheduled. “Following the widely reported incident that took place in Jeddah on Friday, there has been extensive discussion between all stakeholders, the Saudi government authorities and security agencies who have given full and detailed assurances that the event is secure. “It has been agreed with all stakeholders to maintain a clear and open dialogue throughout the event and for the future.”

Lewis Hamilton steers his car during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix in Jiddah. Credit: AP

Lewis Hamilton and his fellow drivers met for nearly four hours in the Jeddah paddock on Friday night, and into the early hours of Saturday morning. And by the end of the crisis summit, it is understood that the drivers were united in not wanting to race. But the second round of the new season now looks set to continue, albeit overshadowed by Friday’s attack, with qualifying due to take place at 8pm local time (5pm UK).

Lewis Hamilton has said that he feels uncomfortable racing in Saudi Arabia. Credit: PA

Hamilton, a seven-time world champion, has said that he feels uncomfortable racing in Saudi Arabia, which executed 81 people in a single day this month.

The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, claimed more than half of the 81 were killed for taking part in pro-democracy protests.

Speaking ahead of last year’s race, Hamilton said: “Do I feel comfortable here? I wouldn’t say I do.”

And on Friday, the 37-year-old added: “My position is still the same as last year. It is obviously mind-blowing to hear the stories."

“I have heard there is a letter that has been sent to me from a 14-year-old who is on death row here. At 14, you don’t know what the hell you are doing in life. “We don’t decide where we go to race in Formula One, but while it is not necessarily our responsibility, we are duty-bound to try and do what we can."

Doubts were raised that the Grand Prix would not go ahead as scheduled in light of the attack, claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels, who have been embroiled in war with a Saudi-led coalition for seven years.

The al-Masirah satellite news channel -run by the Houthi rebels- claimed they had attacked an Aramco facility in Jeddah.

The same fuel depot, 12 miles to the east of the track, was attacked last Sunday.