<
>

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix working with F1 to address race safety concerns

play
Large cloud of smoke visible after attack on oil depot in Saudi Arabia (0:26)

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will go ahead as planned despite a missile attack on a nearby oil facility. (0:26)

Saudi Arabia's minister of sport, Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal, says he has met with Formula One's teams and drivers in attempt to allay concerns over the safety of next year's race in Jeddah.

F1's drivers came close to boycotting this year's event in March after a missile attack on a nearby oil depot raised security concerns.

The attack took place five days before the introduction of a cease-fire between Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen, who claimed responsibility for the Jeddah attack, and a Saudi-led coalition backing the Yemeni government.

However, the cease-fire in Yemen lapsed on Sunday, raising concerns of a return to violence in the area.

Prince Abdulaziz said he met with key figures in F1, including the drivers, after this year's race in an attempt to address concerns about the safety of racing in Saudi Arabia -- the 2023 edition will take place on March 19.

"We are working with F1 to make sure that any concerns that any of the drivers, teams or individuals, even the fans, that we make sure that we fulfil these concerns," he told a small group of reporters in Singapore last weekend. "We know that it's safe, but we need to explain what measures have been done.

"More than 4,000 troops were deployed during that event [this year] just to make sure, because when these things happen you are afraid people that want to aggravate on this will pick up on it, so we just made sure no one affects the safety of the event and the city. For us safety and security is even bigger than Formula One, it's about a nation, so that's our No. 1 priority.

"We met personally with all the team principals, and I met personally with all the drivers. We spoke about all of these issues and we have open dialogue with them now. Any requests and any concerns that they have, they hear from us, the officials, directly on these issues. I hope it continues as a cease-fire and nothing happens at the next event."

Asked what concerns the drivers had raised, Prince Abdulaziz added: "Most of the concerns were about the security, really. It was a frightening event.

"I was on the plane when it happened, so I had to divert to Medina airport and then fly back to Jeddah and come to the track directly to speak to the drivers. So, it wasn't a perfect scenario to start your weekend.

"But we have to learn from these situations. If you see the world today, it could happen anywhere and if we don't stay united, work together to make it a better example that we can actually have something good out of this then I think that's what we all intentionally agree on moving forward.

"We know that we have some concerns regarding some issues. We're not perfect and we never claimed that we are but at least we're learning from our experiences and we're taking action to make it a better in the future."

Prince Abdulaziz stressed that the area around the circuit and city was secure during the event and the same measures would be in place for next year's race.

"This wasn't the first time that it happens in Saudi. It happened during that weekend but almost every month we used to have it.

"My experience and our experience within this that we haven't had any casualties so far, luckily. So that shows you that the level of security is high. Mostly the areas that are not, I know that it happened close, but it wasn't the airport, it's kind of further away from where there is population or activities that are happening.

"You can't cover the whole kingdom and say no, nothing is going to happen. But you secure the most important areas which are populated and there's more people and that's what we have already. So, the city is secure, the location is secure. But I think we learn as well from other experiences. So, we share the information with the person who is responsible for security in F1."