Domenicali: F1 not “blind” to concerns over Saudi GP future
In the wake of a difficult weekend for F1, following a missile strike on an oil storage facility less than 10 miles from the Jeddah circuit, the fate of the race hung in the balance.
While F1 chiefs were confident about security at the venue after briefing from Saudi authorities, drivers were more uneasy about the situation and held a four-hour meeting on Friday night to discuss a potential boycott.
In the end, following talks with team principals, Saudi representatives and senior F1 figures, the drivers agreed that it would be better if they committed to competing.
But while the decisions made in Jeddah were focused only on getting through the race weekend, talks are set to take imminently about whether or not F1 should return.
While some within the paddock are comfortable having Saudi Arabia on the calendar, others have more concerns about the security situation and the negativity that has surrounded the sport over recent days.
Domenicali is well aware that Saudi’s presence on the schedule it not without some controversy, but thinks it is wrong to suggest that there are big question marks over its future.
Speaking to Sky, Domenicali said: “I think that it’s not a matter of question mark. It is a matter of understanding the situation.
“We are not blind, but we don’t have to forget one thing: that this country, also through F1 and the sport on which we believe, is doing a massive step forward.
“You cannot pretend to change a culture that is more than a millennium in a blink of an eye. The resources they’re putting in place to move forward you can see here.
FIA president Mohammed bin Sulayem and F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali addressing the media in the wake of a missile strike near the Jeddah track
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
“Don’t forget, a couple of years ago, women couldn’t drive, and they’re here on the grid, cheering the kids. They’re partying, they’re seeing the sport, they are changing a lot of laws in order to make sure that this is happening. We don’t have to not consider that.
“Of course, there are tensions inside, there are things that have to be improved. We don’t want to be political on that.
“But I do believe that we are playing a very important role in the modernisation of this country. We are focused, of course, on making sure that these are the centre of our agenda.”
While some have suggested F1 has been hypocritical in cancelling the Russian Grand Prix because of its war with Ukraine, but pushing on with Saudi Arabia despite its conflict in Yemen, Domenicali sees things differently.
“It is a matter of definition, is a terrorist attack a war?” he explained.
“We are talking about sport, we are of course in contact with all the authorities and with all the embassies, with all the right governing bodies.
“And of course, we will follow that and we will never be in a situation that can jeopardise the safety of our people.”