Formula 1: Saudi Grand Prix to go ahead despite Jeddah attack
(Motorsport) The Saudi Grand Prix is set to go ahead despite an attack on an oil depot close to the Jeddah circuit, with Formula 1 authorities receiving complete reassurance about safety from the Saudi Arabia government. Seven miles from the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, an Aramco oil depot was set ablaze during the first practice and the smoke was visible from the track. Since then, Yemen’s Houthis rebels have claimed responsibility for the attack.
The first practice continued as expected but there was a 15 minute delay in the second practice session F1 president Domenicali and the FIA's Mohammed Ben Sulayem met with drivers and team principals. There was another meeting held after the second practice session which included the Saudi delegation after which the Saudi Grand Prix was confirmed to go ahead.
Speaking after the meeting, Domenicali said “We have received total assurance of the country's safety first. They have placed all the systems to protect this area. So, we feel confident that we have to trust the local authority in that respect. We will of course go ahead with the event."
Mohammed Ben Sulayem added “We had meetings with the high level security then we had meetings with the team principals and the drivers," the FIA president said. "And to assure you that, they are targeting the infrastructure of the economy, not the civilians and, of course, not the track. Of course we have checked the facts from them and we have had the assurance from the high authorities of the safety here and let's go racing."
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said: "It was a good meeting, the drivers are going to talk now at a drivers' meeting. We are the team principals, we've been assured we are protected here and it's probably the safest place you can be in Saudi Arabia at the moment and that's why we are racing. [It was a unanimous decision] By the team principals, yes."
Red Bull principal Christian Horner added: "I think the sport has to stand together collectively. Any act of terrorism cannot be condoned and sport shouldn't be bullied into a position - a situation like that just isn't acceptable. Stefano and the president are dealing with it, there has been all of the assurances from the organisers and we'll be going racing."
Drivers, whose scheduled media commitments were cancelled, held the Friday briefing as per usual along with the race director. The talks continued for four hours and into the early hours of Saturday morning, after which the drivers agreed to participate in the race. A statement by Formula 1 said “We are aware of the attack on the Aramco distribution station in Jeddah earlier this afternoon.
“The race organisers remain in direct contact with the Saudi security authorities, as well as F1 and the FIA to ensure all necessary security and safety measures continue to be implemented to guarantee the safety of all visitors to the Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as well as all drivers, teams and stakeholders. The race weekend schedule will continue as planned. The safety and security of all our guests continues to be our main priority and we look forward to welcoming fans for a weekend of premium racing and entertainment."
Formula 1 team Mercedes and Kingspan mutually end controversial deal
(Motorsport) In light of heavy criticism, Formula 1 team Mercedes and Kingspan have mutually agreed to end their partnership after the deal was announced last week. Kingspan is the firm that made some of the insulation used on Grenfell Tower which caught fire in 2017 and killed 72 people. The Kingspan logo appeared in both Hamilton and Bottas’ cars at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix for the first and last time with the partnership ending with immediate effect following the announcement.
In a statement released by Mercedes, they said “The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team and Kingspan today announced that they have mutually agreed to end their partnership. Announced last week, the new partnership included Kingspan chairing a new Sustainability Working Group for the team, and aimed to deliver carbon reductions through their leading-edge environmentally sustainable solutions for the team's future campus. However, both parties have subsequently concluded that it is not appropriate for the partnership to move forward at the current point in time, notwithstanding its intended positive impact, and we have therefore agreed that it will be discontinued with immediate effect."
The deal received widespread condemnation after it was announced last week, particularly from the Grenfell Group that represents the survivors and bereaved families who demanded that the agreement be severed and that it was “truly shocking”. Grenfell United sent a letter to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff who apologized for "additional hurt that this announcement has caused" and accepted the offer to meet with the group. The sponsorship deal was also criticised by Michael Grove, secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities who also wrote a letter to Wolff, urging him to reconsider the deal and warning that failure to do so might prompt the British government to change advertising rules for motorsport.
Kingspan also released a statement that said “"We are deeply aware of the sensitivities raised in recent days, and so we have jointly agreed that it's not appropriate to move forward at the current point in time. Much has been written about this over the past few days, and out of consideration for our customers and all the great people who work for us, we believe we must respond. We had no role in the Grenfell Tower refurbishment. However, our Kingspan Insulation UK business is a core participant in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and fully supports the Inquiry's important work.
"We understand that this is a complex topic, but there are some important facts that we would like to explain: 1. We did not make the exterior cladding on Grenfell Tower. The Inquiry itself has stated that "the principal reason" for rapid fire spread on Grenfell was the Polyethylene cored ACM cladding used on the exterior of the building. No facade system using this PE ACM cladding, regardless of the insulation used, would have passed the necessary large-scale system fire test. Our K15 insulation board was misused in this unsafe and non-compliant system.
"2. We did not supply or recommend K15 to Grenfell Tower. K15 made up approximately 5% of the insulation layer of the façade system. It was substituted without our knowledge. 3. We have completed new tests which support the previous fire safety claims of the three historical K15 large-scale system tests which came into question during the Inquiry process. We condemn in the strongest possible terms the wholly unacceptable historical conduct and emails which emerged throughout the course of the Inquiry discovery process. We have sincerely apologised for these actions by a small group of employees at our Kingspan Insulation UK business. This in no way reflects Kingspan's culture or values."
Mercedes are currently favourites for the Constructors Championship heading into the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi with a 28 point lead over second place Red Bull. The Drivers Championship is a lot closer with both Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton level on points with 369.5 and the winner at the Yas Marina Circuit will be crowned champion.
Formula 1 calendar adds the Qatar Grand Prix with a 10 year agreement in place
(Motorsport news) The maiden Qatar Grand Prix is set to take place on November 21st at the Losail International Circuit and the country will now have a permanent place in the Formula 1 calendar from 2023.
With the Formula 1 season heating up as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s pursuit for the Drivers Championship becomes more intense than ever before, Doha will be the venue which will fill the spot vacant after the Australian Grand Prix’s cancellation and is first of the three venues in the Middle East to finish the season. The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will take place on December 3rd and 10th respectively.
Formula 1 President and CEO Stefano Domenicali had this to say upon the confirmation of a 10 year agreement “We are very pleased to welcome Qatar to the Formula 1 calendar this season and for the longer term from 2023. We have shown that we can continue to adapt and there is huge interest in our sport and the hope from many locations to have a Grand Prix. The huge effort from all the teams, F1 and the FIA has made it possible to deliver a 22-race calendar, something that is very impressive during a challenging year and something we can all be proud of."
The country has a longstanding history of hosting MotoGP, being an integral part of their calendar since 2004. Qatar will also be hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022, a year before the 10 year agreement will begin with Formula 1. A statement from Formula 1 said “There was a strong will from Qatar to be helpful to F1, and in the course of this process, the vision for a longer partnership was discussed and agreed for 10 years.
"The step from the gesture to be helpful to F1 in 2021 to a long term strategy was short and simple and the vision for F1 to be the showcase for Qatar after the FIFA World Cup in 2022 was the driving force behind this long term agreement. As part of the longer-term deal, discussions will continue regarding the location for the Grand Prix from 2023 with further details to be provided at a later time."
Formula 1’s Japanese Grand Prix cancelled due to rising COVID-19 cases
(Motorsport news) This season’s Japanese Grand Prix, originally scheduled for 8th to 10th October has been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation in Japan. Out of the 23 races of the season, Japan was due to be the 17th and now joins the list alongside Australia, China, Canada and Singapore where the races have been cancelled.
In a statement issued by Formula 1, they said “The decision has been taken by the Japanese government to cancel the race this season due to ongoing complexities of the pandemic."
"Formula 1 is working on the details of the revised calendar and will announce the final details in the coming weeks."
This is the second year in a row that Formula 1 has not taken place in Japan due to the pandemic and the 2019 event was disrupted due to the Typhoon Hagibis. The 2021 calendar will conclude for the first time ever with the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on 5th December followed by the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit a week later.
Also read: F1 mid season review: Hamilton vs Verstappen rivalry is just getting started