Formula One bosses have said Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will go ahead despite an attack on a nearby fuel depot during practice. Black smoke billowed across the Jeddah circuit as seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and his fellow drivers took part in the first action of the weekend.
World champion Max Verstappen reported to his Red Bull team over the radio that he could detect the smoke. “I smell a bit of a burning feeling,” he said. “I am not sure if it is my car, or another car.”
The al-Masirah satellite news channel run by Yemen’s 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 on Sunday. Shortly after the summit, race organisers said the grand prix - only the second to be staged in Saudi Arabia - will go ahead as scheduled.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was quickest across Friday’s practice ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, while Mercedes appeared to struggle for pace throughout the day.
Follow all the F1 news and updates from practice ahead of the Saudi GP below:
Max Verstappen explains difficulty driving after Red Bull’s self-inflicted problem in Bahrain
Max Verstappen has revealed the extent of Red Bull’s self-inflicted problems during the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Dutchman’s defence of his maiden F1 world title got off to a disastrous start, with both Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez failing to finish at the Bahrain International Circuit.
The 24-year-old had appeared set to take second behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, but an issue with his car’s fuelling system meant he could not continue and took no points after a retirement.
Also, after his second pit-stop, the Red Bull mechanics dropped Verstappen’s car too quickly, bending a track rod connecting to one of his wheels and making the car “really difficult to drive”.
Verstappen had to contend with a significant issue before being forced out of the Bahrain Grand Prix
Formula 1 set for talks with Netflix after claims Drive to Survive ‘faked’ drama
Formula 1 will meet with Netflix to discuss the future of popular documentary Drive to Survive after accusations that the show “faked” drama.
The fourth series premiered ahead of the 2022 F1 season and has again returned apparently strong viewership among subscribers to the streaming platform giants.
Credited with causing an expansion of the sport’s audience, particularly in the US, Drive to Survive has also been criticised for manipulating footage to present certain narratives that may not be true to what happened.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen declined to take part in the latest series and said that the show had “faked a few rivalries which don’t really exist”.
Stefano Domenicali, the CEO of F1, insists that the show is beneficial for the sport, but also believes “a dialogue is needed” to ensure that both Netflix and the drivers are happy.
Carlos Sainz reveals Ferrari team orders plan for Formula 1 championship fight
Carlos Sainz has been revealed Ferrari’s plan for possible team orders if one of the team’s drivers is competing for the Formula 1 world championship later in the season.
The Spaniard and team-mate Charles Leclerc are driving what seems to be the fastest car on the grid at this early stage of the campaign, and the Monegasque took victory with Sainz in second at the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix last weekend.
Former McLaren driver Sainz says either team-mate will be happy to help the other if one is competing for the title, but that the ideal is for both to be battling one another for glory.
“The team will allow us to compete and race each other,” Scuderiafans quotes Sainz as having told Spanish radio show The Great Match of COPE.
The Spaniard helped bring home a 1-2 for Ferrari at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton opens up on his purpose beyond Formula 1 career
Lewis Hamilton has expressed his belief that he must continue to use his “platform” to “apply pressure in an uncomfortable way” and create positive change in Formula 1.
The seven-time world champion has spoken prominently on several social issues, including the need for greater diversity within F1 and - revealing that his perspective has changed as he has gotten older - Hamilton has outlined a need to continue to try and “spark change” from within the sport.
Hamilton told Sky Sports: “My role here, I think, is to continue to hold those conversations, sit with Stefano [Domenicali, F1’s CEO] and say: ‘What are you doing and how can we work together?’
Hamilton say his perspective on his role in the sport has changed as he has aged
Mercedes eyeing ‘easy gains’ to close gap on Ferrari and Red Bull in Saudi Arabia
Mercedes have said that there are “easy gains” to be made as the German team target an improved performance at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Despite winning the last eight constructors’ championships, the outfit have struggled with overhauled regulations ahead of the season, with “porpoising” and a lack of race pace causing particular difficulties.
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell overcame the issues to finish third and fourth at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix after both Red Bull drivers were forced to retire but Mercedes will now look to close the gap in performance between their new W13 car and their potential title rivals Red Bull and Ferrari.
While recognising that there are significant problems, trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin believes that quick improvements can be made to avoid an extended slow start to the season.
“We just did a de-brief with the drivers and there is a lot of everything [wrong],” Shovlin told the F1 Nation podcast, “There’s bouncing, the balance is poor, there is a lack of low-speed grip, we’re struggling on traction, the drivability could be better, the tyre warm-up is not good enough, the car is a bit on the heavy side.
“There’s a lot to improve which gives us some encouragement. I think we’ll get some easy gains, there’s some low-hanging fruit and what we’re hoping is that we can get those in the next race or two.”
Mercedes recorded credible third and fourth placed finishes in Bahrain despite struggles with their cars
Mika Hakkinen predicts ‘sensitive’ Lewis Hamilton could become ‘irritated’ by George Russell
Mika Hakkinen has predicted that Lewis Hamilton may become “irritated” by a lack of support from new Mercedes teammate George Russell.
Russell joined the German team from Williams in the off-season to partner his fellow Briton Hamilton on the 2022 F1 grid and Hakkinen believes the partnership may not be as stable as the close teamwork utilised by Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, now of Alfa Romeo, during five seasons alongside one another that brought Mercedes significant sustained success.
Describing his fellow Finn’s teamwork as “perfect”, Hakkinen thinks a “sensitive” Hamilton could suffer due to the change from Bottas to Russell.
“I believe and I know from my experience that Lewis is relatively sensitive,” Hakkinen, the 1998 and 1999 world champion, told the Unibet YouTube channel.
“He is a sensitive person. When Valtteri was Lewis’ teammate, the teamwork was perfect. Now, the support he’s going to get from Russell… The teamwork could be lost. That’s where Lewis can become irritated.”
Russell joined Mercedes from Williams as Valtteri Bottas’ replacement ahead of the 2022 season
George Russell admits to being a ‘bit of a d***’ after Valtteri Bottas crash at Imola
George Russell says he regrets his argument with Valtteri Bottas after the pair’s high-speed crash at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola last season, admitting that the exchange made him look like “a bit of a d***”.
Russell, who was driving for Williams, collided with Bottas after trying to pass the Mercedes on the outside of the long straight in wet conditions at Imola. Russell accused Bottas of pushing him onto the grass verge before losing control of his car and crashing into the Finn, sending both drivers into the wall.
The pair were unharmed after the crash, which caused a 23-minute red flag stoppage, and Russell then confronted Bottas while he remained in his car, slapping his helmet before Bottas replied with a middle finger.
Over this team radio, Russell also fumed: “What the f*** was he doing? Honestly. Is he a f***ing p***k or what?”. The exchange was also captured in the latest season of Netflix’s Drive to Survive, where Russell was also shown calling Bottas a “c***”.
Russell and Bottas exchanged words after the high-speed collision at last season’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix
Alpine women become first to drive F1 cars in Saudi Arabia
Alpine have provided two women with the opportunity to drive an F1 car in Saudi Arabia ahead of this weekend’s grand prix in Jeddah.
Saudi driver Aseel Al Hamad and Alpine academy prospect Abbi Pulling took part in a demonstration run around the streets of Jeddah in the team’s E20 car.
Alpine have said Al Hamad and Pulling are the first women to drive a F1 car in the country, where the ban on allowing women to drive was only lifted in 2018.
Al Hamad, who previously drove the Alpine E20 ahead of the French Grand Prix in 2018, is Saudi Arabia’s representative on the FIA’s Women in Motorsport Commission while Pulling is set to compete in this season’s W-Series.
The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix returns this weekend amid criticism of the country’s human rights record
Toto Wolff plays down talk of big Mercedes improvement at Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has dismissed suggestions from his own team that they are set to close the gap on Ferrari and Red Bull with an improved performance at the Saudi Arabinan Grand Prix this weekend.
The defending constructors champions have come into the new season struggling with the aerodynamics on their W13 following the overhaul of regulations, with both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell suffering from ‘porpoising’ due to the balance of the car.
It has left Mercedes short of the race pace set by Ferrari and Red Bull and although Hamilton was able to salvage a podium place behind Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, it was clear improvement is required in order to challenge for the title this year.
The short turnaround between the race in Bahrain and this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix has left Mercedes with little time to make significant adjustments, but the team’s trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said there are “easy gains” to be made ahead of the return to Jeddah.
But Wolff, who said earlier this week that Mercedes would have to take a “chainsaw” to the W13 car, was less optimistic when asked about the improvements his team could make ahead of the second race of the campaign this weekend.
A key Mercedes engineer had suggested there are some ‘easy gains’ to be made at the race this weekend but Wolff sounded less optimistic
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