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:
Saudi Arabia GP free practice 1
Max Verstappen leads the field in these early laps with a quickest lap time of 1:34.167 on hard tyres. Lewis Hamilton is out on track too and has just put in a lap time of 1:35.711.
Saudi Arabia GP free practice 1
Saudi Arabia GP free practice 1
Here we go then. The start of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend. Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon come out onto the track first up with Zhou Guanyu also heading out for Alpha Romeo.
Lewis Hamilton remains uncomfortable as F1 season lands in Saudi Arabia
Formula One is back in Jeddah this weekend for the second round of the new campaign following the country’s debut appearance in December.
Speaking ahead of last year’s race, seven-time world champion Hamilton said: “Do I feel comfortable here? I wouldn’t say I do.”
On Friday, human rights’ group, Reprieve, said a further 16 people have been killed since the mass execution of 81 men on March 12.
The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, claimed more than half of the 81 were killed for taking part in pro-democracy protests.
“My position is still the same as last year”, said Hamilton, 37. “It is obviously mind-blowing to hear the stories.”
The country’s human rights record has been openly discussed.
Saudi Arabian Grand Prix practice starts today
The second grand prix weekend of the Formula 1 season starts today with two rounds of practice at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Saudi Arabia. Here’s what’s in store today:
Free Practice 1: 2-3pm
Free Practice 2: 5-6pm
Toto Wolff ranks top three Formula 1 drivers with George Russell preferred to Max Verstappen
Russell came aboard the Mercedes team this season and recorded a fourth-place finish in Bahrain last weekend at his first grand prix under Wolff. When asked by Sport Bild who the most talented current drivers are, the boss replied: “[Lewis] Hamilton, George Russell and Max Verstappen. In that order.”
Russell joined Mercedes this season and finished fourth in his first grand prix for the team
‘It went absolutely crazy’: The F1 photographer who captured Max Verstappen’s dramatic world title win
As the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix meandered towards a seemingly anticlimactic finish, photographer Mark Thompson watched on from a deflated Red Bull garage anticipating an early night. “With 15 minutes to go I was in the garage thinking ‘we’re not going to win this’,” he remembers. “You’re almost in neutral, you’re thinking this is an early night, that’s the way it goes. Then, bang! All of a sudden we were winning and everything went mental. It went absolutely crazy.”
Thompson is no stranger to the chaos of F1 having photographed every grand prix for 24 years (“which is either really cool or really sad,” he says, “whichever way you look at it”) before Covid ended his streak. A colourful career for Getty Images has entailed uncompromising drivers, blagging his way on to hotel balconies in Monaco for the perfect shot and partying for two days straight when Red Bull won their first championship. But even for someone who has seen F1 from every angle in every light, in all hours of the day in all corners of the globe, this race through the eyes of this team was utterly, uniquely breathtaking.
Interview: Getty Images and Red Bull photographer Mark Thompson discusses that night in Abu Dhabi, Formula One glamour, blagging his way on to Monaco rooftops and his historic image of Max Verstappen
Saudi Arabian Grand Prix track changes revealed after driver criticism
The FIA have revealed the changes made to the controversial high-speed speed circuit at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix ahead of this weekend’s race following criticism from drivers over the safety of the track.
Last season’s inaugural race at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit saw two red flags and a number of high-speed crashes, with drivers highlighting the danger of blind corners and the narrowness of the barriers.
While the track was a hit with many drivers due to its speed and difficulty, George Russell, the representative of the F1 drivers union, said the circuit was “lacking a lot from a safety perspective”.
Formula One returns to Jeddah this weekend for the second race of the season, after the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix moved up the 2022 calendar, and Niels Wittich, the FIA’s race director, has confirmed the changes that have been made.
Race organisers said minor tweaks had been made at several corners, including Turns 2, 3, 14 and 21, to improve visibility with the barriers moved back by around 1.5 metres to reveal more of the corner upon entry.
The FIA and Saudi Grand Prix race organisers have listened to driver feedback in making the adjustments to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit
Max Verstappen details difficulty in Bahrain after Red Bull mistake
Max Verstappen has explained the difficulty he experienced in Bahrain after his second pit stop saw his Red Bull mechanics drop the RB18 car to the ground too quickly, causing a track rod to bend.
“The steering issue was not easy to drive [around] because of not having a feeling of what the car was doing because it was not natural,” explained Verstappen.
“You can lose power steering and it is just heavy but this was almost stuck in places so it was really difficult to drive.
“Of course, the big problem was what happened afterwards where it looked like there was no fuel coming to the engine and basically everything just turned off so I rolled back into the pit lane.”
What time is Saudi Arabia Grand Prix practice and how can I watch it?
In what was the penultimate race of the thrilling 2021 campaign, Hamilton moved level on points with Verstappen but only after he accused his title rival of “brake-testing” as they clashed on the track.
It also came after Verstappen crashed in qualifying as he closed in on pole position, so there are set to be plenty more twists and turns as Formula One returns to the fastest street circuit on the calendar.
Ferrari are the team to beat after last week’s sensational one-two at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix and Mercedes will be aiming to see an improvement in their performance following their early struggles.
We should get some early clues as the opening practice sessions take place in Jeddah today ahead of this weekend’s Grand Prix. Here’s everything you need to know:
Everything you need to know ahead of today’s practice sessions
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