Following the terror scare in Jeddah on Friday, Lewis Hamilton admitted he was relieved the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend ended with “everyone safe.”
Given the country’s history of human rights abuses and its attitude on LGBTQ+ laws, F1’s presence in Saudi Arabia had previously been called into doubt, including by Hamilton himself, following the sport’s inaugural visit in December last year.
Over 100 individuals have been slaughtered in mass executions since the turn of the year, with 81 killed on March 12 alone, adding to the pressure. Most surprising, before the weekend action began, seven-time champion Hamilton disclosed that he had received a heartbreaking letter from a 14-year-old on death row.
When a Yemeni Houthi-claimed strike destroyed a nearby Aramco oil depot in Jeddah, the backdrop for free practice was filled with smoke and flames, moral worries changed to safety issues. Following extensive conversations between drivers, team executives, F1, the FIA, race promoters, and Saudi officials, the weekend continued.
“I’m so happy the weekend is done and I’m happy that everyone is safe,” Speaking shortly after the race concluded, Hamilton said. “I’m just looking forward to getting out.”
“I just want to go home,” he said when asked whether he had any qualms about returning next year.
Hamilton took a surprise podium in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix when Red Bull suffered a double retirement, but any relief from Mercedes’ problems was wiped out in Jeddah.
It was a disappointing weekend for Hamilton after finishing 10th in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, the Briton failed to move from Q1 in qualifying before a late virtual safety car conspired against him.
“Balance-wise, the car felt good, but just not fast enough,” explained Hamilton.”The end result isn’t great but the race was going relatively well.”
“I was struggling with tyre temperatures at the beginning but then I started to gain on the cars ahead on the medium tyre, it was a really good stint.”
“I was keeping up with George and putting in some decent lap times considering how old the hard tyres were at the end.”
“We were unlucky with how the VSC played out but I was giving it everything.”
“[Qualifying] made the weekend so much harder and I take that on my shoulders.”
“It’s gutting but we need to keep fighting, it’s all we can do – I know I’ve got a great team and we’ll just keep our heads down.”