The second Practice for this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Formula One Grand Prix was delayed after Yemeni rebels assaulted an oil plant, causing a massive fire that could be seen from the street circuit in Jeddah.
The second session was scheduled to begin at 15:15 local time (16:15 GMT), which received a 15-minute delay. During opening practice, drivers and team workers smelled the massive fire that raced through the adjacent Aramco oil plant.
The Saudi Aramco oil store in Jeddah went up in flames, about 10 miles from the circuit where the Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will be held this weekend. According to the Associated Press, Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the strike, which sent smoke rising during the weekend’s first practice session.
A missile strike on the plant is thought to have caused the damage, which is the latest in a series of attacks on similar facilities in the country in recent weeks. While the North Jeddah facility was targeted, the Ras Tanura and Rabigh refineries on the opposite side of Saudi Arabia, to the east, were also targeted by drones, according to Reuters.
“I smell burning – is it my car?” said world champion Max Verstappen, who was second in the opening session for his Red Bull team.
A statement from Formula One management said: “We are waiting for further information from the authorities on what has happened.”
Shortly before the start of second practice, the drivers met with race organizers, Formula One administration, and teams for a meeting.
As the fire burned in the distance at 5:40 p.m. local time, F1 continued its practice session (10:40 a.m. ET). Free Practice 2, which was due to begin at 8 p.m. local time, likewise went on as planned with only a 15-minute delay.
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali allegedly briefed the teams and drivers on how the sport planned to handle the events prior to the postponement.
All current drivers, as well as team principals, were given the most up-to-date information on the attack and what F1 planned to do in response.
Due to the proximity of the meeting to the start of practice, it was announced prior to the intended start time of 8 p.m. that it would be postponed to provide drivers adequate time to prepare for running. The delay was 15 minutes long.
Later this weekend, F1 is likely to publish a formal statement outlining its response to the incidents.