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Saudi Grand Prix weekend to continue despite attacks

jeddah fire formula 1 F1 saudi grand prix cancel

Formula 1’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will go ahead as planned, organizers said following attacks on a facility owned by oil giant Aramco near the race track in Jeddah on Friday while FP2 was going on.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis said they launched attacks on Saudi energy facilities on Friday and the Saudi-led coalition said Aramco’s petroleum products distribution station in Jeddah was hit, causing a fire in two tanks but no casualties.

“We carried out several drone and ballistic missile strikes,” including an “Aramco installation in Jeddah (and) vital facilities in Riyadh,” Iranian-backed Houthi rebels said in a statement.

“We are aware of the attack on the Aramco distribution station in Jeddah earlier this afternoon,” said race promoter Saudi Motorsport Company in a statement.

“The race organizers remain in direct contact with the Saudi security authorities, as well as F1 and (governing body) FIA to ensure all necessary security and safety measures continue to be implemented…

“The race weekend schedule will continue as planned,” it said, adding organizers looked forward to welcoming fans for a weekend of “premium racing and entertainment.”

Jeddah race weekend schedule to continue as planned

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A huge plume of black smoke could be seen rising over Jeddah to the east of the track located on the shores of the Red Sea as cars went around the street circuit during Friday’s first practice, which went ahead as planned.

A subsequent qualifying session for feeder series Formula 2 also went ahead on schedule. The flames continued to rage into the night as pictured above.

The start of the second session of practice was delayed by 15 minutes with teams and drivers called into a meeting with F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali.

“Formula One has been in close contact with the relevant authorities following the situation that took place today,” said a spokesperson.

“The authorities have confirmed that the event can continue as planned and we will remain in close contact with them and all the teams and closely monitor the situation.”

The Iran-aligned Houthi movement has been battling a coalition led by Saudi Arabia for seven years

In the videos shared on social networks, smoke rose near the F1 track in Jedá, where drivers and teams participated in free practice this Friday.

Red Bull world champion Max Verstappen reported to his team that he could smell the flames while driving.

As a result of the attacks, the second round of free practice sessions of the Saudi Arabian Formula 1 Grand Prix, scheduled for the night, were delayed. The session began at 20:15 local (17:15 GMT), a quarter of an hour later than planned.

Before the second round of free practice, team bosses met with the F1 chief, Stefano Domenicali, to discuss the situation, the AFP noted; the outcome and details of the meeting are unknown at this stage.

The rebels claimed a total of 16 attacks on several targets, including a power station in Jizan, on the border with Yemen, which was set on fire as part of a daily assault on high profile targets.

Similar attacks were reported during the Formula E weekend in the country last year when missiles were intercepted close to the Diriyah, the venue of the race that year. (Reporting by Abhishek Takle with additional reporting bu AFP & Paul Velasco)

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Note: The attack so close to the venue has overshadowed today’s sporting side of the Grand Prix weekend, we will monitor developments in Jeddah overnight and update with reports when and if required.
Tomorrow we will report on the Friday Free Practice feedback from teams and drivers.

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