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Why F1 drivers are uncomfortable racing in Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
An oil refinery in Jeddah bombed in Jeddah a distance away from the Jeddah Grand Prix circuit. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP) (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images)
  • Lewis Hamilton together with a host of other Formula One drivers have expressed their discomfort in racing in Jeddah
  • There are numerous issues dogging Saudi which Hamilton and co are unhappy with
  • The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix evokes sad memories for F1 drivers

Lewis Hamilton together with a host of other Formula One drivers have expressed their discomfort with racing in the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Rebels from Yemeni launched a missile attack on an oil refinery close to the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix circuit in the capital, Jeddah in 2022.

Hamilton was at first coy about speaking on the whole subject but added that F1 had a role in creating awareness and addressing issues of human rights.

Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, he said that though he is uncomfortable racing in Saudi Arabia, he is alive to the fact that if he declined, others would be willing.

“If I am not here, F1 will continue on without me so what I try to do is learn as much as I can,” said Hamilton according to BBC.

Lewis Hamilton Saudi Arabia

Lewis Hamilton. Photo/The SportsRush

He maintained that he feels that F1 is duty-bound to create awareness of human rights since Saudi has a tainted history of this.

“I still feel that as a sport going to places with human rights issues such as this one, the sport is duty bound to raise awareness and try to leave a positive impact. I feel it needs to do more. What that is I don’t have all the answers but we always need to do more to try to raise awareness of things people are struggling with,” he noted.

Authorities in Saudi Arabia and F1 executives have assured the drivers that there are measures in place to ensure that the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is not disrupted in a similar fashion.

Further, Saudi authorities also assured that the safety of all F1 drivers is of top priority. This follows reports that Saudi Arabia and Yemeni rebels, the Houthi group have reached a cease-fire.

While the F1 and Saudi authorities gave an assurance, Kevin Magnussen of Haas said no driver enjoyed the last race in Jeddah following the attack.

But, he is upbeat that with the cease-fire and other interventions, he will pull through just well.

Esteban Ocon from Alpine noted that hearing the blasts after the attack was the scariest thing he has experienced on the circuit and safety is now paramount for all drivers.

Saudi GP

Saudi GP. Photo/PlanetF1

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll of Aston Martin both stated that they had faith in Formula One and the event’s organisers to watch out for them.

They maintained that they are optimistic Saudi Arabia, endlessly accused of violating human rights organisations is undergoing constructive transformation.

Nevertheless, Reprieve, a Human rights organisation has accused F1 of failing to deal with human rights violations in Saudi Arabia despite the sport’s popularity.

According to its director Maya Foa, Saudi Arabia, F1 is used to mask crimes by some of the world’s most repressive countries.

Foa added that Saudi’s execution of over 13 people in the past two weeks just before the Grand Prix goes down in Jeddah is an act of impunity.

He says that F1  will sadly stay mute on all this as much as this is the worst impunity in sports history.

Teresa is a journalist with years of experience in creating web content. She is a wanderlust at heart, but an outgoing sports writer with focus on tennis, athletics, football, motorsports and NBA.

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