Hamilton goes up against the Saudi GP

The seven-time champion said he felt “at odds” with other drivers who expressed satisfaction over safety at the 2023 GP after last year’s missile attack

ONE Formula 1 returns to Jeddah for the second race of the 2023 season, the first event since the 2022 edition went through a tense period – and was almost canceled – after a missile hit a nearby Aramco oil facility during free practice.

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Both GP and F1 supporters have highlighted the new security measures that have been put in place, in addition to the informal ceasefire in the conflict in Yemen – in which Saudi Arabia is part of a standoff trying to restore the government toppled by the rebel group . 2014 in what is widely seen as a proxy war with Iran, the other dominant power in the Middle East region.

Safety was a topic of much discussion during the drivers’ press conference on Thursday. In the first group, his pilot McLaren, Lando Norrishe said he was “happy we’re competing here”, adding that “what we do as a sport is good” and “he’s not worried about anything”.

Lando Norris, McLaren

Photo: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Its pilot Williams, Alex Albon, asserted that “there was a lot of work this year to try and get it done [o GP] safer for all,” a vision he shares Carlos Sainz, which concluded: “I think they’ve given enough reassurance and explanation to say we’re in a safe place now and, as I understand it, I have to guide myself through that, time will tell. But I’m sure they’re obviously not lying to us and they’re putting on a safe event.”

Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottashe refused to say anything about the safety issue and simply wanted to express his feeling that “the runway is nice”, a stance echoed by his pilot Alpha Tauri, Yuki Tsunoda.

In the second part of the press conference, Kevin Magnussen (Haas), Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, Sergio Pérez (Red Bull) and Hamilton they were also asked to express their views on returning to Jeddah after the missile attack. But it was the Mercedes driver’s response shortly after the various expressions of confidence in the safety measures outlined by the FOM that attracted considerable interest.

“I don’t have much to add. Contrary to everything they said.”

When asked to elaborate on his latest comment, Hamilton replied: “Well, I haven’t, so it’s open to interpretation,” before later adding, “I can’t wait to get in the car [W14]for sure “.

The seven-time champion then pointed out “that It’s part of my job that I’m excited about,” suggesting he is unhappy with other elements of the Jeddah event, given its struggles, as well as Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record.

Lewis Hamilton

Photo by: Monster Energy

Later, when asked to clarify whether it was a political or security element he was referring to, Hamilton replied: “It’s neither – I don’t want to get into that. [em detalhes] in neither. So I hope everyone has a safe weekend and everyone goes home safely afterwards. That’s the best we can do, right?’

Finally, Hamilton was asked if he had ever considered boycotting the Saudi Arabian race and the seven-time world champion said he preferred to try to use his platform to highlight the issues at stake, saying that if he did not travel to Jeddah “Formula 1 would go on without me.”

He added: “So what I try to do is try to learn as much as I can when I go to these different places. I still feel that as a sport that goes to places with human rights issues like this, sport has a duty to raise awareness and try to have a positive impact.”

“And I feel like I need to do more. What is it, I don’t have all the answers. But I think we always have to do more to raise awareness of the things that people struggle with.”

George RussellMercedes AMG

Photo: Erik Junius

The director of the Drivers’ Association and Hamilton’s team-mate, George Russelldescribed the new explanations about the safety measures presented to the pilots.

“I think we all are, although I can’t speak for the other 19 riders, but overall I think we’re happy and not worried about the changes that were implemented before this year,” said Russell.

“There were a lot of lessons to be learned from what happened 12 months ago and Formula 1 has really intensified that. And not just in relation to what’s happening here in Arabia, but in any grand prix – there are clearly some safety concerns when you’ve got 400,000 people pouring through the gates on a weekend.”

“The lessons that we’ve probably learned and what F1 has shared with us, I think it gives us a bit more peace of mind and understanding as well. There was probably a miscommunication 12 months ago and the first source of information for us [sobre o ataque com mísseis] it came from social media and not from the source and that probably added fuel to the fire. So yeah, I think we’re in a much better place now.”

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