Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal said he had met with F1 teams and drivers to allay concerns about the safety of next year’s race in Jeddah.
F1 pilots came close to boycotting this year’s event in March after a rocket attack on a nearby oil depot sparked safety concerns.
The attack came five days before a ceasefire was established between the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen, who claimed responsibility for the attack in Jeddah, and the Saudi-led coalition backing the Yemeni government.
However, the ceasefire in Yemen expired on Sunday, raising fears of renewed violence in the area.
Prince Abdulaziz said he met with key figures in F1, including drivers, after this year’s race in an attempt to allay concerns about the safety of racing in Saudi Arabia – the 2023 race will take place on March 19.
“We are working with F1 to make sure that any issues that bother any of the drivers, teams or individuals, even the fans, that we make sure we comply with those issues,” he told a small group of reporters in Singapore over the weekend. “We know it is safe, but we need to explain what measures have been taken.
“More than 4,000 military personnel were involved during this event. [this year] just to make sure, because when it happens you’re afraid that people who want to aggravate it will pick it up, so we just made sure that no one interferes with the security of the event and the city. For us, safety is more important than Formula 1, this is about the nation, so this is our number one priority.
“We met personally with all the team leaders and I personally met with all the riders. We talked about all these issues, and now we have an open dialogue with them. Any requests and any concerns they have, they hear from us, the officials, directly on these issues. I hope the ceasefire continues and nothing happens at the next event.”
Asked what concerns the drivers had raised, Prince Abdulaziz added: “Most of the concerns were actually about safety. It was a frightening event.
“I was on the plane when it happened, so I had to turn off to Medina airport and then fly back to Jeddah and drive straight to the track to talk to the pilots. So it was not an ideal scenario to start the weekend.
“But we have to learn from these situations. If you see the world today, it can happen anywhere, and if we don’t stay united, work together to make it the best example that we can really get something good out of it, then I guess that’s it. that we all deliberately agree to move forward.
“We know that we have some concerns about some issues. We are not perfect and we never claimed to be perfect, but at least we are learning from our experience and taking steps to make it better in the future.”
Prince Abdulaziz stressed that the area around the track and the city was safe during the competition and the same measures will be taken for next year’s race.
“This is not the first time this has happened in Saudi Arabia. It happened that weekend, but we had it almost every month.
“My experience and our experience in this is that, fortunately, we have not had any casualties so far. So it shows you that the level of security is high. This is not an airport, it is, as it were, further from the place where there is a population or some kind of event.
“You can’t cover the whole kingdom and say no, nothing will happen. But you protect the most important areas that are populated and there are more people there, and that’s what we already have. So the city is safe, the place is safe. But I think we are learning from other experiences as well. Therefore, we share information with the person who is responsible for safety in F1.