Home LATEST NEWS F1 in Saudi Arabia, between discomfort and going off the track

F1 in Saudi Arabia, between discomfort and going off the track

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The Briton has made the fight against discrimination his fight. So, we understand the discomfort of running in this country.

I wouldn’t say I’m comfortable being here, but I didn’t choose it, he said, bluntly.

Our sport has chosen to be here and whether it’s fair or not, I think while we’re here it’s still important to do some outreach work., he continued.

Hamilton will once again wear the helmet in the colors of the LGBTQ + community that he already wore in Qatar two weeks ago. It will be the same in Abu Dhabi next week.

A pilot with a multicolored helmet slips into his single-seater.

Lewis Hamilton’s helmet, in the colors of the LGBTQ + community

Photo: Mercedes AMG F1 Team / Twitter

The rights of people from the LGBTQ + community are not recognized in Saudi Arabia. Homosexuality and cross-dressing are seen as immoral acts and treated as serious crimes.

If you take the time to read what the law here dictates for the LGBTQ + community, that’s pretty terrifying, don’t hesitate to say Hamilton. It needs to change.

For example, women have been allowed to drive since 2018. Why are there still women in prison who were arrested before 2018 for driving a car? Changes are needed, and our sport needs to do more.

A group of drivers chatting behind a go-kart on a racing track.

Sebastian Vettel gives a driving clinic to female kart drivers in Jeddah.

Photo: Twitter / Aston Martin

For his part, Sebastian Vettel organized a karting event reserved for Saudi women drivers.

Seeing the confidence of these women and giving them this opportunity in a field dominated by men, it’s great, and it made me happy to organize that, explained the German.

Moreover, it is a pilot from Jeddah who is the ambassador of the first Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia.

Reema Juffali is 29 years old and competes in the British F3 Championship.

Close-up of a woman in profile running her right hand through her hair

Saudi pilot Reema Juffali

Photo: Twitter / Reema Juffali

She started in single-seater in 2019, in F4, in Great Britain. It was during her studies in the United States that she became interested in motorsport after obtaining her driver’s license there.

If I had stayed in Saudi Arabia I might have had other options in neighboring countries, UAE, Bahrain, where there are tours. No doubt it would have been a challenge, but I love to ride, so I would have found a way, she explained in the paddock of Jeddah.

To the question: is it difficult for you who are Saudi to be a professional pilot? Reema Juffali had obviously prepared her response, and it was the ambassador who responded.

It’s hard for all women to become a professional pilot, she said very skillfully, laughing.

The arrival of F1 is part of a strategy that allows Saudi Arabia to diversify its oil economy through sporting and cultural events and tourism. It also allows the country to improve its image.

For Human Rights Watch, Saudi Arabia uses F1 and concerts organized in parallel with international stars to distract from widespread human rights violations.

Failure to voice concerns over serious abuses by Saudi Arabia, F1 and artists risk backing the Saudi government’s costly efforts to whitewash its image despite a significant increase in repression in recent years, said Michael Page, deputy director for the Middle East at Human Rights Watch, in a statement.

Canadian Justin Bieber is scheduled to give a concert as part of the grand prize, and several calls have been made for the artist to cancel his visit.

Concerns about the circuit

Former British driver Damon Hill, world champion in 1996, also expressed his concern to see the drivers reaching speeds in excess of 320 km / h on a narrow circuit surrounded by low walls and safety fences without clearance spaces. sufficient clearance.

The 6.174 km circuit has 27 turns. It is by far the fastest of the urban tracks, with an average speed of 252 km / h and a peak of 322 km / h between turns 25 and 27.

With an average speed of 252 km / h, the Jeddah circuit is the second fastest circuit, after the Monza circuit in Italy, which has an average speed of 260 km / h.

Aerial view of the runway

Part of the Jeddah circuit in Saudi Arabia

Photo: Getty Images / Lars Baron

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr. urged FIA representatives and trackside marshals to be extra vigilant throughout the weekend as many fear that track excursions will be costly.

The drivers don’t know the circuit, which was finished just a few days ago.

It was built on a 90% virgin strip of land, with no streets or buildings, by the Red Sea. This gave the design team a lot of flexibility in drawing combinations of high speed turns. This contrasts with the 90% turns found on urban tracks.

The first accident

It was Carlos Sainz Jr.’s teammate who was the first victim of the Saudi circuit.

At the very end of the second 60-minute free practice session, played in the spotlight on Friday, Charles Leclerc lost his rear end at turn 23 and crashed into the safety barriers. He destroyed his Ferrari, but escaped unscathed.

A helmeted pilot looks at his destroyed single-seater after exiting the track.

Charles Leclerc looks at his destroyed Ferrari after leaving the track.

Photo: Getty Images / Lars Baron

At the end of the first session, Lewis Hamilton had been the fastest in his Mercedes-Benz, with a time of 1 min 29 s 786/1000.

The Briton did it again in the second session. With a time of 1: 29: 018, he edged his team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 6 hundredths of a second and Frenchman Pierre Galy (AlphaTauri) by 8 hundredths.

His championship rival, Max Verstappen, ended his working day in 4th place (+0.195), badly served by his tires.

It’s fun, because it goes fast, explained the Dutchman. We struggled with the temperature of the tires in the second session, and you have to understand why. We made a few changes to the settings that didn’t seem to work, so we’re going to have to find the right balance to go faster.

Quebecer Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) took 15th place at +1.424s, Torontonian Nicholas Latifi (Williams), 19th (+2.021).

It’s a great experience to ride here, said Stroll. It goes very quickly. We realize that it will be difficult to overtake, so the place on the grid will be really important. There are no big braking zones to help us overtake, which gives rhythm to the circuit.

There are places where, if you push the machine, you can find speed, Stroll points out. Our result today is decent, but it takes time to be well placed on the grid.

The Williams team pays tribute this weekend in Jeddah to its founder, Sir Frank Williams, who passed away earlier this week. Its name is written in capital letters on the bodies of British single-seaters. The emotion within the team is still high, and each member tries to focus on what needs to be done.

On a narrow circuit like this, you have to weigh the risk against the gains to be made, explained Latifi. And there’s only one way to do that, and that’s to spin as much as possible. I still have to build my confidence in the handling of the car.

Close-up of the wing of a single-seater with an inscription paying homage to Frank Williams, founder of the team that bears his name.

Tribute to Frank Williams on the single-seaters of the team that bears his name, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Photo: Getty Images / Mark Thompson

The third free practice session takes place at 9 a.m. EST on Saturday at sunset by the Red Sea. The qualifying session and the race will be contested in the spotlight.

Results of the second free practice session of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix:

  1. Lewis Hamilton (GBR / Mercedes-Benz) 1: 29.018 (22 laps)
  2. Valtteri Bottas (FIN / Mercedes-Benz) 1: 29.079 (23)
  3. Pierre Gasly (FRA / AlphaTauri-Honda) 1: 29.099 (22)
  4. Max Verstappen (NED / Red Bull-Honda) 1: 29.213 (20)
  5. Fernando Alonso (ESP / Alpine-Renault) 1: 29.441 (21)
  6. Esteban Ocon (FRA / Alpine-Renault) 1: 29,555 (22)
  7. Carlos Sainz son (ESP / Ferrari) 1: 29.589 (24)
  8. Yuki Tsunoda (JPN / AlphaTauri-Honda) 1: 29,597 (20)
  9. Sergio Pérez (MEX / Red Bull-Honda) 1: 29.768 (22)
  10. Charles Leclerc (MON / Ferrari) 1: 29.772 (23)
  11. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS / McLaren-Mercedes-Benz) 1: 29.968 (22)
  12. Lando Norris (GBR / McLaren-Mercedes-Benz) 1: 30,004 (19)
  13. Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA / Alfa Romeo Sauber-Ferrari) 1: 30,110 (23)
  14. Kimi Räikkönen (FIN / Alfa Romeo Sauber-Ferrari) 1: 30.276 (24)
  15. Lance Stroll (CAN / Aston Martin-Mercedes-Benz) 1: 30,442 (22)
  16. Sebastian Vettel (GER / Aston Martin-Mercedes-Benz) 1: 30.502 (22)
  17. George Russell (GBR / Williams-Mercedes-Benz) 1: 30.506 (24)
  18. Mick Schumacher (GER / Haas-Ferrari) 1: 30.652 (20)
  19. Nicholas Latifi (CAN / Williams-Mercedes-Benz) 1: 31.039 (23)
  20. Nikita Mazepin (RUS / Haas-Ferrari) 1: 31.629 (20)
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