"We are not blind" - F1 CEO claims sport is aware of concerns over Saudi Arabia's presence in calendar

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali during the 2022 F1 Saudi Arabian GP weekend. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali during the 2022 F1 Saudi Arabian GP weekend. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has admitted that he is aware of the concerns around the presence of the Saudi Arabian GP on the sports calendar.

Speaking to the media after the race weekend that saw Max Verstappen open his account for the year, Domenicali said:

"I think that it's not a matter of question mark. It is a matter of understanding the situation. We are not blind, but we don't have to forget one thing: that this country, also through F1 and the sport on which we believe, is doing a massive step forward. You cannot pretend to change a culture that is more than a millennium in a blink of an eye. The resources they're putting in place to move forward you can see here."

F1 endured a turbulent time on and off the track during the race at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit last week. A reported missile strike on an oil field near the venue led to teams and drivers holding a long meeting before deciding to continue with proceedings.

The race weekend also saw a slew of crashes that only added to the already existing concerns for driver safety. Most notably, Haas driver Mick Schumacher had to withdraw from the race after a 160 m/ph impact crash with a concrete barrier during qualifying.

"It is a matter of definition" - F1 CEO on Saudi Arabia's ongoing conflict in Yemen

After some critics called F1 out for hypocrisy over racing in Saudi Arabia while they continue to reportedly be involved in a military conflict in Yemen, Stefano Domenicali chose to call it a matter of definition.

Speaking in the aforementioned interview, the Italian said:

"It is a matter of definition, is a terrorist attack a war? We are talking about sport, we are of course in contact with all the authorities and with all the embassies, with all the right governing bodies. And of course, we will follow that and we will never be in a situation that can jeopardize the safety of our people."

Domenicali also feels the sport is playing a role in bringing about the winds of modernization in the country. He went on to add:

"Don't forget, a couple of years ago, women couldn't drive, and they're here on the grid, cheering the kids. They're partying, they're seeing the sport, they are changing a lot of laws in order to make sure that this is happening. We don't have to not consider that. Of course, there are tensions inside, there are things that have to be improved. We don't want to be political on that."

He also said:

"But I do believe that we are playing a very important role in the modernization of this country. We are focused, of course, on making sure that these are the center of our agenda."

While F1 ponders over the future of the Saudi Arabian GP in the years to come, focus will now shift to the 2022 Australian GP, scheduled to be held on April 10 in Melbourne.

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Edited by Diptanil Roy
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