Follow all the action as qualifying gets underway at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
After a four-hour meeting between drivers and officials late last night, following Yemen’s Houthi rebels claiming responsibility for a missile attack on an oil facility less than 10 miles from the circuit, it was decided that the race will still go ahead as planned. F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali insisted he had received “total assurances” from the Saudi government that there were no safety concerns, despite the black smoke that was clearly visible from the track yesterday after the refinery was hit.
Some drivers were said to still have concerns on Saturday morning, but they must now return their attention to the track after Charles Leclerc stormed to a somewhat surprising victory in a thrilling opening race in Bahrain last weekend as Ferrari provided their resurgent pace and Red Bull suffered a reliability nightmare. Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were both forced to retire from the race with less than two laps to go, allowing Carlos Sainz to complete a Ferrari one-two. The Red Bull problems also presented something of a gift to Mercedes, who had struggled bitterly for pace all week but Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were able to snatch third and fourth place respectively.
Follow all the latest updates and lap times from qualifying below:
Saudi Arabian Grand Prix qualifying
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has admitted Formula One drivers are not 100 per cent happy about taking part in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after the missile attack yesterday.
“I don’t think we said they are 100 per cent happy and fully relaxed,” said Binotto. “Certainly they are still concerned but they have listened to the assurances we gave them and they understand the importance to stay here, and try to race because that is the best choice we can make. Leaving the country would not have been the right choice.
“There is no doubt that all of us were concerned because it is not a normal situation for something like this to happen so close to the circuit.
“But we have had assurances from F1, the Saudi government, and the security agencies that everything is safe, and that needed to be explained to the drivers.
“It was important for them to meet, discuss and raise their voice. They are the stars of the sport and it is important they are listened to.
“And while negative comments are not great, the fact they met and had the opportunity to argue and listen and to get assurance was an important and a positive one.”
Tom Kershaw26 March 2022 14:48
Saudi Arabian Grand Prix qualifying
Welcome to The Independent‘s live coverage of the final practice session and qualifying at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Following a four-hour meeting last night, in which drivers voiced their safety concerns after Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for a missile attack on an oil facility less than 10 miles from the circuit, F1 officials decided the race will still go ahead.
“We are aware of the attack on the Aramco distribution station in Jeddah earlier this afternoon and remain in contact with the Saudi security authorities, as well as F1 and the FIA, to ensure all necessary security and safety measures continue to be implemented, to guarantee the safety of all visitors to the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as well as the drivers, teams and stakeholders,” read a statement.
“The race weekend schedule will continue as planned. The safety and security of all our guests continues to be our main priority and we look forward to welcoming fans for a weekend of premium racing and entertainments.”
Tom Kershaw26 March 2022 14:32