Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – Qualifying


If the Saudi Arabian GP wasn’t controversial enough, with HAM trying to highlight the human rights issues (BBC reports “Human rights group Reprieve has said that Saudi Arabia executed 81 men on 12 March, a further 16 since then and 108 in total so far this year”), between Free Practice 1 and FP2 there was a missile attack on an oil facility nine miles from the track! The drivers met and decided to go ahead with FP2. Then met again after FP2 for about four hours. BBC reports “A significant number of drivers had concerns about the safety of the event following the attack. But eventually they were convinced to go ahead and race after being given further information by bosses.”
The GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers’ Association) released a statement that said Friday had been “a difficult day for Formula 1 and a stressful day for us F1 drivers. [..] A large variety of opinions were shared and debated and, having listened not only to the F1 powers but also to the Saudi government ministers – who explained how security measures were being elevated to the maximum – the outcome was a resolution that we would practise and qualify today and race tomorrow.”
Jennie Gow (BBC Radio 5): “My information is that at one point every single driver unanimously said they did not want to go out there and drive and that swung round over the course of that four hours and 20 minutes deliberation.”
FIA tweeted “Following the widely reported incident that took place in Jeddah on Friday, there has been extensive discussion between all stakeholders, the Saudi government authorities and security agencies who have given full and detailed assurances that the event is secure. It has been agreed with all stakeholders to maintain a clear and open dialogue throughout the event and for the future.” (“Incident” is quite the euphemism!)
“Formula 1 banned drivers from making comment after a nearby Aramco oil facility was attacked by missiles and drones during free practice in Saudi Arabia.” [grandprix.com]
Apparently “Ralf Schumacher [..] took the unilateral decision to abandon his Sky Deutschland duties to return home.” [grandprix.com]

Meanwhile, back in 2020 at the Australian GP…

OK, on to Qualifying. It will be interesting to see if Ferrari are still at the front and Mercedes are struggling to stay ahead of the midfield; have Red Bull fixed the problem which led to VER and PER failing to finish the Bahrain Grand Prix last weekend.

“FIA F1 race director Niels Wittich has instructed drivers not to back off through the blind turns 23 to 25 ahead of qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.” [racefans.net]

HUL replaces VET again this weekend, but VET should be over COVID for the next race.

Qualifying session 1 (Q1)
Air temperature 23°C; track 25°C
Great “driver’s eye” camera showing the porpoising as NOR bounces around the track
HAM struggling for grip on the medium tyres
Yellow flag in sector 2 – LAT has gone off at Turn 13
Red flag – Q1 suspended with 11:22 left
LAT also has a helmet cam so you get to share the experience of losing the rear, sliding across the corner and into the armco barrier
Green light; Q1 restarted
Radio for TSU telling to box due to “an issue”
VER and PER top the timing sheet… but then SAI and LEC steal P1 and P2
RUS P4 but HAM down in P13
Radio for TSU telling him it’s fuel related, which could be a repeat of the Red Bull engine issue from last weekend
5mins left of Q1; bottom 6 are RIC, HUL, ALB, LAT, TSU
NOR goes P5 but teammate RIC down in P16
Pit lane incident involving MAG and RIC under investigation – unsafe release?
RIC P12, relegating HAM to P16 – eek!
Radio from HAM, “Can’t seem to improve man”; there’s just time for a single cool lap and then a quick one
Radio from HAM asking “Are we at risk?”; yes
ALB P16, HAM to P17
Chequered flag; bottom 6 are HAM, ALB, HUL, LAT, TSU
HAM P15
STR P15, HAM P16
Back of the grid: HAM, ALB, HUL, LAT, TSU

Qualifying session 2
Everyone on soft tyres except RUS who’s on used mediums – does that mean he doesn’t expect to make it through and is saving a set?
Incident involving RIC and OCO has been noted – I think that’s 100% likely to end in a penalty for RIC for impeding OCO
Replay of GAS running over a kerb and tearing a chunk out of the floor – the mechanics are busy taping it up
5mins left of ZHO, RIC, MAG, STR, OCO
Red flag – SCH hit the wall – big impact!
Medical car is on scene
SCH is still in the car – I hope that’s just because he’s winded, nothing worse
An ambulance on scene too
Apparently SCH is talking to the medical team
Marshals on track picking up a massive amount of debris, small pieces of bodywork
Looks like SCH is now in the ambulance
Lots of marshals and track workers now clearing up SCH’s car
The Haas came to rest in Turn 12 but the accident started in T10 – he took a lot of kerb, which spun him around [video]
Marshals lift the car but the engine and rear axle stay on the track – there’s just a few cables & pipes connecting the two halves of the car
It’s taken ages for the ambulance to get to the pit lane; turns into the medical centre
The front half of the Haas has been removed but there’s still lots to clear up
The concrete wall was pushed back, so they’re using a forklift to pull it back into place – having stood next to that type of barrier when shooting the Honda Indy, I know it can take a heft impact to move them
Safety Car has left the pits to go check on the track clean up
Race director Niels Wittich is checking that the oil has been soaked up by the dust they put down
Haas have tweeted “We’ve heard that Mick is conscious, out of the car and currently on his way to the medical centre.”
Update from SkySports say they’ve heard from Haas that SCH has called him mum and is on his way to hospital for further checks
NOR is getting out of his McLaren – is that a sign of a problem or just the need for a break?
Guenther Steiner confirms SCH has no visible injuries and has been airlifted for more tests
Now that there’s confirmation that SCH has no serious injuries, there’s a couple of replays of the incident – it still looks like he took too much kerb in Turn 11, lost the rear, hit the wall backwards and skidded across the track and into another wall backwards
Race control announce Q2 will resume at 2140 local time, almost an hour after the red flag stopped the session
Race control also warn of a slippery surface in Turn 7… although shouldn’t that be T11?
Replay of BOT slowing down to check on SCH as the red flag came out
Another tweet from Haas: “Mick is physically in a good condition but will be flown by helicopter to hospital for further precautionary check-ups.”
Green light; Q2 resumes; air temperature still 23°C; track 24°C
MAG has a lot of porpoising
2mins left of Q2; bottom 6 are ZHO, RIC, MAG, STR, OCO
Chequered flag
MAG P7, GAS P11
OCO P8, SCH P11
GAS P7, NOR P11
ZHO P13
Middle of the grid: NOR, RIC, ZHO, SCH, STR

Qualifying session 3 starts shortly…
Top 10 shootout is between SAI, LEC, PER, VER, ALO, BOT, GAS, MAG, OCO and RUS
Just BOT and RUS remain in the pits
LEC 1:28.446
GAS P2
SAI 1:28.402
OCO P3
MAG P5
VER P6 but that’s a prep lap
ALO P4
PER P3
BOT P7
VER P6
RUS P5
As they head back to the pits, the order is SAI, LEC, PER, OCO, RUS, ALO, VER, GAS, BOT, MAG
BOT P6
3mins left; they’re starting to head out for their final laps
LEC 1:28.225
Chequered flag
PER 1:28.200
VER P4
Replay of OCO getting crossed up in T11 but somehow he kept it on the track
Front of the grid: PER, LEC, SAI, VER, OCO, RUS, ALO, BOT, GAS MAG

Provisional grid: PER, LEC, SAI, VER, OCO, RUS, ALO, BOT, GAS MAG, NOR, RIC, ZHO, SCH, STR, HAM, ALB, HUL, LAT, TSU
Still to be investigated: Q1 pit lane incident involving MAG and RIC for an unsafe release, and Q2 incident involving RIC and OCO for impeding

[2022 calendar and line-up]