CEO Stefano Domenicali says F1’s ‘mission’ is to keep racing in Saudi Arabia

The sport’s chief executive Stefano Domenicali will continue to race in Saudi Arabia despite concerns about safety and human rights in the country.

Last weekend’s Saudi Arabia Grand Prix was nearly boycotted by 20 F1 drivers after a missile attack by the Yemeni Houthis targeted an oil depot six miles from the track on Friday. weekend race.

A disagreement between F1 drivers and bosses over the safety of the event lasted until the early hours of Saturday morning before drivers were persuaded to join the race.

One condition for continuing the race over the weekend is that drivers will be included in discussions about the safety and future of the upcoming Saudi Grand Prix.

However, just three days after F1 left Saudi Arabia and before those talks took place, Domenicali made it clear that F1 would stay in Saudi Arabia, arguing that the sport’s “obligation” was to change. change country.

“I think, as we discussed, the country has its own problems for development and sport, F1 as a whole, has a duty to make sure that maximizing attention on what’s happening, is being done. going in the right direction,” Domenicali told SportsCenter at the announcement of a new F1 race in Las Vegas next year.

“We don’t want to do politics, but I certainly believe that this sport will help a country that wants to change its culture. It cannot happen from day to night, it is very important to change.

“As F1, we need to do our part to make sure something of this importance can happen and that’s why we stay there. That’s why we believe it.” that, working together, we can shape a better future in less time.”

Formula One has a 15-year contract to race in Saudi Arabia worth $65 million a year as well as a sponsorship deal with state oil company Aramco that is said to be worth up to $40 million a year .

Before Friday’s missile attack, F1 had come under fire for its decision to hold the race in Saudi Arabia following the mass execution of 81 people in the Kingdom.

According to a statement on March 14 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, 41 of those executed were Muslims of the country’s Shiite minority who had participated in the protests. anti-government protests in 2011-12, calling for greater political activism. joining.

She also expressed concern that some of the executions were linked to the conflict in Yemen between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition.

“Our monitoring shows that some of those sentenced to death were sentenced to death after trials that failed to satisfy fair trial and due process, and for those the crime does not reach the threshold of the most serious offences, as required by international law,” Bachelet said.

Before Friday’s rocket attack, seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton said he felt uncomfortable racing in the UK due to Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights.

https://www.espn.com/f1/story/_/id/33637311/stefano-domenicali-f1-duty-continue-racing-saudi-arabia CEO Stefano Domenicali says F1’s ‘mission’ is to keep racing in Saudi Arabia

Luke Plunkett

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