Houthi attacks in Saudi Arabia
Rocket attacks on an oil refinery near the Formula 1 track
The second race weekend of the Formula 1 season takes place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. But during training, security concerns grew: Yemeni rebels attacked near the racetrack. Second training session will be postponed but will still take place.
During the first training session for the second race of the Formula 1 season, Yemeni rebels attacked just a few kilometers from the track in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. According to media reports, supporters of the Houthi rebels have carried out an attack on an oil depot by oil giant Aramco. While world champion Max Verstappen and the other Formula 1 drivers drove their laps on the track, there was a huge column of smoke over the city, a fire raged in Aramco Square and there was apparently an explosion as well. Verstappen said he could smell the fire while driving.
“We have carried out several attacks with drones and ballistic missiles,” the Houthi rebels said in a statement, including the facility in Jeddah and “important facilities” in the capital Riyadh. Saudi Arabia is fighting the Houthi rebels in Yemen. These had previously confessed to attacks on the kingdom. Prior to the new incident, the Houthis had announced an extensive operation deep in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia’s state oil company and state media did not immediately confirm the attack during training.
The training has been postponed
On Friday afternoon, however, operations on the Jeddah Corniche Circuit continued initially as planned, although the heavy cloud of smoke could also be seen from the runway. After the first training of Formula 1, the lower classes started their program. Just before the second training session, all drivers and team leaders were called to an emergency meeting with F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem. Domenicali, team leaders and drivers informed at the crisis meeting that “the race weekend will continue as planned,” according to a spokesman.
Following last week’s attack, Saudi chiefs of staff felt compelled to comment: “This incident has no bearing on the race weekend. As always, the safety of our guests is a top priority.”
Whether the race will take place on Sunday is at least doubtful at the moment. All flights to Jeddah have either been canceled or diverted around the city, it said. “We are waiting for more information from the authorities about what happened,” said Formula 1 about the threatening scenes. The fire is about 20 kilometers from the circuit. The state-owned company Aramco is not only the sponsor of the Aston Martin team for the German pilot Sebastian Vettel, but also of the entire racing series.
There had been a similar attack on the facility a few days earlier, resulting in a “limited fire” in one of the tanks, which was brought under control with no injuries or casualties, state television reported. Saudi Arabia is considered relatively safe, but there have been isolated terrorist attacks in the country. In 2020, the so-called Islamic State claimed one for itself.
In addition, the news agency Reuters reported that Saudi state media revealed that a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen intercepted an “enemy air target” said to be aimed at the city where the second race of the F1 season is taking place.
Already in March stop during motorsport event
This comes after a spokesman for the Arab coalition said they had “destroyed 106 boats loaded with explosives that posed a threat to the freedom to sail in the southern Red Sea”. In addition, the Saudi air force must have intercepted and destroyed nine drones with targets in Saudi Arabia.
Already in early March, there was a serious incident during a race weekend: Al Jazeera reported at the time that “several explosions could be heard and the night sky over Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh was illuminated with bright flashes on Saturday as one led by Saudi -Arabia The military coalition announced that it was thwarting a missile attack, which it blamed on Yemen’s Houthi rebels. ” The incident happened while Formula E was in Jeddah.
Yemen has been at war since 2015 between President Abd Rabbo Mansur Hadi’s troops, backed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab states, and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. According to the UN, some 380,000 people have already been killed in the conflict and millions have had to flee.