The Saudi Grand Prix will go ahead despite missile attacks at a nearby oil facility by Houti rebels.
The decision to go ahead was made after teams received safety assurances and drivers met for more than four hours following attacks near the Jeddah street circuit.
Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis claimed to have launched attacks on Saudi energy facilities and the Saudi-led coalition said state-owned oil giant Aramco’s petroleum products distribution station was hit, causing a fire in two tanks.
No casualties were reported.
A number of drivers initially raised their concerns about the situation ahead of the second practice session, leading F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali to hastily arrange a meeting that delayed the start of the session by 15 minutes.
Talks between drivers, team bosses and F1 executives over the security of the event continued until 2.30 a.m. on Saturday before team principals emerged from a meeting with Domenicali and confirmed the race would go ahead.
“We have received total assurance that the country’s safety is first.”
The president of the sport’s governing body the FIA, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, speaking alongside Domenicali, said the attacks had targeted economic infrastructure and not civilians.
“We have the assurance from a high level that this is a secure place, the whole thing will be secure and let’s go on racing,” he said.
The first indication of the attack came when a huge plume of black smoke rose over Jeddah to the east of the track as cars went around the street circuit during Friday’s first practice, which went ahead as planned.
On track though, Charles Leclerc once again beat Max Verstappen to the quickest time in second practice before his session ended early after he touched the wall.
The Ferrari driver, who went quickest in opening practice as well, clocked a 1m 30.074s to finish 0.140s clear of Red Bull’s Verstappen. The Dutchman, however, set his fastest time on Medium compound tyres compared to softs for the Leclerc.
Carlos Sainz was the third quickest, with the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez fourth. Mercedes teammates, Lewis Hamilton and Geroge Russell followed the Red Bull in almost an uncanny pattern to last weeks season opener.
The qualification for the Saudi Grand Prix grid will take place tonight (PKT) after a third practice session ahead of the race on Sunday.