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28 Mar, 2022 12:07

Hamilton happy to ‘get out’ of Saudi Arabia after controversial Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton said he was 'looking forward' to leaving Saudi Arabia after Sunday's Grand Prix
Hamilton happy to ‘get out’ of Saudi Arabia after controversial Grand Prix

Seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton told the media he was “looking forward to getting out” of Saudi Arabia as he underscored his discomfort at racing in the Arab nation.

Hamilton finished in a lowly 10th position after 50 laps at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in what was the second race of the new F1 season – but Sunday's race was overshadowed by a series of incidents, prompting reports that Hamilton was among a wave of drivers who wanted the event to be canceled.

On the eve of Saturday's qualifying session a missile strike hit a fuel depot around 10 miles from the circuit, leading to significant security concerns and a four-hour meeting between drivers race organizers during which reports indicate that several drivers had to be persuaded to not boycott the event.

There was also a microscope placed on the race due to perceived human rights abuses continuing to take place in Saudi Arabia and suggestions that Formula 1 was complicit in the so-called 'sportswashing' of the country's reputation. 

Furthermore, another pall was cast over the race when German driver Mick Schumacher was involved in a high speed accident during Saturday's session. It was later confirmed that the 23-year-old, who is the son of F1 icon Michael, was uninjured but this Haas team pulled him from the race as a precaution.

However, Schumacher's high velocity accident reignited criticisms from some drivers, including Hamilton's Mercedes teammate George Russell, that the track was designed with entertainment in mind more-so than driver safety, with Russell referring to it as a "recipe for disaster."

Hamilton, though, said that now that both his and Formula 1's obligations in Saudi Arabia had been fulfilled, he was looking forward to putting the event in his rear-view mirror. 

I am so happy the weekend is done,” he said after the race, which was won by Hamilton's title rival Max Verstappen. 

I am so happy that everyone is safe, I am just looking forward to getting out. I just want to go home.”

Hamilton's stance was echoed by Verstappen: “We had a lot of guarantees that of course it would be safe but after this weekend all the drivers together, we will speak with F1 and the team bosses to see what is happening for the future.”

McClaren's Lando Norris was another who was eager to leave.

Of course, I am relieved [it is over],” he said. “It is a nervous place to be and you are going to have these nerves.”

F1 chiefs have been placed in somewhat of a predicament by their drivers after only recently signing a 10-year, $900 million deal to hold annual races in Saudi Arabia.

The controversial race took place in direct contrast to the proposed Russian Grand Prix in Sochi which was scheduled for later this year but was canceled in the wake of Russia's military operation in Ukraine.