This is a reference to F1’s justification for its involvement with Saudi – that it hopes its presence there can be a driver for change within the country. Not everyone buys that argument, of course, and Hamilton himself wondered aloud on Friday why change could not be faster.
F1’s bosses – not just chairman Stefano Domenicali, but his bosses at Liberty Media, Greg Maffei and John Malone – now have some serious thinking to do.
Saudi Arabia pays F1 a lot of money. But having witnessed very clearly over the weekend the reputational risks that accompany it, people inside the sport are asking whether F1 can convincingly continue to push for diversity through its “We Race As One” campaign, while also selling the sport to the highest bidder.
Or, as one senior insider put it to BBC Sport, will they “have to choose between profits and corporate responsibility”?
F1 and governing body the FIA insist there was no talk of potential consequences in any of the meetings in which they were involved.
Through the weekend, it was very much a party line that the race went ahead because teams and drivers had been convinced by the Saudi authorities that the event was secure. But the drivers continued to be uneasy.
And that led to another party line. Any question as to whether F1 should race in Saudi Arabia again was met with the same response – we’re going to talk about that later.
“We had a lot of guarantees we would be safe,” Verstappen said after his victory, “but I think after this weekend all the drivers together we will speak with F1 and the team bosses to see what’s happening for the future.”metasports
They already had serious concerns over the safety of the track and the human rights issues that surround Saudi Arabia, and the fear of a missile hitting the track tipped them over the edge.
After four hours of meetings with a rolling cast of senior figures, the drivers were persuaded to climb down. And the longer the weekend went on, the more claims there were that the fear of “what (could happen) if we don’t race” – as Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas put it – was involved.