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F1 boss addresses talk of driver boycott in Saudi Arabia

F1 drivers were locked in lengthy talks in the Jeddah paddock on Friday night, following a missile attack close to the circuit, but the race weekend progressed as planned.

Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has stated that boycott is "not the right word" to use after F1 drivers met to discuss their options earlier in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend. F1 and FIA chiefs, along with drivers and team bosses, gathered either side of Friday's practice sessions at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit following a missile attack in the area. The attack on an Aramco fuel facility - shortly before first practice began - caused a large fire, which led to acrid smoke permeating through the F1 paddock and across the circuit. After the two initial meetings, F1 and the FIA made clear that the race weekend would be progressing as planned, but the drivers then broke off for their own talks, throwing the event into fresh doubt.

Domenicali plays down talk of a driver boycott

After some four hours of discussions, it emerged that the decision to proceed would not be overturned, with the Grand Prix Drivers' Association releasing a statement on Saturday morning to confirm their position. Asked in an interview with Sky Sports about suggestions that drivers were at one stage considering a boycott of the race, and what ultimately changed their mind, Domenicali moved to play down the notion. "I think that boycott is not the right word, because we are not here to be in two categories – we are one family of Formula 1," said Domenicali. "The drivers have [voiced] to us their position, their concern, and I think it's just a matter of discussing, explaining the things that we believe have to be explained in the proper way, [which] took us [to] the decision. "You've seen the press release that the GPDA did, you see our position, to make sure that it's pretty clear, and I think that the good news is that I've seen all the drivers focusing an incredible day of qualifying."

What about the future of the Saudi Arabian GP?

Asked if there are now more questions about the future of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as an event, in light of this weekend's attack, Domenicali stressed his belief that F1 can drive change in the country. "I think that it's not a matter of a question mark, it's a matter of understanding the situation, for sure," he commented. "We are not blind, but we don't have to forget one thing, that this country, also through Formula 1, and the sport, we believe is doing a massive step forward. "Don't forget, a couple of years ago, women couldn't drive, and they're here on the grid, cheering, [with] their kids, partying and seeing the sport. They are changing a lot of laws in order to make sure that this is happening. "Of course, there are tensions inside, there are things that have to be improved. We don't want to be political on that, but I believe we are playing a very important role in the modernisation of this country."

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