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Could tensions in the Red Sea impact F1?

With the F1 season almost upon us, the continued fallout in the Middle East and Red Sea could impact the sport. Here's why.

Saudi Arabia Missile Attack 2022
To news overview © XPBimages

With the F1 season just around the corner, the sport could find itself in the middle of a crisis through no fault of its own.

Tensions have spilled over in the Middle East in recent months, largely dictated by the war between Israel and Hamas. A number of knock-on effects have followed in the highly unstable region, yet one is a particular threat to F1.

Red Sea Crisis

In retaliation to Israel's attacks on Gaza, the Yemeni-based Houthi rebel group has launched countless missile attacks on the country's shipping fleet.

But there have been other targets in the Red Sea, of which the Houthi's hold a considerable stronghold over, with some ships from countries with political ties to Israel and some completely random.

The latest attack [on February 17] the Houthi's have claimed was on a British oil tanker heading for India and, given this crisis is a small part of a larger conflict of interests between the group and the United States - with Iran the other interested party.

There is no end in sight for the Red Sea crisis, so why is that an issue for F1?

Logistical nightmare

With the threat of missile attacks in the Red Sea and, in particular, the Bab-el-Mandeb chokepoint at the southernmost point of the sea, a huge number of cargo ships are being rerouted around the entire African continent.

The usual journey would see ships travel through the Mediterranean and make use of the Suez Canal, passing into the Red Sea and into the Indian Ocean - a huge maritime shortcut connecting Europe to Asia.

Dismissing this route adds a number of days to travel times for cargo ships, increasing costs not only for the manpower it takes to operate such routes but also for fuel.

It is a logistical nightmare that is very real - the Suez Canal has seen a drop in revenue of 40 per cent for January this year compared to last.

With freight being considered under F1's budget cap, teams could be faced with a major issue across the season. As of the Aston Martin season launch, Team Principal Mike Krack insisted he had not been made aware of any problems as of yet.

But that could well change as the year goes on if attacks on the shipping lane continue.

F1 has already weathered a storm with regard to shipping costs following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and skyrocketing inflation, with teams afforded a break in the budget cap following extensive talks as part of the F1 Commission.

It is hard to imagine a similar room to breathe wouldn't be afforded if external circumstances dictate but it is definitely something to keep an eye on.

Shipping times could be the biggest limiting factor for teams for any freight that does travel by sea, with logistical plans having to be redrawn at short notice.

Will races be under threat?

Despite the high tensions in the region and Yemen's proximity to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, there is absolutely no reason to believe the opening rounds of the new season will be impacted.

Aston Martin has confirmed there has been dialogue with F1 and its security advisors and, given the situation is not new, any potential fears would have already been made.

Saudi Arabia's event would be the one with most risk, given the Houthi's were responsible for the missile attack on an Aramco oil depot that threatened to derail the 2022 event. Jeddah is also situated on the Red Sea coast.

But security, as ever for F1, is impeccable and it would be a great surprise if either race was called off. After all, the issues are external from each event and in no way mirror the scenes that saw the cancellation of the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix.

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