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Update: Saudi Arabian Grand Prix continues ‘as planned’ despite rebel attack on oil facility

The Saudi Arabian Formula One Grand Prix will continue “as planned” despite an attack by Yemeni rebels on an oil facility which set off a huge fire visible from Jeddah’s street circuit.

Flames ripped through the nearby Aramco oil refinery and was smelt by drivers during the opening practice run.

Drivers and team bosses attended a meeting in the paddock with race organisers and Formula One management shortly before second practice which was scheduled to begin at 1600GMT.

The start of the session was delayed by 15 minutes as F1 boss Stefano Domenicali insisted the race weekend will continue.

“He informed them that the weekend will go ahead as planned and that the safety of the event has been a priority for authorities prior to this incident,” said an F1 spokesman.

“He will continue to update them with any new information and will likely meet with team principals in the evening to share any new information.”

World champion Max Verstappen was one of the first drivers to be aware of the drama unfolding as he guided his Red Bull through the first practice session.

“I smell burning – is it my car?” said the Dutchman on his team radio.

Speaking after Friday’s meeting, Haas team boss Gunther Steiner told ServusTV: “We were assured by the government that it is safe to drive here. After practice, we’ll have another meeting.

“Personally, I feel absolutely safe. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”

Friday’s attack was part of a wave of assaults ahead of the seventh anniversary of a Saudi-led coalition’s military intervention against the Huthis in Yemen, a country in the grips of a major humanitarian crisis.

The coalition fighting the Iran-backed rebels confirmed the Jeddah oil plant attack.

“They are trying to impact the nerve-centre of the world economy,” the coalition said in a statement. “These attacks have no impact on life in Jeddah,” it added.

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