by Tom Athron ’21
Published Mar. 15th, 2021
On the surface, the second race of the 2021 Diriyah E-Prix weekend was a standard race on the ABB FIA Formula E championship.
Robin Frijns took the pole position in Riyadh, and Jaguar Racing took the win through their new driver, Sam Bird.
However, unknown to many, disaster was not far away.
Multiple explosions were heard above the Saudi capital as the Saudi-led military coalition announced the thwarting of a missile attack aimed at the city.
Whether or not the Formula E race was the primary target is unknown, as several rockets and drones were shot down in other Saudi cities that evening. However, state media did announce that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman was present at the time.
Regardless of whether it was the primary target, the Formula E paddock stayed out of the way during the attack. A red flag following a crash in which Mahindra’s Alex Lynn was rolled upside-down resulted in the race being prematurely stopped as Jaguar’s Sam Bird took top honors.
Following the events of Saturday, the viability of the Saudi Arabian Formula One race, scheduled to take place this December in Jeddah, has been called into question. While neither F1 nor the FIA have commented on the matter, it is possible that the race will still be able to continue.
According to Al-Jazeera, Saudi officials blamed the attacks on the Yemeni Houthi rebels. No casualties or injuries were reported by Saudi authorities, although at least one home was damaged by shrapnel, and several flights were diverted as a result of the attempted attack.
The Yemeni Houthi rebels have taken over a large portion of their home country of Yemen since 2014. As Shiite Muslims, they are extremely opposed to the Sunni Saudi Arabian government.
Saudi Arabia has faced international criticism for its treatment of the Houthis in Yemen. With a high number of bombings and civilian casualties, the United Nations has called the situation in Yemen the “largest humanitarian crisis on the planet.”
The US Embassy in Riyadh has issued a warning to Americans, calling on them to “stay alert in case of additional future attacks.”