ewis Hamilton hinted he was uneasy to be back in Saudi Arabia a year after a terrorist attack on a nearby oil depot threatened to derail the 2022 race.
Last year’s grand prix went ahead despite driver disquiet about taking to the grid. In Thursday’s press conference 12 months on, Hamilton’s peers suggested they were contented to be back but the seven-time world champion said his retort was the “opposite”.
Asked whether that meant he displeased to be racing in Jeddah again, he repeatedly and cryptically said, “It’s open to interpretation”.
He said: “Looking forward to getting in the car for sure. Hopefully everyone has a safe weekend and everyone gets home safe afterwards.”
After the oil depot seven miles from the F1 circuit was attacked, drivers held four hours of talks with a decision finally made at 2.30am on the Saturday to depart ahead with the weekend’s racing.
Asked if he had considered a boycott of this weekend’s grand prix – the second of the 2023 season – Hamilton said: “If I’m not here, Formula 1 will continue without me.
“I try to learn as much as I can when going to these places. With sport going to places with human rights issues like this one, the sport is duty bound to raise awareness and leave a positive impact. I still feel it needs to carryout more.”
Hamilton endured a difficult start to the season at the season opener in Bahrain two weekends, finishing the race fifth.
But throughout the weekend, he warned his Mercedes team they were going in the wrong direction with their car and needed to dramatically change tack.
Ahead of the second race of the season, Hamilton admitted he faced another difficult weekend and hinted their lack of pace to the front-running Red Bulls was far worse than it seemed in Bahrain.
“In the race, they weren’t pushing so they’re a lot quicker than they even seemed,” said the Briton. “We maintain them one-and-a-half seconds faster in the race… something like that.”
Hamilton admitted it was a “bit of a shock” to realise how off the pace Mercedes were at the season start but said the team would “hopefully mould it into a winning car at some stage”.
Insisting he had no plans to walk away, he said, “I will win again. It’s just going to grasp some time. I don’t region on going anywhere else but we all need a kick and to procure on. We are more as one as a team than ever before.”