By Philip Duncan, PA F1 Correspondent, Jeddah
Lewis Hamilton said he was looking forward to getting out of Saudi Arabia following Sunday’s controversial race.
The second round of the new Formula One season had been in doubt 48 hours earlier following a nearby missile strike on an oil refinery during first practice.
After an extraordinary four-hour meeting on Friday night, the drivers were ready to withdraw, only to be talked round by F1 bosses following assurances from Saudi authorities.
It is understood the drivers will meet with F1 to discuss the future of the race in Jeddah, possibly by a virtual call in the coming days, or in-person at the next round in Australia on April 10th.
Hamilton, who finished a disappointing 10th, said: “I am so happy the weekend is done and I am also just so happy that everyone is safe. I am looking forward to getting out.”
Asked if he had any reservations about returning to Saudi Arabia next year, Hamilton replied: “I just want to go home.”
Hamilton’s fellow Briton, the 22-year-old McLaren driver Lando Norris, added: “Of course I am relieved [to have got through the weekend].
“Under any circumstance all we want to do is race. But it is a nervous place to be and you are going to have these nerves and that is why we had the discussions we did. We were given the reassurances and told it is safe and we had to believe that.
“Whether we come back or not – I would love to look forward to do that because it is a fun track, but those are discussions we will have after the weekend.”
Hamilton all but wrote off his chances of winning an eighth world championship after conceding that a victory “feels like a long way away”.
As Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc engaged in their second ding-dong duel for victory inside a week, with the world champion this time prevailing to win, Hamilton scored just one point. George Russell was fifth in the other Mercedes.
Following one of the worst qualifying performances of his career, Hamilton drove well to move from 15th to sixth.
George and Lewis wrung absolutely everything they could out of the car tonight - with some great battles and overtakes. 👏
Unfortunately Lewis' race was compromised by the early Safety Car and we couldn't take advantage of the VSC to protect position. pic.twitter.com/n0M7jAKsH9
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) March 27, 2022
But the seven-time world champion’s evening in Jeddah took a sorry twist when he was denied a free change for tyres with both Fernando Alonso’s and Daniel Ricciardo’s conked-out machines blocking the pit-lane entry.
Hamilton emerged from his sole stop in 12th, gaining two places before the chequered flag.
But Hamilton is already 29 points behind championship leader Leclerc after only two rounds.
“Right now, we are not fighting for the top step,” said Hamilton. “We are so far off the guys up ahead and we have a lot of work to do. It feels like a long way away.
“We need more grip, and we need more power. We are still really down on speed. It is not just one fix. It is several things.”