Fire in Saudi city ahead of F1 race; Yemen rebels claim attacks


A raging fire erupted Friday at an oil depot in the Saudi city of Jeddah ahead of an F1 race there, according to witnesses and video footage, with Yemen’s Houthis rebels acknowledging they had launched a series of attacks on the kingdom.

While Saudi Arabia and its state-run oil behemoth Saudi Aramco did not immediately acknowledge the blaze, it appeared to be centered on the same fuel depot that the Houthis attacked in recent days.

Those at the F1 track could see the large black smoke cloud in the distance. The cause of the blaze was not immediately known.

However, the al-Masirah satellite news channel run by Yemen’s Houthi rebels said more details would be released later about their attacks. The Iran-backed Houthis did not immediately claim they were behind the Jiddah fire on Friday.

Leclerc leads Verstappen in first practice

Charles Leclerc posted the fastest time ahead of world champion Max Verstappen in the first practice session for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Friday.

The Ferrari driver moved to the top near the end and was .116 seconds faster than Verstappen for Red Bull.

Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas was third fastest on the 6.2-kilometer (3.8-mile) Jeddah Corniche Circuit and was .312 seconds behind Leclerc. Carlos Sainz Jr. was fourth best for Ferrari.

But Mercedes struggled again with the weight of its car. Seven-time Lewis Hamilton was ninth quickest and Mercedes teammate George Russell was 15th.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen came back to the garage after only a few minutes because of a hydraulic problem and did not get back out on track.

The session was briefly interrupted by a red flag after about 20 minutes when McLaren driver Lando Norris clipped the wall heading into Turn 1 and a board fell onto the track.

A second practice session will take place later Friday under floodlights.

Leclerc won last Sunday’s season-opening race in Bahrain, where Verstappen scored no points after retiring near the end of that race.

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