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  • Reese Mautone

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Preview

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

For the second race in a row, F1 ventures beyond the limits of its history to another new destination in that of the historic Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for the penultimate race of the 2021 season.

The Jeddah Corniche Circuit is located on the Corniche, a coastal resort area spanning 30km in the second-largest city in Saudi Arabia. The circuit itself takes shape as a temporary street circuit despite the permanent construction of some areas of the circuit and supporting facilities. What makes the Jeddah Corniche Circuit standout from the rest of the calendar is not only its extremely fast sweeping corners but its surrounding environment. On one side, the circuit is perched merely metres from the Red Sea, providing both benefits and impacts

to the racing we will see come Saturday's qualifying session and lights out on Sunday, and the other, a grand-scale megacity on the rise.

For the organisers of this event, it was a race against the clock to complete the circuit in time for Formula 1's first arrival in the Middle Eastern Kingdom, doing so in a time frame of just 12 months. Saudi Arabia will be the 34th country to host a World Championship race, this being the largest sporting event ever to be held here.

The circuit itself is a sequence of high-speed, adrenaline-inducing corners that will dramatically reward drivers who manage to avoid even minor errors across the never before driven lap. Set to be the fastest street circuit on the F1 calendar, Sunday's race will be comprised of 50 laps across the seaside circuit's record-breaking 27 corners, both high-speed and some reminiscent of Zandvoort's banked corners too. The Jeddah Corniche Circuit's length is 6.174km, making the Grand Prix's race distance a total of 308.45km. Qualifying will be held at 8:00 pm local time and the race at 8:30 pm local time the next day, with all sessions to be run under floodlights. The cars are estimated to be able to reach average speeds of 252km/h, a speed only second to that of Italy's 'Temple of Speed', Monza.

"We want fast sweeping circuits, circuits which are going to challenge the drivers – and they are going to love it.” - Ross Brawn

Due to the nature of the Saudi Arabian/coastal climate, temperatures are expected to be relatively high and humid too as a result of the neighbouring Red Sea. Had this GP been scheduled for any other time of year, we'd have seen temperatures that ceased to drop below 32°C, however, the early December weeks and nighttime racing bring a slight peace of mind to drivers, strategists, engineers and fans alike. Looking ahead at this weekend's radar, all signs point towards temperatures ranging from 30°C to 27°C, with a 0% chance of rain, however, a shifting sea breeze could add an interesting factor to the timing sheets, similar to Zandvoort, with Turn 22 located right on the shoreline of the sea.

Following on from this year, Saudi Arabia is set to host a Grand Prix for the next 10 years. One of the richest deals ever agreed upon by a host nation, the Kingdom are paying a hefty sum of approximately $900 million for the 10 years, and potentially a further $90 million annually if they are to bid to continue post-contract. This desire coincides to benefit both F1 and the Saudi Arabian government in their long-term goals. As a country that primarily relies on importation and exportation of goods like oil, the government has developed their Vision 2030 policy which sees their focus shifting to modernising society and promoting tourism, both internationally and domestically.

“Saudi Arabia is accelerating forward and the speed, energy, excitement of Formula 1 perfectly reflects the transformational journey the country is on. “ - Saudi Arabian Sports Minister, Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al Faisal Al Saud

Hence, 2021 and 2022's Grand Prix will take place at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, and from then on the event will take place in Qiddiya (near the capital city of Riyadh) as a result of the governments large scale project set to be completed by 2023.

Now to answer the question on everyone's minds heading into the penultimate race of the season: Is it a Red Bull or Mercedes track?

Although predictions could cease to hold any truth as has been seen in the past with this guessing game, the track looks set to favour Mercedes this weekend.

For the majority of the lap in Jeddah, it is made up of fast sweeping corners and primarily flat out running. This design looks to suit the Mercedes due to their low-drag approach, and controversially strong straight-line speed, however, given the Mercedes history with tyre behaviour, Red Bull could capitalise in that area. In the past, Mercedes has struggled with front tyre warm-up, which in Jeddah, could impact Hamilton and Bottas' qualifying laps or the start of their different stints during the race as a result of the lap starting on the long, narrow straight. The tyre allocation for this weekend will be the C2, C3 and C4.

The possibility of having a championship winner at the end of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend is very real. Max Verstappen has the chance to take home his very first title if, and only if:

  • Max Verstappen finishes first with Fastest Lap and Lewis Hamilton finishes sixth or lower

  • Max Verstappen finishes first and Lewis Hamilton finishes seventh or lower

  • Max Verstappen finishes second with Fastest Lap and Lewis Hamilton finishes 10th or lower

  • Max Verstappen finishes second and Lewis Hamilton doesn't score

This weekend could see Max win it or Lewis lose it within a matter of milli-seconds.

A new circuit is always an exciting challenge, and with stakes never having been so high for both our championship contenders, fans are in for an exciting few days of racing.



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