PRIXVIEW – Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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The penultimate race of the season takes Formula One to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia for the inaugural Saudi Arabia Grand Prix. The circuit built in the last eighteen months is intended to be one of two possible venues for a race in the country with plans for a permeant circuit proposed in Qiddiyah in a few years’ time.

Despite the controversies around this race and concerns about the track not being ready, this weekend is a big unknown in a season where there has been so many different twists and turns. We will not know until the race whether overtaking is possible, but remember when we come back in March we will have

The Jeddah Cormiche Circuit located on the red sea coast is the second-longest circuit on the calendar and has targeted Baku as F1’s fastest street circuit. Its expected to rival Monza and Silverstone in terms of average speed according to the simulations put out by F1.

The circuit runs past large recreation areas, pavilions, and large-scale civic sculptures as well as King Fahd’s Fountain, the highest fountain in the world. The circuit has twenty-three corners and was designed by Carsten Tilke the son of Hermann, who has designed many of the circuits we have seen in the last two decades.

This circuit is expected to see average speeds around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit are set to be 252km/h – quicker than those at Silverstone, and second on the 2021 calendar only to Monza, ‘The Temple of Speed’. Jeddah is another journey into the unknown in the final double-header of the season, and sits in the middle of three new circuits.

Jeddah will be the sport’s third full night race, following in the steps of Singapore and  Sakhir, as well as twilight Abu Dhabi, and Lusail. The setup should be easier as for the first time in the sport’s history we have three twilight or night races back-to-back, and as we know getting the set up right is going to be very important.

We know with street circuits as well we see rapid track evolution as the rubber is laid down, this is likely to be the case in Jeddah. That means it is likely that the fastest times in qualifying are going to get quicker and quicker, drivers need to however learn the limits of the circuit.

On paper this circuit I think should be very close between Mercedes and Red Bull, the German manufacture has statically have won the first race at a new circuit since 2014. However, going back to Baku which many believe could give a slight indication of how this race could play out and we know Mercedes had a strong package.

Looking back at Baku, Verstappen looked to dominate the race until his crash caused by a tyre failure in the latter part of the race. We of course don’t know how the tyres will behave this in my view is a learning race as we will be back in Jeddah in just under five months when the race moves to the start of the season.

Verstappen goes into this weekend with the chance of winning his first world championship, which adds an extra dynamic into this weekend as we don’t know will he drive a race conservatively to ensure he takes his maiden title? We are in for an exciting voyage into the unknown in a season where anything can happen.

Facts and figures

Round 21 of 22
Race STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021
Venue Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Jeddah, Mecca Province
Configuration 2021
Circuit Length 6.174 km (3.836 mi)
Laps 50
Race Distance 308.450 km (191.661 mi)
Lap Record N/A
Most wins drivers N/A
Most wins manufacture N/A

Fast facts

  • The Jeddah Corniche derives its name from the original French and Italian term for a coastal road, especially a road along the face of a cliff. the total coastal area is approximately 30km long.
  • At 6.175km, Jeddah is the second-longest circuit on the calendar after Spa-Francorchamps. However, unlike Spa, it has very few changes in gradient, lying largely flat as it skirts the coast.
  • Jeddah will feature 27 corners – four more than Singapore and six more than Abu Dhabi. Admittedly, however, many of Jeddah’s corners will feel like straights to the drivers, given they’ll be flat-out kinks.
  • Jeddah is the second largest city in the Kingdom after the capital city of Riyadh. this city is located at the mesmerizing coast of the Red Sea. The Holy city of Mecca is the most holiest place for Muslims of the world, which is just 45 minutes away from Jeddah.

Event timetable

Session

Local

GMT

Friday

P1 16:30-17:30 13:30-14:30
P2 20:00-21:00 17:00-18:00

Saturday

P3 17:00-18:00 14:00-15:00
Qualifying 20:00-21:00 17:00-18:00

Sunday

Race 20:30 17:30

How Max Verstappen can win the title?

  • If he wins the race with the fastest lap (26 points) and Hamilton finishes sixth (8 points) or lower
  • If he wins the race without the fastest lap (25 points) and Hamilton finishes seventh (6 points) or lower
  • If he finishes second with the fastest lap (19 points) and Hamilton finishes 10th (1 point) or lower
  • If he finishes second without the fastest lap (18 points) and Hamilton finishes outside the top-10

What to watch for?

Max Verstappen goes into this race with a mathematical chance of taking his first title not only in F1 but single seater racing. This is a big weekend for the Dutchman, I think given his attitude to racing that he will not change his approach. But for the first time in the hybrid era this championship is out of Mercedes hands, but that means they need Red Bull to have two bad races.

Don’t judge Jeddah based on this weekend, I think that we all know that these cars aren’t the best for following, but this circuit reminds me of Baku. If we think back to the first race in 2016, it wasn’t the best compared to what we seen in recent years. I think we are going to see mistakes, meaning I think we are likely to see safety cars in the race, virtual safety cars throughout the weekend and red flags in qualifying.]

The practice sessions are going to be a learning experience for everyone, of course, new track, new track surface which has only gone down in the week or two. It is likely we could be in a similar position, without the rain, to Istanbul last year. But also, with street circuits they can be dusty, this street circuit I don’t think yet has been open to the public.

Though Verstappen won in Baku, many are expected that Jeddah’s long straights and flat out sections make it favourable to Mercedes. It’s also why in Sao Paulo Lewis Hamilton took a fresh power unit, I think based on the simulations about lap times Jeddah is going to be a circuit which favours downforce and straight-line speed.

Night race after Doha so the normal warning of caution in FP1 and FP3 in daylight applies as the teams don’t want to move too much if things aren’t working in warm weather. But we normally see that one of the top teams, usually Mercedes, are off the pace in the day sessions and then right there in the evening sessions.

Behind the top two there remains an interesting battle between Ferrari and McLaren, it feels in recent races that momentum has shifted towards Ferrari. But being back at what is I believe a power censive circuit its more likely that with the Mercedes engine that McLaren are going to be stronger given the win at Monza.

A lap of Jeddah

On board the simulator with Lewis Hamilton, he goes to the outside to start the lap, stays on the outside and starts braking as we see the kerb starts on the outside before turning in running along the whit line before switching to the outside for two. He then straights up the car on the run through Three puts the speed down before breaking for Four. Sweeping nicely through Five, Six, Seven and Eight this flat section last till thirteen, before braking 150m before the corner.

Runs close to the inside before putting his foot on the brakes before entering another sweeping section with the middle sector looking as if it is largely a flat sweeping sector without big braking points.

Brakes under the bridge for twenty two, I think, lining up the car in the middle before running to the edge of the track through twenty two-three chicanes onto the short run into the sweeping section towards the hairpin at twenty seven. He brakes about 150m metres before the corner before going through the middle part. On exit he lines up on the outside where he stays. His simulator lap a 01:29.109 with an average speed of 249.46kmh/155mph

Tyres

White Hard (C2)

Yellow Medium (C3)

Red Soft (C4)

Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.