Formula 1 will again break new ground this weekend, with the first-ever Saudi Arabian GP set to be held as the season’s penultimate race.
It is an intruiging sub-plot to what has been a thrilling season. Of the last three races, two of the circuits have been unknowns for the sport. Prior to this, F1 went to the Losail International Circuit in Qatar for the first time.
The idea that all drivers will have to navigate through the unknown adds to the challenge in front of title contenders Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. Both have led the race in various points through the season.
However, it is the Red Bull driver who finds himself in a better position going into this weekend. Indeed, should circumstances be in his favour, he could be world champion going into the final race in Abu Dhabi.
Of course, given how tight the title race has been all season, it is likelier the race will go down to the wire. But before that happens, drivers must navigate the Jeddah Corniche Circuit for the first time ever.
Given that this race will be the first-ever event held on the street circuit, it is perhaps difficult to make too many predictions about how things will go.
Nevertheless, here is all you need to know about the venue of the 2021 Saudi Arabian GP.
On first glance, there are two things that stand out about the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. The first is its length – at 6.175 km, it is the second-longest track on the calendar right now. Only Spa-Francorchamps is longer, at 6.95 km.
The second thing that stands out is the speedy nature of the track. A look at all virtual simulations done so far makes it clear that cars will need to be on the throttle almost constantly through a lap.
Super-fast, flowing and lined by barriers… the Jeddah Corniche Circuit will be putting both the drivers and the cars to the absolute test! 👀
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) December 1, 2021
F1’s own simulations also estimates that the top speed on the circuit will be 322 km/h, with an average speed of 252.8 km/h. This means Jeddah is slower only than Monza on the current calendar.
Unlike the legendary Italian circuit, however, the track at Saudi Arabia has plenty of turns. 27 of them, to be precise; 16 left-handers and 11 right-handers. To add a further challenge, the Turn 13 hairpin is banked at 12 degrees.
What’s more, the circuit is set to have not one or two but three DRS zones. Thus fans can be excited at the potential of seeing plenty of overtakes happen.
This season has, in many ways, been too hard to call in that regard. Often times, fans and experts go into a race expecting one team to dominate and it’s the other team that does.
For instance, Mercedes were expected to be the faster team at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. But it was Verstappen who left USA with the race win.
Similarly, many thought Qatar’s slew of medium and slow speed corners would slightly favour the high-rake, higher-downforce Red Bull. Yet it was Hamilton who romped to a comfortable race win at Losail.
This makes predictions a trickier business than normal. However, on first view, the high-speed Jeddah circuit would favour Hamilton and Mercedes.
The main reason for this is their far superior straightline speed. Red Bull had no answer to the Silver Arrows’ speed on straights at either Interlagos or Losail. And more of the same can be expected on this circuit too.
To make matters worse, Hamilton will be switching back to the new engine power unit that he used in Interlagos. For Qatar, Mercedes switched to an older power unit because they believed engine power would not be a factor on that particular track.
This has the added advantage of giving Hamilton a little extra push for this weekend. But again, we won’t know for sure until the weekend begins.