The Circuit’s Inaugural F1 Race Is This Weekend
The circuit itself was completed just nine months after construction began. Formula One’s newest track is laid out to kiss the banks of the Red Sea in Jeddah’s Corniche section.
After Jeddah, there is one race left. The 2021 season started in March in Bahrain and progressed through a wild and wooly year filled with surprises, dramas, crashes, and a tight points race.
Fans and drivers alike brace for something they have never seen before. At 3.84 miles around, the Corniche is the long. It is believed to be the fastest road circuit in the world. Spa-Francorchamps measures 4.35 miles per lap and is considered the longest of Formula One’s fixed tracks.
Will drivers find their way around long straights and banked turns? Corniche is the longest and fastest of road circuits. Designers started from nothing and have now finished it for the race this weekend. Will drivers find 27 turns on a course no one has experience on too much to handle? This will be a test of car and driver. The physical demands for the driver will unfold in practice and qualifying.
Since the course is set on the banks of the Red Sea, elevation changes will not be much of a factor. 27 turns will, however. In laying out the course, designers had plenty of space to work with and gave in to the temptation of adding long straightaways and banked turns.
A permanent track is planned in Qiddiya, not far from the Kingdom’s capital city of Riyadh, and is scheduled to hold races there in 2023.
Drivers who master the Yas Marina circuit’s 27 turns will be rewarded. Run-off space will be tight. Drivers will test their skills and concentration before moving on to the last race of the year in Abu Dhabi. Fans who have followed the World Champion fight between Verstappen and Hamilton anticipate drama and high speeds. We will know how it washes out after the Saudi Arabian GP finishes up 55 laps on Sunday.
Drivers are racing into the unknown this weekend. Practice on Friday will have every driver making mental notes and race teams paying full attention to every detail. Somewhere in that data lies an advantage, but who will capitalize on it first?
No team has experience here. Formula One returns to the track in four months as the cars run the 2022 Saudia Arabian GP.
Tire choice and durability will be factors. A new course has no ground in rubber. Expect some slipping and sliding in the corners. There is room to pass on the long straights and in the corners. DRS, which adds a momentary boost of 12 mph, will be critical. DRS is active for a driver only when he is within one second of the car ahead.
If you like spectacle and drama, the Corniche is ripe to deliver both this inaugural weekend. A hotel straddles the track, and the pit lane is underground. The race is being held under the lights. Three DRS zones. Red Bull has locked horns with MercedesAMG in battles for the constructor’s points race and the driver world championship. Fans are pulling for Verstappen - chasing his first driver’s title, while Hamilton is looking for his eighth.
Jeddah’s Corniche promises to be a fitting venue for all the drama you care to enjoy in a couple of days of Formula One racing. Hats off to circuit designer Herman Tilke, who has worked unique features into an exciting new circuit.
My best wishes to all the teams and drivers. Hope everyone has a great weekend. Safety first!
Please share your thoughts in the comments section. See you Sunday!