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Formula 1 in the Middle East has certainly gained popularity and it would be no surprise that a Grand Prix would eventually take place in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is a staunchly Muslim country that is extremely wealthy due to its large oil reserves.
Bringing Formula 1 to Saudi Arabia was not an easy affair due to the country’s numerous alleged human rights violations. Many groups pleaded with Formula 1 not to bring the race to a country where women were not allowed to drive until some years ago.
Formula 1 insisted that bringing Grand Prix to Saudi Arabia will be a positive influence and will help the country move forward in becoming a more welcoming state.
In 2021 the first Saudi GP was held and is considered a great success due to the entertainment value brought on by the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. Saudi Arabia has never had any teams or drivers participate in Formula 1.
Perhaps the arrival of an F1 circuit will inspire Saud to invest in a team of their own or inspire young drivers to dream of making it to F1. Let us take a look at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit where the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is held.
JEDDAH CORNICHE CIRCUIT
The second last race of the 2021 F1 season took place at the Saudi Arabia GP at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit for the first time in history. The circuit is located in the city of Jeddah in the Makkah province, which hugs the red sea and is the main gateway to the holy city of Mecca.
The track is a street circuit that mixes the roads of Jeddah with some permanent strips of the track. The track surrounds a lagoon in Jeddah’s Corniche area(coastal) and offers seven grandstands throughout the track for your viewing pleasure.
The track was designed by Carsten Tilke who is the son of Herman Tilke who designed numerous F1 tracks around the world. Formula 1 worked in conjunction with the Saudi Automobile & Motorsport Federation to ensure the track can be built with the highest of standards being respected.
LONGEST AND FASTEST STREET CIRCUIT
The race itself will take place at night, becoming the fifth race on the F1 calendar to take place under the stars. The track is the longest street circuit on the F1 schedule, being 6.174km long and includes twenty-seven turns needing fifty laps to complete the race distance of 308.45km. Lewis Hamilton has the fastest lap with 1:30.734 which is a whopping thirteen seconds faster than Formula 2’s record set by Oscar Piastri with a time of 1:43.940.
The Jeddah Circuit is the fastest street circuit in F1 history where the average speed is well over 250km/h and with top speeds that can hit 320km/h. Only the Monza which is referred to as the “Temple of Speed” can claim to be faster.
There are three DRS zones that follow each other one after the other in the latter parts of the track. Some key features to note are the track widths which are fairly tight ranging from ten to fifteen meters, which reduces the margin of error for drivers significantly and raises the chances of a safety car or red flag during a race.
TURNS, TURNS, AND MORE TURNS
Within the twenty-seven turns, there are sixteen left-handers and eleven right-handed turns. Turns 1-2 are where a great deal of action can be expected, being a tight left-right chicane with a decent runoff area allowing drivers to continue racing even if they falter. From there on the track gets tighter and more unforgiving with walls surrounding the drivers heading into turn 4 a sharp left-hander that leads into turn 5 the bends slightly right before bending left into turn 6.
Turn 7 forces drivers to turn left before quickly turning right into turn 8. Turn 9 and 10 forms another chicane leading into two slight bends in the track that are turns 11 and 12. Through the first twelve turns, drivers are consistently hitting fast speeds swooping through them, rarely braking. After coming off a short straight after turn 12 drivers navigate through the first hairpin of the race at turn 13 taking the drivers along the coast of Jeddah.
Turn 14 keeps the speed going being another slight left-handed bend only to slightly bend right into turn fifteen. Turn 16 and 17 create another chicane before leading into the first DRS zone of the circuit. The Zone 1 DRS zone takes the drivers through turns 18-19-20-21 which are very slight bends in the track.
Drivers need to slow down to head into turn 22 turning slightly left followed by the two slight right-handers of turns 23 and 24. The second DRS zone begins after turn 24 as drivers fly through a long looping turn that makes up turns 25 and 26. Drivers go from full throttle to hitting the brakes and shifting gears to deal with the second and final hairpin of the race Turn 27.
The third and final DRS zone immediately begins on the exit of turn 27 taking drivers to the finish and attaining maximum velocity.
FLAGS AND SAFETY CARS
The 2021 race was exhilarating but also drew some criticism for the multiple red flags and long delays to resume the race. In its maiden race, one safety car was issued, four virtual safety cars, and two red flags.
Like many street circuits, the Jeddah Corniche Circuit is extremely dangerous especially when cars are bunched up after the start of races. The narrow track widths in some areas squeeze the race cars close together, adding more pressure for drivers to be perfect with their handling. One hopes that the 2022 edition of the race will remain as entertaining but without any long delays or serious accidents.
SAUDI ARABIA TRAVEL GUIDE
THE CITY OF JEDDAH
Traveling to Saudi Arabia may seem like an unappealing idea but with Formula 1 on the schedule, you might have to rethink your preconceptions. The city of Jeddah where the Grand Prix is held is considered one of the most liberal cities in the country. One must always keep in mind to respect the Moslem laws and cultural norms in the country.
RED SEA DELIGHTS
Being a coastal or port city, tourists can enjoy the beautiful beaches of the red sea. If scuba diving is on your interest list, Jeddah offers some prime locations for dives where you can see beautiful coral reefs, wrecks, and unique marine life.
Temperatures are naturally high, rarely falling below ten degrees in their “winter months”; contrarily it can get as hot as fifty degrees in the summer months. Jeddah offers numerous theme parks where you can ride roller coasters and other rides.
You can also visit numerous ancient mosques to get a better feel of the religious-driven culture of the region. Do not expect to find any bars or nightclubs because they are forbidden alongside the sale of alcohol.
Dining out at the numerous restaurants in the city is your best bet for some extra fun during your stay. You should check out All Nakheel where you can enjoy red sea grouper that is freshly caught.
It is essential to respect the rules and laws and it bears repeating they will punish you severely if you do not. We strongly suggest you visit https://www.visitsaudi.com/en to properly plan your trip while avoiding any rule-breaking.
There are currently no teams from Saudi Arabia to have joined Formula 1.
There have never been any drivers representing the country of Saudi Arabia in Formula 1 history.
UP AND COMERS
There are no young prospective Saudi F1 drivers driving in Formula 2 or Formula 3.