Jeddah Corniche Circuit construction work

Jeddah making “miraculous” progress as deadline to complete F1 track looms

2021 F1 Season

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The team building the Jeddah Corniche Circuit is making “extraordinary” progress as the deadline to complete the venue in time for its first race draws nearer.

The opening practice session for the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is due to take place five weeks from today.

Tilke Engineering was appointed to design the street circuit partly because of their experience in delivering major construction projects quickly. Bahrain-based MRK 1 Consulting, which has worked with Tilke on previous projects, is also involved in the operation of the new track in Jeddah.

MRK 1 managing director Mark Hughes told RaceFans the eight-month timeframe Jeddah’s circuit is being constructed in is one of the shortest they have worked on.

“From my experience and from having worked on projects, Bahrain was built in 16 months, Abu Dhabi was built in 18 months,” said Hughes. “We built the track in Thailand: From ground-breaking to our first event was 12 months at Buriram and that was another Tilke project. Tilke’s experience of fast track projects is quite exceptional.”

Hughes called the rate of progress in Jeddah “extraordinary”. He last visited the site three weeks ago and receives regular updates from his team on the ground. “What they’ve managed to achieve over the last few weeks is miraculous,” he said.

FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi was due to visit the site this week to check on progress and F1 representatives have also inspected the construction work.

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“We also have regular visits from Formula 1 themselves, a number of Ross [Brawn’s] team have been there over the past couple of months. The plan is the race will happen on the fifth of December, that will go ahead and I believe it will. From the progress I’ve seen, I’ve got no reason to doubt it.”

Nonetheless he conceded that completing construction within eight months is “a big ask” even compared to other rapidly completed projects. “With the amount of time it took to build Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Buriram, I think construction started on the 1st of April in Jeddah and the race is in December, that’s a significantly condensed timeframe.”

The temporary layout is being built as an extension to Jeddah’s waterfront corniche. “It’s a series of two roads that run parallel along the coastline. One lane takes you north then you get to a roundabout and come back and go south.

“That runs along the whole of the Jeddah city, and it’s an extension of that effectively so that we will join the existing road network.

“All of the barriers that are there can come out, they’re all temporary concrete barriers with sections of fencing, and that track can be reverted back to a public highway after the event.”

Its roads will not be opened for public use until after next year’s race, which has been given a March date on the 2022 F1 calendar.

“The authorities have said okay, we will leave everything in place between December between the first and second race, which makes absolute sense [because of] the cost of taking everything out, storing and putting it back,” explained Hughes. “You’d have to start rebuilding it almost as soon as you demobilised it.

“So in the long term, it will be highways. In the infield, there are things like five-a-side football pitches and basketball courts and things. So it’s very much a sports and leisure zone. There are cafes and restaurants that are being built on the waterside, it will be an extension of the existing corniche.”

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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45 comments on “Jeddah making “miraculous” progress as deadline to complete F1 track looms”

  1. Hopefully the race will have to be cancelled.

    Not because the track’s incomplete, but just generally.

    1. I don’t see how it’s that much worse than gps anywhere else. How many innocent civilians has NATO drone strikes?

      1. Bombing civilians in foreign countries seems to be accepted as a good thing. I have never seen anybody protest a GP because of it.

        Saudi Arabia’s problem has been that they have been self-contained for so long, only oppressing their own population. While Western countries also oppress and discriminate their minorities, they have also always bombed foreign countries. Saudi Arabia has only recently started this practice in Yemen. Their acceptance in the Western world has grown since then, e.g. Britain are happily selling them weapons, concluding that Saudi Arabia “has a genuine intent and the capacity to comply with international humanitarian law”.

        My personal opinion is that Saudi Arabia will only be fully welcomed into the circle of civilized countries, if they start a war with Iran.

        1. Could you give examples of Western countries oppressing and discriminating minorities?

        2. I like your reasoning! Too many blind people exist in the F1 fanbase.

          1. woke influx :)

      2. @realnigelmansell
        There is a difference between oppressing half of your population (as Saudi Arabia does) versus military action.
        Plus how many innocent civilians has Saudi Arabia killed in Yemen?
        That being said, Saudi Arabia isn’t much different from some of the other places F1 goes to, such as China or Bahrain.

        1. There is a difference between oppressing half of your population (as Saudi Arabia does) versus military action.

          This is true, there is a difference. Oppressing half of your population is always very bad, but military action can sometimes be justifiable. However, not always. Sometimes the reasons given for military action or war don’t hold water. IMO there is something quite sinister about a government that would sell military action or war to its population in such a way, on quetionable grounds. I assess such countries to be quite dangerous.

      3. NATO drone strikes?

  2. Hardly miraculous. More like paved with dead slaves.

    1. I was just going to say that. The other governments from the area have already killed enough people to allow F1 and MotoGP to race there or for the football World Cup to be organized. Actually it’s funny even calling them “government”, it’s just a mad family that chops journalists into little pieces and causes death and suffering on a daily basis. Yeah, cannot wait for those last few races really. Miracles truly happen, good for you Liberty. How much do you pay those miraculous workers anyway? I hope they didn’t confiscate their passports and other documents like they usually do and keep them imprisoned, like a certain country did for the World Cup, and we’ll see a race being held there too this year.

    2. Erm. The USA and modern Europe was built on the sweat and blood of thousands if not millions of slaves.

      1. And if they did that now I’m sure we’d be calling for boycotts too. European history is bloody awful, but at least its comparatively distant. I don’t think slaves built Silverstone (although I’m willing to be corrected

      2. Why does that make it right today though @david-beau. Times have changed a little since then. No one is denying what you are saying.

      3. @david-beau
        That’s not happening today though is it.
        You’re trying to force a false equivalence that doesn’t exist.

  3. If you leave aside ethics and morality for a second (I know, hard to do), the thing I dislike about the race Middle East races is the lack of fans / atmosphere. Compared to scenes in Texas / Spa / Monza / Silverstone, etc…. these races feel the same as the ones behind closed doors during COVID-19 in 2020. Fulfils contracts, but soulless experience.

    1. @gabf1 India never broke through even though they had a driver. I wonder do we ever get driver from Qatar, Bahrain or Saudi Arabia? But for a Liberty Media’s point of view watching the pictures from Zandvort or Bahrain it is hard for them to justice that the only reason to race there (middle-east) is money.
      F1 is a business and every business needs money and when there is a lot of it, it tends to focus on the “gray area”

      1. @qeki Actually, India has had two drivers in F1, an Indian owned successful F1 team and F1 raced in India for three seasons. That’s not too bad, I would say that’s a pretty good break through for a country like India.

        I seriously doubt we’ll ever see a driver in F1 from those countries you listed unless with lots of foresight by them and significant investments spent over many years grooming young drivers.

      2. India had a fair chance if F1 stuck with it. To be fair I maybe biased because I am an Indian but interest in F1 has been growing over the years. With the new generation on young F1 drivers coming in who are much more active on social media and a very young demographic, India has the potential to be in the top 3 markets for F1 and motorsport in general. The timing was unfortunate I would say. The govt. at that time could not support financially nor could they give any tax breaks. The promoters/owners of the track got stuck in bankruptcy and legal issues due to delayed completion on real estate projects. All these and it is easy to see why F1 chased more lucrative venues.

        Yes India had F1 drivers but Karthikeyan/chandok were not too well known at the time nor was there any awareness of their achievements. I believe that an Indian GP would be much more popular now as people are more aware and F1 viewership in India is on the rise. Specially if F2 comes along where Jehan daruvala is competing.
        one can hope but I don’t think it’s on the cards in the near future. The current government is equally disinterested and with the pandemic, the optics of rich people driving fancy cars while people starve is not something the current or the next government would want.

        1. I think India would have had a better chance of surviving if it first appeared under Liberty ownership. Bernie was never gonna help one jot, because all he cared about was the hosting fees.

  4. I really hope they complete the track on time and in good condition.
    The last thing we want is a hastily built up venue in which the cars,drivers and fans suffer.

    1. It will be but at the expense of immigrant and lower class workers’ lives.

  5. Rosanna Tennant’s Instagram story would beg to differ…

    1. @Luca Goodoer, I didn’t find anything specific.

    2. I also checked, thanks for wasting my time.

  6. The most interesting thing is how journalists are shining a positive light on a man that murdered a colleague in the most horrible and vile manner.

    It is whitewashing of human rights violations and nothing more.

  7. Leaving everything in place between the inaugural & next season’s race is a good thing & also what I assumed.

  8. Yeah, slavery does miracles indeed.

  9. This is the perfect storm of bad F1 races, and gearing up to be the mother of all skippers. An ultra rushed track built under highly dubious labour laws in a repressive state absolutely obsessed with its image. I wonder if we will ever know how many have died or had their lives uprooted for this circuit.

    I know it’s kind of your job as an F1 outlet to hype it, but it would be nice if we could live in a world where people weren’t commercially obliged to hype the obviously doomed and outright negative.

    This race will be a mess but I’m sure that will be interpreted as having been incredibly popular with the fabled “younger fans”.

    1. I agree with you but I think Keith, Dieter and co would have to be feeling particularly brave to openly criticise the event.

      We know what happens to journalists that speak freely about the Saudi regime.

      I’m going to boycott the race. Missing such a key race might seem like self-inflicted suffering but it’s the only way I feel that I can show my displeasure.

      1. I believe there was one Bahrain GP that f1fanatic boycotted. Can’t remember the year though @sonnycrockett

  10. 4 races in the middle east. Putting the human rights arguments to one side, this is still 3 races too many for that region. Especially when the French and German races have doubtful futures, only 1 race in the whole of South America, nothing in Africa, nothing in Scandinavia (although hopefully the new track at St Petersburg will become the defacto Finnish race being so close to the border). The sport may be heading towards renewable fuels, but boy do they still like that oil money……

    1. There’s actually 5 races in the Middle East (Bahrain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Abu Dhabi). I think 3 should be the maximum – Turkey plus Bahrain at the start of the year and Abu Dhabi at the end. Although Bahrain is a bit soulless with the lack of fans, the track has consistently produced good racing, and it should stay on the calendar in my humble opinion.
      Replace one of Qatar or Saudi Arabia with South Africa and we’re getting to a more global championship.

  11. Can’t wait, dying for this race.

    1. your not the only one, thats part of the problem.

    2. some racing fan
      30th October 2021, 7:46

      I’ll probably be stoned while watching it

  12. I would have thought the track would have needed to be “completed” with 5 weeks to go, although if it’s public roads, I guess there’s still time.

    It’s just sounds like it’ll be a bit of a mess, something that should have been picked up quite some time ago, but with all the varying reports that seem to have been coming about the completeness or otherwise of this track, we’ll probably not find out until F1 arrives there.

    I’m not bothered about whether it’s finished or not – won’t be watching any of it as it’s one of this years races I crossed off my watch list when it was announced.

    1. Given how bad the grip was in Turkey last year after it was resurfaced shortly before the race, I can envisage complaints from drivers about racing on a hastily built venue.

      There’s clearly no opportunity for a test event before F1 and F2 hit town.

  13. As others have said I wonder at what cost to the individuals involved is this circuit being so hastily completed. I hope corners are not being cut.

    I plan to boycott this race i.e. not watch it. This is a shame because it’s so close to the end of the season and it could be crucial. I think it’s awful F1 has so completely sold it’s soul to the highest bidder. Four races in the middle-east now. Ridiculous. Do Domenicali, Brawn, Todt, etc really think we cannot see through this despite their fine words? I completely accept F1 has dealt with some quite unpleasant regimes before but what we see now would be considered brazen even for Bernie.

    At least next year, SA will be near the start of the season so won’t have such an influence on the final outcome.

  14. some racing fan
    29th October 2021, 18:32

    There are way too many GPs in the Middle East. 4 is a ridiculous number at the expense of, say, South Africa or potentially Argentina. But then again, money talks… utterly shameful.

  15. I’m genuinely interested in knowing if their beautiful young blood thirsty prince will be on the podium. If he is I’d like to see the top 3 drivers snub that monster.

  16. Refreshingly honest opinions on here. People even boycotting watching the race. That’s principled.

    I wish F1 and media were the same, but they are not and will only virtue signal when it generates likes and clicks, and this doesn’t as most people don’t really care about others in foreign lands.

  17. It’s simple, F1 races in the middle East because that is who owns it via investment companies. Big tobacco has been replaced by oil and desperate car companies trying to keep petrol going. Stories about noise of engines are seeded out to convince fans that the future is ICE engines. Apart from some energy drinks (some real and some fantasy) and a few small scale sponsors F1 cars are bare because no one apart from car companies heavily invested in ICE wasn’t too be associated with it. F1 has moved from one poison to another.

  18. I wouldn’t want to be the project manager for this. Seems like a very dangerous occupation if you can be executed on a whim if the crown prince feels the urge. I guess I couldn’t anyways because I’ve been to Israel so they won’t let me in the country.

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