Both championship contending teams expect the new Jeddah Corniche Circuit which will hold this weekend’s race is more likely to suit Mercedes than Red Bull.
Going into this weekend’s race, Red Bull trail Mercedes by five points in the constructors’ championship. Max Verstappen can clinch the drivers’ title this weekend but Lewis Hamilton has cut his lead in the standings to just eight points with back-to-back victories.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner predicted a close championship fight over the final two rounds. “I think it’s going to be tight,” he said. “The next track arguably should favour Mercedes. Abu Dhabi, with the modifications made there, who knows.
“But it’s been incredibly tight so we go into those races eight points in the lead in the drivers championship, we’ve reduced the championship lead in the constructors to five points. So both are fully in play and that’s fantastic as we’re now at the climax of this of this world championship.”
Mercedes used the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend to fit a fresh engine to Hamilton’s car. Having switched to an older example last time out, he will use the newer unit again this weekend for the long acceleration zones at Jeddah.
Sunday’s race will be the second in a row on a circuit F1 has no prior experience of. “It’s another unknown and we’ve seen pretty big swings of performance over the recent races,” Mercedes’ head of trackside engineering Andrew Shovlin said.
“If we look at the track in Saudi, I think it should suit us. For Lewis, we have got the more powerful engine to go in the car, so that’s going to give him a useful boost.”
However Shovlin pointed out the team have been surprised by their rival’s performance at previous races this year.
“The track should suit the car but then we would have probably said that in Austin,” he said. “We would have felt that we should be able to put together a decent set-up and take the fight to Red Bull and they had a bit of an edge there. So we’re always cautious to go to a race thinking that it’s all going to go our way.
“What we do know, though, are the things that we’ve got to get right on the set-up, what we need to get right on the tyres and how they’re working.”
Shovlin said the opening practice sessions will be vital to get a read on car performance this weekend. “With a new circuit, arriving in good shape is such a big thing [for] the learning curve. If you’ve got a good car to start with, you can just improve it from there.”
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