Jeddah will suit Mercedes more than Red Bull, both teams believe

2021 F1 season

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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.

The 6.1-kilometre course which has been built for the first Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is expected to yield rapid lap times with average speeds exceeding 250kph and top speeds of up to 322kph. Mercedes, who have won the last two races, have tended to be stronger at quicker tracks this year.

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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69 comments on “Jeddah will suit Mercedes more than Red Bull, both teams believe”

  1. Jeddah looks ripe for safety car interruptions (difficult to clear cars & their parts on those sweeping corners), and this may come to red bull’s rescue. Otherwise, Hamilton will sail away into the distance with that engine…

    1. @gabf1 Admittedly, yes, given limited space around at places, especially the high-speed sections later on a lap.
      Yes, an SC interruption(s) would come to RB’s rescue, although this doesn’t necessarily they’d beat Merc.
      We’ll see, but I certainly hope the race could run relatively interruption-freely.

      1. If the kings of sandbagging and ‘downplaying their car’ are saying they are favourite, they must be VERY favourite.

        Clean sweep

    2. Im not sure about that. Red Bull has been strong on street circuits, and Austria, France, and Austin were all quick tracks that they did well on. It all comes down to who nails setup and can get the tires working, but Id be shocked if Mercedes had more than 2 tenths on RB.

    3. If everyone unanimously says it’s a Mercedes track, we can be sure of a Redbull 1-2 at the finish line. Such has been the track record this year.

  2. Has the circuit had final approval from the FIA yet?

    1. Probably, I guess they really aren’t going to let it fail that

  3. I also reckon Merc will be ahead & specifically car #44, considering engine freshness advantage.

    1. I wonder how much of that freshness is still there after more than 700km of racing and a few quali sessions.

      Toto stated earlier about the ICU: “ours is just degrading much more than in the average of the past years (over 1000 kilometres) and that increases from weekend to weekend.”

      1. ICU yeah, but other components has stopped degrading entirely for mercedes it looks like

      2. Hamilton’s Brazil engine has only run at Brazil, he reverted to the Turkey engine for Qatar.

        1. @scbriml Indeed & the Turkey one already had three weekends, so Qatar GP was its 4th.
          Therefore, he should equally be ahead with an engine only used in a single event.

        2. If the engine loses several tenths after 1/4 of a season it won’t be totally box fresh after running 1.5 races in Brazil. And he wasn’t exactly taking it easy in Brazil. In any event, the race will not be decided by a couple extra tenths worth of extra power.

          I think a big factor, which no one seems to talk about it, is RBR reverting to an older spec wing after they failed to sort the new flappy one with tape and wire, which may have hurt them in Qatar. That new wing wasn’t on there because it was just as good as the old one.

          1. There are three Drs zones in succession. Extra engine power makes passing a breeze.

    2. And then we will hear about how “great” he is even though he’s in a car miles quicker than most of the field.

      Unless he is in 2nd for even a microsecond, which will result in 2 hours of whining by him as always

      1. so salty. get help.

      2. Indeed. It’s quite amazing that he can state the championship is over and gives up when Max finds a couple of tenths. Yet when Merc reclaim their dominant form of 0.5+ seconds, hes ready to hype up the ‘struggle’ and challenge.

        This championship would have been over by now if Max hadn’t been so unlucky and Ham been so lucky! There’s three to four races when things have swung in hams favour through pure luck.

        1. Yeah right, like max never had any luck whatsoever, Even in Russia, if not for the rain, hamilton would have easily been higher than VERSTAPPEN in the standing rn. And that brazil overtake was obviously a straight forward penalty, so uh yeah.

          But i do still believe that Hamilton should have gotten a bigger penalty in silverstone.
          but all in all hoping for a good battle in these two races.

  4. Well! At least these last 2 races in the desert kingdoms, have plenty of sand for the RBR v Merc “Sand bagging of the Year” Award!!!!

    1. Mercedes wins that one too, hands down, for the 9th year in succession.

  5. If this indeed is a Mercedes track, the question would not be whether Lewis can win this one, but where Valtteri would finish. Who will lead the championship coming to Abu Dhabi?

    1. @matthijs +1
      Precisely. Assuming Hamilton can take full advantage of the circuit favouring Mercedes, though many things can happen obviously, then the big question is whether Mercedes can revert to their 1-2 dominance of recent years with Bottas taking a little chunk of Max’s points too. It should be possible. But unless Merc have a vast advantage, I don’t see it happening.

    2. Agreed.

      I really hope Bottas manages to qualify ahead of the Redbulls. Bottas as we know can be very good on these enclosed street circuits. eg Rrussia. This track is new to everyone but will suite the braver drivers. Also this track will be very difficult to over take on, so having Botta as a buffer could go a very long way. Also there’s that record for the most team podiums. Mercedes on 58 podiums are presently joint holders of that record. Another 1/2 or 1/3 [or even god for bedid 2/3] would see Bottas as the greatest #2 in history. No mean feat.

      1. ‘Also this track will be very difficult to over take on,’
        There are three (!) drs zones. Hamilton could start last and still win.

        ‘Another 1/2 or 1/3 [or even god for bedid 2/3] would see Bottas as the greatest #2 in history’
        Thanks for that, didnt know that but makes sense and proofs once again its mainly the car indifferent who you put in it.

  6. So both teams expect Saudi Arabia to favour Mercedes?

    The way this season has gone so far, I’m putting money on a Red Bull 1-2!

    1. Yes, the form book has been all over the place this year @scbriml, especially in the latter half of the season. But for Mercedes to be talking up their chances suggests they’re even more confident than usual…

      1. @red-andy All I’ve learned over the last few years is that if Mercedes are confident everyone else should worry…

        1. They are always confident. How else could they with by far the fastest car.
          The way toto claims the underdog position is something anyone with some f1 knowledge laughs about.

        2. What this season has shown is that there are no tracks that belong to any team. Redbull have beaten Mercedes in almost all the traditional Mercedes tracks. Mercedes have done very well in the mainly- Redbull tracks.
          Redbull however are just good on all tracks.

          1. The main difference is the driver.
            Max is very consistent and Lewis made lots of mistakes.
            I. E
            Baku lost for max by a tire blowout
            Lost by Lewis by stupid mistake.

          2. If the main difference is the driver then it’s surprising to see how ‘inconsistent’ Hamilton made Max look like a rank amateur in Brazil and surely if as you repeatedly tell us Hamilton is such a bad driver and hopeless this year just a bit luck in a couple of races…

            Why is this championship down to the wire?

            Surely your driving hero should have tied it up long ago?

            For goodness sake he was even awarded a free race by the FIA!

        3. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
          29th November 2021, 12:13

          Mind you they have lost races when no one could touch them yet they found the most unique ways to shoot themselves in the foot.

    2. @scbriml +1

      What engine giveth, Masi taketh away in SC car deployment timing!

  7. Nell (@imabouttogoham)
    29th November 2021, 8:44

    I thought Losail was a Red Bull track… I thought COTA would favour Hamilton and Mercedes. I thought Istanbul Park would suit Red Bull.

    There are a lot of factors to consider still before we could give any favouritism to any driver or team. I’m not even sure which side of the track the polesitter will sit on the start/finish straight.

    Anyone have any idea if the track is front or rear limited?

    1. @imabouttogoham Pole position should be on the right-hand side, i.e., grandstand side, given T1 turns left, but I didn’t really pay attention when driving the track on F1 2021.
      The circuit is high-speed for the most part but front or rear-limited, I’m not entirely sure based on my virtual driving experience.

      1. @jerejj Should be front-limited.

  8. On paper, this is clearly a Merc track but it looks like it will be tough on tyres, most of the track is surrounded by walls and it’s all untested so the chances of a safetycar will be high. From what I’ve seen (largely laps on the F1 game etc), it doesn’t look like it’ll be an easy track to overtake on… If Max can find himself in front of Lewis either by getting a good start or by getting lucky with a safetycar, it could be a real challenge for Lewis to get back past him.

    1. The real challenge for mercedes will be the high temperature.
      Running at its highest setting there will be a lot of cooling needed.

    2. There are three (I believe?) DRS zones one after the other with fast corners between them. I doubt it will be that hard to overtake.

      1. They’re not straight-foward DRS zones though… The first one is is quite short, the 2nd one will involve going round the outside of a bend and overtaking round the outside going into a hairpin and then there’s the one on the home straight which isn’t very long either. It could be that the DRS zones make passing really easy but I’m not convinced. I certainly don’t think it’ll be easier than it was in Brazil and Hamilton didn’t exactly fly past Max despite having a massively faster car in a straight line. Both moves he managed on Max were around the outside and we’ve got walls this time….

      2. @Postreader Based on F1 2021, yes, three activation zones.

    3. If Merc has an edge in the next two races, and Max qualifies P2 each time, RB should take a risk and start on soft tyres to try and get HAM off the line. In F1 track position is king and if Max stays 2nd after the first corner in both races, the championship is over at HAM/merc will mirror their strategy like in Qatar given the slight car advantage

      1. You start on your fastest q2 set. So this doesn’t affect what you do for the pole run in q3. If you really want to start on the softest tire nothing is ever stopping you in practice. People usually don’t run softest in q2 to have better race tire in the race. Even if you get off the line better you are going to get undercut OR even overcut on that tire.

  9. Layout is one thing and it does look to suit Mercedes more on paper, but let’s not forget about the track surface. Grip looks like it’ll be extremely low which could swing things back to RedBull. It’s a race many expect Mercedes to dominate at, but they could genuinely struggle here. Turkey, Singapore and Baku spring to mind. That extra engine power is no good if you can’t get the grip.

  10. Maybe both should race in a Mercedes this weekend, and swap to a RBR for the final race.

    1. Now that would be awesome! Bring it on!

    2. I always thought that the WDC should be separate from the WCC. 10 teams, 20 cars, 20 grand prix. Each driver gets to drive for each team twice over the season. Allocation of driver/car randomised.
      This format would only work if cars can follow each other, so maybe the next gen cars would allow that.

      We would then see which are the best cars and who are the best drivers.

    3. This would never work.

      It takes nearly every single driver, no matter how good, time to adjust to the car/team differences. These are not spec cars. This simply wouldn’t do a thing to show who the better driver is. Maybe it would show who can adapt to a completely different team with a completely different car, but it certainly wouldn’t be any sort of indication of who is the better driver in terms of actual driving skill.

  11. Prediction: Winner will be he who hath not bounced off the rev limiter.

    1. Or the walls

  12. Not sure whether the track is that relevant anymore at this stage of the championship. I think we will end this hybrid era with a single winner over 9 seasons. Lets hope the next round of car regulations does not repeat this and more than one team can fight for wins. If you are a Lewis and Mercedes fan this must have been the best decade ever. Congratulations to both for their success. But it simply was not as much fun if you like a bit more level playing field and actual competition.

  13. What if Ferrari take pole position and wins?

    1. @denis1304 Unlikely, albeit not impossible, but these achievements would require extraordinary circumstances as usual.

  14. Why not wait until the weekend. Speculating about which team the track, particularly a track that’s never has a race on it, suits is just pointless.

    1. Might be pointless, but a lot less annoying than rehashing the non-stories and old news of last weekend.

  15. Yea but it’s a new street circuit anything can happen #trynabeoptimistic

    And we need more candid people on some parts of the paddock like Andrew shovlin

  16. We heard such predictions about France, USA, Silverstone, etc. No one said Mercedes was going to blow RBR away in Brazil and no on knew what was going to happen in Qatar either. Let’s watch the race. That’s what’s great about this season. It’s like the top two teams in a league playing game after game seeing who will perform this time.

  17. just like paul ricard was ? i rather wait for the activities to begin first.

  18. Me thinks this circuit will be like what happened at Monaco for Mercedes, a bad set up and poor qualification will give advantage to someone else.
    Hamilton is no longer confident doing high speed corners on a street circuit.

  19. Yeah sure. I’ll believe it when I see it. Red Bull have had the best car for the vast majority of the season.

    1. Try convincing most commenters on forum in F1 of that obvious fact. Good luck with that.

  20. My concern is fairness. Will Max allow Lewis a deserved and fair overtake? Even a DRS one – without crashing Lewis and probably himself out?

    1. Surely that could be said about Ham after his Silverstone and Monza fails. At least Max gave Ham physical room in Brazil instead of repeating Silverstone and flipping him towards the barriers…

      1. @nandy looking at the world through orange-tinted glasses, I see.
        Monza was Verstappen’s fault. He had no business trying to put his car there.
        Hamilton wasn’t given room in Brazil. He was blatantly run off the track. Every driver (apart from 1) is amazed that’s not a penalty.

  21. Roses are Red
    Violets are Blue
    Jeddah Mercedes Fastest
    Max Verstappen Winning

  22. What track they race on doesn’t matter anymore. Its Lewis’ rocket engine now that dictates who will win. Max has no chance anymore with a straight line deficit of 10-15kmh. Its quite clear who will be WDC now.

    1. The 9 years in a row superior car struggled with the 24 year old in a RedBull this year. Good that Max didnt have that Mercedes or it would have been another of those years again. In the end Silverstone and Hungary (plus the engine penalties following them) were needed to stop him. Some bad luck helped as well (Baku). Whereas Hamilton saw a penalty promote him to P2 in Hungary and had a sure P7-9 finish turned around by a red flag in Imola. The good luck Max got was rain in Russia.

    2. Red Bull have to focus fully on qualifying setup, if MV able to get pole, the narrow straights of Jeddah and superior defense of MV meaning likely Lewis can only sticking at the rear, overheating his own engine and tires.

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