Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2021

FIA officially approves Jeddah track for F1 ahead of inaugural race weekend

2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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The Jeddah Corniche Circuit hosting the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix this weekend has been given the FIA Grade 1 homologation needed to host Formula 1, a day before on-track action begins.

The coastal circuit has been built primarily from scratch, rather than using an existing road network in use, with a construction timetable that was scheduled to conclude not long before F1 arrived at the venue. There had been some concerns when it became apparent that construction would be completed only days before the grand prix weekend.

F1 race director and safety delegate Michael Masi completed his latest and final observation of the track on Thursday morning (2 December), having made several visits during its construction, to inspect the build standard and suitability towards F1 of the final layout. He confirmed that Jeddah’s work had met the standards needed, and therefore confirming that F1 would be racing there.

“It has been an impressive journey for all involved to make the first FIA F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix a reality, and the progress that I have seen on each of my visits over recent months has been remarkable,” Masi stated.

“The circuit itself has now been completed to a high level and complies with FIA Grade 1 standards that we require for hosting a grand prix. The Jeddah Corniche Circuit will provide an interesting new challenge for the drivers and teams, and I’m looking forward to another exciting weekend as this fantastic 2021 F1 season draws closer to its conclusion.”

The building of the circuit, pit and paddock facilities was undertaken by the Saudi Motorsport Company, which “has successfully completed most of the necessary preparatory work for the first ever F1 race to take place” but not all. Having gone from breaking ground to being F1-ready in eight months, the project became the fastest world championship grand prix circuit ever to be constructed from scratch.

Homologation of the circuit has also confirmed there will be three areas where the Drag Reduction System will be used, and that it will be a 27-corner layout. Free practice begins at 4:30pm local time on Friday, while the race takes place under floodlights at 8:30pm local time on Sunday.

“We are thrilled to have joined Michael Masi today as he completed his final inspection of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit,” Saudi Automobile & Motorcycle Federation chairman Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal said.

“We are even more delighted that he has given it his expert seal of approval, meaning that we can let the world know that we are ready to race this weekend on the world’s newest and fastest street circuit. The fact we have reached this point after only eight months is an achievement that cannot be overstated. The hard work and dedication of all our staff has helped to make this happen and we can now look forward to an unforgettable race weekend.”

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Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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21 comments on “FIA officially approves Jeddah track for F1 ahead of inaugural race weekend”

  1. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    2nd December 2021, 17:14

    As if saying ‘yeah nah not gonna happen’ was ever going to happen. The FIA better hope it’s not a Turkey 2020 all over again, or the backlash is going to be enormous. Especially if it influences the title fight.

    1. That would take quite a bit of guts to do @barryfromdownunder. But as you mention, it was never going to happen since they threw so much money at everyone they had to to get the circus there.

  2. Unforgettable indeed. I fear Masi will have blood on his hands approving this circuit, which manages somehow to be both boring and terrifying. The multiple F2 races further increases the probabilistic risk. I’d like to repeat below my 2 previous posts concerning this track:

    I’m afraid I sense death is on the horizon for this event. Narrow blind corners at 200mph at night, passing under 7 heavy bridge/building structures. I don’t think I will be able to bear to watch qualifying, with open wheel cars frequently circulating at speeds 140mph faster than those around them on warm up and cool down laps necessary for those cursed cheese tyres. The resulting airplane crash always threatens to happen.

    They really need to take a leaf out of Indycar’s rulebook, and move the timing line to before the pit entry for every qualifying session, removing the need for a cool down lap and halving this massive safety risk this circuit’s fast blind bends are flagrantly dancing around. But they will wait and wait for the big one to happen before thinking of making this change, which has no downside, apart from possibly necessitating a hybrid battery charge in the pits, which doesn’t sound difficult.

    Apart from that, its a real shame that for all these fast curves, the fastest actual corner is only 5th gear. It would have been nice to have another Melbourne Turn 11/12, especially as I think they’re considering removing that. Still, nice to see Tilke try a positive banked corner for once rather than adverse camber he seems to love. But he’s put the banked corner before a straight into a corner that’s 100% impossible to overtake into. A banked corner is a great way of allowing two cars to closely follow, helping subsequent overtaking, but he has never grasped that.

    The very tight spacing of the lamp posts is unnecessarily risky, as it can be extremely messy if cars go airborne due to hitting slow or stationary cars. Jeff Krosnoff’s fatal Indycar accident springs to mind. Singapore’s lighting setup is significantly less risky than Jeddah’s, as it has its lamp posts far more spread out, with strings of lights suspended from long beams linking the lamp posts together very high up.

    1. Yeah, I have to say the track seems more than a little terrifying and I really hope all of the events this weekend go without any serious incidents.

      There is clearly a lot of politics around the design of the track, not least the desire to have it attain the label of “fastest street circuit [sic]” which is quite worrying.

      I just have to tell myself that Tilke know what they’re doing, and I have to trust that they got this right. Let’s hope so.

    2. @Alesici I’m not as pessimistic as you. Timing line location is irrelevant.
      Cooldown laps are necessary regardless of whether that’s before or after pit entry, early on the S/F straight, further into.
      I also don’t really see any greater risk at hitting the lamp posts versus Singapore.
      The respective floodlight infrastructures aren’t hugely different from each other when comparing.
      Overall, I feel your pessimism is slightly exaggerated, especially the part about death for the event being on the horizon.

      1. You say a cooldown lap is necessary, but haven’t explained why. They fit coolers to the cars air intakes when they pit anyway, and if they need to be made more powerful, that’s not a big deal. And the battery can be charged in the pits too.

        I’ve compared photos, and assuming the debris fence pillar spacing is the same, which I would suspect is mandatory, the lamppost spacing is about 3x closer together than Singapore, undeniably increasing the risk, and unnecessarily so. Although the narrowness and blind fast curves increases the chances, It’s still improbable for a car to clear the debris fence, but if it did, this clearly increases the chance of hitting one.

        Maybe we’ll get lucky. At least rain is unlikely here. But it’s clearly a very risky design which isn’t even likely to produce an exciting race. Masi has overseen the design and signed off on it, checking regulatory compliance without seeing the risk. I struggle to remember a worse track design in F1’s history, especially in comparison with the respective year’s calendar.

        1. I agree, especially in the cool down lap part. It seems incredible to me that the drivers are reprimanded for celebrating victories or for untying their belts a bit with the race over, and then they are allowed to go at 40 Km/h in the middle of a qualifying session, with other cars passing by at 300 Km/h.

    3. It relies on drivers trusting each other to drive safe, and as we have seen multiple times in qualifying at monza, they seem more intent on killing each other and humiliating themselves

  3. To be honest, I am not at all impressed with the running of the Saudi Arabian GP this weekend. Obviously the first reason for this is the human rights problems that Hamilton and others have spoken up against. It is very disappointing to hear Domenicali claiming that F1 going there will improve the situation, when not going would be far better as the leaders of the country would see that they have to improve human rights if they want large events like a Grand Prix. Clearly it is just about the money. And the second reason to be concerned about the race is that I am just not very confident about the safety of the track. Having seen computer simulated laps of it, it looks extremely fast, but with walls so close the likelihood of a high-speed crash, and another car colliding with the crashed car, seems too high. And the fact that it has only been approved the day before practice is considerably more worrying. Had it been approved months ago, preferably before the race was confirmed on the calendar, that would be convincing that it had been properly checked, but leaving it so late makes it seem like a close call, and with the financial loss of cancelling the race now F1 may be more inclined to give the race the go-ahead in a situation like this. Obviously, the counter to this is that they didn’t try to race in Spa, but that was very clearly too dangerous. Given that the track isn’t even exciting anyway, I think it is very obvious that money is the only motivation for this Grand Prix, and it saddens me that Liberty’s intentions have turned out to be no different to Bernie Ecclestone’s, when they initially seemed to be such an improvement. Hopefully I will be wrong and the track will be fine, but I would prefer for this race not to be taking place.

    1. They host 2 gps in the US with lewis hypocrite advocating a third, they have held 3 in the UK recently.

      Those are countries with worse human rights records than saudi arabia with rampant racism, homophobia and violence.

      Don’t forget the US houses facebook and twitter, both of which are pro racism, pro homophobia and pro terrorism

      1. some racing fan
        4th December 2021, 6:23

        Excuse me? Are you stupid or something? OK, the US and the UK are not perfect (no country is), but by God they do not compare to Saudi Arabia. There is racism, some homophobia and violence (the latter more so in the US) , but in Saudi Arabia, there is rampant, extreme racism, homophobia, violence, an almost total lack of human rights for women, a totalitarian monarchy government, mass public executions of a barbaric and medieval nature, corruption, mass human rights violations, a monarchy where no one can be prosecuted, Sharia law, etc, etc.

        Do you know how repressive, conservative and totalitarian Saudi Arabia is, and how many different kinds of crimes you can be executed for and how you can be executed for committing said crimes? Their methods for execution (public (yes, public) crucifixions, stonings and decapitations are three methods, among many other barbaric, medieval methods they use. They treat women like pieces of meat- they have them dress in solid black robes that cover their entire bodies minus their eyes, and they have to be chaperoned in public, etc, etc.

  4. As @f1frog says. I also wonder what’s really the point of having the final inspection the day before first practice, when all the teams, media, drivers are already in the paddock. What if they missed something serious? what are they going to do? cancel the whole thing and fly to Abu Dhabi?

    Of course these days it’s hard to imagine a project like this having serious construction problems. But still, there should be a final date months before the actual race when final inspection is scheduled, the race track approved and the event confirmed to go ahead.

    Even with Korea, Charlie visited weeks before the race took place. Like this, the pressure is too high, whatever observation is made will not be fixed in time and you end up approving a track that might not be worthy of such certification.

    The onboard laps on the sim look borderline dangerous. At points they look like speeding directly into a wall with no room for mistake… Seems odd that at COTA or Abu Dhabi the requirement is for run offs to be extremely big, but here it’s a track with walls…

    1. Everything about this weekend stinks of greed.

  5. there will be three areas where the Drag Reduction System will be used

    So it’s likely going to be a DRS-fest if it isn’t a procession…. How exciting.

    It’s yet another similar feeling modern ‘street circuit’ that looks similar to most of the others, Lacks character, Is boringly smooth & flat & offers nothing of any real interest to viewers which will likely lack any atmosphere in a country that probably shouldn’t be holding an F1 race but will have a lock on a slot for years to come because they can afford to pay F1 the blood money to hold it.

    And because of the monetary situation we will have to suffer through everyone on Sky talking about what an amazing circuit it is & how it’s the greatest circuit ever that will reward the bravest more than any other and how every boringly easy push of a button DRS highway pass is the most exciting overtake in the history of anything.

    Welcome to the show formerly known as the sport of F1!

  6. “FIA officially approves Jeddah track for F1 ahead of inaugural race weekend…” under threat of bonesaw.

  7. Ridiculous. Brings memories of the Korean track a decade ago…although if I remember that one was homologated at least few more days in advance.

  8. Crymea River about abuses when they’ve been going to holes like ZA, and CN decades before this. And the Saudis are going in the right direction while others like big red in the east is cracking down harder.

  9. Let’s just hope the track is safe enough for a race.

    I would hate to see a WDC decided because some drivers and teams elect to not race on safety grounds and others racing because it’s convenient despite the risk.

    That or two laps behind the safety car before abandoning/declaring the race perhaps could completely mess up the season.

  10. I hope i’m wrong, but watching sim laps and more importantly, the safety car onboard, this track looks like an accident waiting to happen. There aren’t many really clear overtaking spots and anything side by side down the aren’t straights would quickly see spaces disappearing into walls at high speed if there’s any misjudgement on either side.

  11. The speed at which this track was finished is a concern. The surface will be under severe strain and without proper curing or settling in could break up under the stress which will be imposed by the cars. As far as the things Hamilton has pointed out he is 100% correct and Domenicali is 100% wrong.
    F1 shouldn’t be their in any capacity as it only shows support for the dictatorship!

  12. Simultaneous THE most boring and dangerous track I’ve ever seen in F1.

    I can almost guarantee a major accident this weekend. They had all the space in the world and to come up with this lifeless concrete death tunnel is unforgivable.

    F1 never seems to learn.

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