Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2021

Drivers praise “hardcore” Jeddah track but predict passing will be tough

2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 drivers heaped praise on the new, high-speed Jeddah Corniche Circuit after their first day’s running on the track.

However several of them admitted they expect overtaking will prove difficult in Sunday’s race.

Billed by race promoters as the “world’s fastest street circuit” ahead of the inaugural race weekend, Friday’s two free practice sessions provided the first opportunity for drivers to try out the track for real.

After almost two hours of relatively uneventful running, Charles Leclerc provided a visceral demonstration of how heavily mistakes will be punished over the six kilometre course when he lost control entering turn 22, crashing his Ferrari heavily into the barriers. Despite the close proximity of walls, drivers offered near-universal praise for the sport’s newest venue, with Valtteri Bottas even telling his team over radio that “this track is cool”.

“I already said over radio, but it’s really cool,” Bottas said after second practice. “It’s quite hardcore. It’s pretty full gas and close to the walls and high speed, but that’s what you want. That’s what we enjoy and definitely gives you a bit of an adrenaline rush.”

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2021
Leclerc was the first to be bitten by Jeddah’s walls
Carlos Sainz Jnr likened the experience to the closest thing F1 has come to the thrill of racing in the Macau Grand Prix. “The intensity that this track gives you and the thrill and the adrenaline is something that I haven’t lived a bit since my Macau days,” he explained.

As a rookie, Yuki Tsunoda has had to get familiar with many circuits he has never driven before this season. But of all the new circuits he’s experienced, he described Jeddah as being particularly outstanding.

“Especially the first sector was really special,” said Tsunoda. “I’ve never driven that kind of corners. I enjoyed it a lot, up to turn 13 was completely new for me.”

Fernando Alonso has driven a Formula 1 car around more circuits than almost any other driver and yet even the 40-year-old veteran was impressed. “It is a very, very spectacular lap,” said the two-times world champion. “Because you are driving between two walls and this speed. Any mistake, it could have big consequences. So you have to be alert.”

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With an official count of 27 corners around the circuit, Daniel Ricciardo said that it required some thought to keep track of which corner he needed to anticipate approaching next on his flying laps.

“It kind of all looks the same,” said the McLaren driver. “So you have to talk yourself through each corner. ‘Okay, this is this corner, this is that corner – fourth gear, okay, this is now fifth’. It’s a maze.”

But despite the drivers having clearly revelled in the new and unique challenge offered by the Jeddah street circuit, the field were far more pessimistic about whether it would offered plentiful opportunities for side-by-side racing and overtaking.

Analysis: How teams’ shifting set-up priorities were captured in a revealing radio exchange
“I think it will be unfortunately quite difficult to overtake if you’re kind of similar speed,” admitted Kimi Raikkonen. Lance Stroll agreed; “I don’t think it’s great for overtaking,” he said. “I think we’re missing like a good braking zone to overtake.”

But for the best indication of how good a race we may get on Sunday, Alonso says he will be looking to today’s Formula 2 races to answer the question of how much racing we can expect to see tomorrow.

“I think F2 is going to be a good reference for us because we obviously have concerns about the overtaking opportunities being a street circuit,” Alonso said. “This is going to be difficult.

“Qualifying will be very important. So I think that F2 will show us if it’s going to be a good show on Sunday or not.”

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2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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21 comments on “Drivers praise “hardcore” Jeddah track but predict passing will be tough”

  1. It’s basically a fast Monaco.

    1. more fast singapore

    2. Road America with walls.

  2. So fun to drive but dull to watch basically.
    Oh well, let’s wait and see :)

    1. That’s a pity and concern. However not as big of a concern as the safety. Hope, all will be good

      1. Davethechicken
        4th December 2021, 8:41

        Agree there Mayrton.
        Firstly no one gets hurt and secondly we don’t have the repeated red flags that have crept into F1 over the past couple of seasons to clear debris.

  3. Leclerc crash is the “writing in the wall” moment for this circuit.
    1 or heavens forbid 2 of these in Qualy or the Race will be awful.
    The pit exit is the most dangerous ever in F1.

    1. @wildbiker, I don’t find the pit exit particularly dangerous. Slow-speed corners, after all.

  4. Racing and battles, not overtaking
    4th December 2021, 10:07

    The pit exit coul definitely ruin the start of some people’s quali laps. Or in the race in/out laps.

    Mind many thought overtaking (no, the word is racing) would be next to zero at Qatar but that wasn’t true so we wait and see

  5. I generally don’t like tracks where it’s difficult to understand where they are on the track. You don’t even have clues outside of the track because of the lights.

    I don’t know how they don’t get dizzy with the advertising boards on the walls.

    ARAMCOARAMCOARAMCOARAMCO…

    At that speed… Such a blur!

    1. I know what I mean about not knowing where on the track they ate but I have the same issue watching cars on the Nordschleiffe. On computer games I get that with classic Spa as well, loads of parts of the track look the same. At high speed as well I think this track reminds me of the old section of Spa that’s bo longer used, the one with the Masta Kink.

  6. So Bottas is going to be the key ingredient.

    If he can qualify ahead of Max and keep him there during the race then Lewis is in a strong position going into the final weekend.

    Let’s see whether Bottas is up to that challenge.

    On recent form he’ll qualify ahead of Verstappen but will be behind him by turn 2!

    1. More or less, Bottas has been out of the equation from before mid season and that is unlikely to change now.

  7. Disappointing seeing sky commentator david crofts disgusting constant dog whistling again with more anti Yuki Tsunoda comments, this is the 6th time he mentioned that Yuki brought out a red flag multiple times yet silent on worse culprits like useless Mazepin being almost 2 seconds slower than mick and still managing to spin in FP2 or the fact that Charles always brings out the red flags on street circuits.

    His bias buffoonish commentary is destroying the enjoyment of the sport

    1. Whilst I personally also dislike Crofts commentary there is a simple solution to your complaint. Don’t watch it.

    2. Your Yuki goggles are on, Mazepin was harped on at the start of the season but they probably feel sorry for him at this point so no need to mention him anymore. Yuki is fast but he makes many mistakes still.

    3. You missed Crofts “spin off” jokes on Mazepin I guess. Mazapin has been crucified by everyone this year.

  8. I said last week that it looked to me as though passing would be really difficult here. 9 laps into the F2 race and it’s done nothing to change my mind…. The turns at the end of the DRS zones aren’t really ones where you can do much around the outside the the presence of walls means you’ll be pushed wide and will have to back off. Turn 1 looks like the best option but even then, it’s you have to brake late, off-line where it’s dusty and they all seem be then under steering wide and having to give the position back.

  9. This is the closest thing to seeing modern F1 cars racing on the Nurburgring. All the comments from the drivers bring that circuit to mind, especially ricciardos sentiments about it being like a maze.
    It’s a good thing this track is at the end of the season because the drivers now know their cars well enough, since it seems like it’s going to push them to their limits

  10. “So, you’ve got an almost unlimited budget, which means we could design you a really exciting, beautiful track with multiple opportunities for close racing and-”

    “Nah, just do us a really fast spoon.”

    1. Also KSA has infinite open desert to build even a duplicate Nordschleife if they wanted and they crammed this into a city. Why? For the atmosphere? So we can look at their mega yachts in the harbor?

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