Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2023

F1 field closes up as half of teams lap Jeddah quicker despite track changes

Lap time watch: 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Has the Jeddah Corniche Circuit shown us a significantly different competitive order among the Formula 1 teams than the opening round in Bahrain? Not entirely.

Indeed, the top four teams concluded qualifying in the same order as they were two weeks ago: Red Bull fastest followed by Ferrari, Aston Martin and Mercedes. With Williams bringing up the rear again, the only differences in the hierarchy were found in the midfield.

There, Haas fell from being fifth-quickest in Bahrain to seventh behind Alpine and Haas. And unlike at the opening round, Alfa Romeo out-paced AlphaTauri.

But while the numbers show Red Bull’s margin over their closet rival was smaller in Jeddah than it had been two weeks earlier, the reality is likely different. Max Verstappen set the pace throughout the weekend until his car let him down in Q2. His margin over eventual pole-winner was half a second in final practice and again in Q1, and with Perez admitting he could have gone quicker had he perfected his final lap in Q3, it’s hard to imagine Verstappen wouldn’t have found a few tenths more.

That’s the view of Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff. “If Max would have finished qualifying, [the gap] would have been even bigger,” he acknowledged.

For Wolff, the second race of the season reaffirm the gains made by “two teams that made massive steps.”

“I was just looking at last year’s qualifying and everyone is pretty much where they were but Aston Martin and Red Bull just made an unbelievable step forward.”

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That is undoubtedly true of Aston Martin. Having produced a two-and-a-half second year-on-year gain in Bahrain, they’ve ‘only’ picked up a second and a half in Jeddah. However the tightening of turn 22, which has knocked around 40kph off cornering speeds there, has gone some way towards limiting the gains for all competitors.

Nyck de Vries, AlphaTauri, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2023
AlphaTauri were 0.685 seconds quicker last year
While the entire field lapped the Bahrain International Circuit quicker than they did the year before, this weekend the field is split into to halves: Those who are quicker than they were last year and those who are slower. Red Bull is surprisingly in the latter camp, though again, that would likely not be the case if Verstappen had still been running in Q3.

But with the two quickest teams in qualifying lapping slower than they did last year and Williams at the back gaining half a second compared to last year, the field has closed up once more. As in Bahrain, the gap from the front of the field to the back is just 1.7 seconds.

AlphaTauri have the most cause for frustration after seeing both of their drivers drop out in Q1, lapping over six-tenths of a second slower than they did last year. The team has fallen far short of its pre-season predictions, prompting unhappy quotes from team principal Franz Tost that he no longer trusts the information being supplied by his engineers.

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Teams’ performance

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Field performance

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2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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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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2 comments on “F1 field closes up as half of teams lap Jeddah quicker despite track changes”

  1. T22 didn’t seem any different or slower in reality, but that corner isn’t why no one bettered last season’s pole time or Max’s qualifying-ending issue.
    Ultimately Checo’s messed up last flying lap attempt is the cause, as even he had enough pace to get below 1:28.200.
    Probably only a one-off case, with last season’s pole times getting beaten on all other shared circuits in dry conditions.

  2. RandomMallard
    19th March 2023, 11:04

    I have to say, I think this weekend could be seen as quite a relieving one for McLaren. I will of course preface this by saying no, they are not anywhere close to their 2020 or 2021 pace and position at the top of the midfield, but coming out of Bahrain felt like there was a lot of doom and gloom, and I think a large part of that was down to the unreliability they experienced. Seeing them reach Q3 with Piastri, and who knows what could have been possible with Norris had he not hit the wall in Q1, is probably a positive sign with them. Naturally, it is not where they want to or should be, but at least they’re not the slowest car on track, and look like they could be fighting in the midfield. Hope the car at least stays together today and hopefully they can get some points on the board.

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