Feeder Series Preview: Jeddah
Written by Vyas Ponnuri, Edited by Ishani Aziz
The season opener of the feeder series in Bahrain gave us some exciting racing. From Ralph Boschung’s emotional maiden victory, to strong comeback drives from Zane Maloney and Richard Verschoor on Sunday’s Feature Race. Kush Maini also showed a strong debut weekend, finishing both races in the points. And not to forget, Theo Pourchaire’s qualifying dominance, and his stellar drive in the Feature Race to take the win by nearly 20 seconds. Bahrain promises an exciting Formula 2 season, and fans are expecting more of the same at Jeddah.
The narrow confines, high speeds, and overtaking spots definitely have the potential to deliver this weekend. At 6.174 km long, the Jeddah Corniche Circuit is the longest street course in the world, surpassing that of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, and second to Spa. The average speed across the tight and twisty track exceeds 250 km/h over a lap, second only to the Temple of Speed, Monza. The circuit also features 27 corners, the most of any racetrack on the calendar. Drivers are always in for a hair-raising ride around the fastest street course, and qualifying sessions are ones not to be missed around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
There are plenty of spots on the track for overtaking or wheel-to-wheel battling. The first zone is the first chicane, the narrowing track making overtaking challenging. This is the centre of action on lap one, as 20 cars enter into the first chicane at once, and the potential for incidents are very high. The narrowing nature of the chicane also doesn’t allow drivers to go side-by-side on the outside of either turn. Following a series of “S” corners, and a short straight, the next spot of action on the track is turn 13, the long, banked left hander. An unorthodox spot to pull off a move, but manageable with talent, as proven by Oscar Piastri and Robert Shwartzmann in 2021, achieving glorious overtakes for Prema in the penultimate round of the season. Logan Sargeant also had a stellar move down the inside into this corner, during his maiden Formula 2 outing, driving for HWA Racelab.
A couple of fast corners lead onto the long back “straight”, although the stretch isn’t entirely straight, with several kinks along the section. The fast left-right section of turns 22 and 23 is an important corner, a place where the track has recently been tightened. It can make or break your race, in the case of Theo Pourchaire in the sprint round of 2021, a poor exit can cost you all the way to turn 27, the final corner on the track. The left-hander has seen plenty of overtaking moves, most notably Jehan Daruvala’s double overtake in 2021, and Juri Vips’ attempt to replicate that move a year later. The wide entry to the corner allows drivers to pick their lines along the corner, onto the main straight.
Last season’s weekend at Jeddah saw Liam Lawson triumph in the sprint race, following a late-race overtake on Van Amersfoort Racing driver Jake Hughes. Hughes later lost out on second place in a photo finish, the runners-up spot going to Hitech driver Juri Vips. Dennis Hauger started the race from pole position, but his race took a turn for the worse when he was slapped with a 10-second stop-go penalty for entering the pit lane when it was closed, following a crash just before the pit entry between Jack Doohan and Logan Sargeant.
Felipe Drugovich started the Feature Race from pole, ahead of Richard Verschoor, and was largely unchallenged on his way to victory, his first of a very successful Formula 2 campaign. Richard Verschoor finished runners-up, with Jehan Daruvala converting P14 on the grid into third by the chequered flag, with a four-car overtake into the first chicane aiding his progress early on in the race. Liam Lawson’s patch of horrid luck was first witnessed at this race, his left-front tyre not being fitted properly, causing him to stop at the end of the pit lane, and retire from the race. Theo Pourchaire suffered the first of many engine failures across the season, retiring midway through the race.
Judging by the action we witnessed in Bahrain, and the characteristics of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, it would be fair to say that we will witness another brilliant weekend of Formula 2 racing. Do make sure to tune in to the action on Friday at 13:55 local time (11:55 a.m. BST) as the second round of the 2023 Formula 2 season gets underway.