Formula 1 Preview: Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Written by Marcus Woodhouse, Edited by Simran Kanthi
With the thrill of the season opener out of the way, it is now time for the season to properly get underway, as the grid shakes itself out and the teams settle down into their rhythms. Under the lights of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, mistakes will count you out of contention, and the margin of error will be zero. As we’ve seen in the last two years, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is one of the most intensive, demanding challenges of the season for the drivers, and we’ve been privileged enough to witness thrills and spills galore in just these two races.
Despite its temporary nature on the streets of ancient Jeddah, the Jeddah Corniche Circuit manages to record average speeds of around 250 km/h, lesser only to a certain Temple of Speed (a.k.a. Monza). Not only that, but it also features an astonishing 27 corners, with this glorious blend of speed and precision allowing for highly entertaining racing. To top it off, the setting is picturesque, as the floodlights illuminate the neighbouring Red Sea, giving any unfortunate retirees at least a stunning walk back to the pits.
While there is an obvious lack of historic racing and F1 heritage in Saudi Arabia, both races here have produced some brilliant, back-and-forth racing. Memorable examples include the fierce battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in 2021, as their dramatic title fight came to the fore. Their rivalry had become so fierce that chivalry was set aside, as both drivers did everything in their power to come out on top, and Hamilton eventually came out on top. 2022 marked an initial return to the front for Ferrari, leading to a ferocious duel between Verstappen and Charles Leclerc in Jeddah, but it was the Dutchman who eventually overcame Leclerc’s intelligent DRS tactics to claim maximum points.
Last time out, the Bahrain Grand Prix set the tone for the season and provided some thrilling storylines to go along with it. It was a dominant display from Verstappen and the Red Bull team, yielding an impressive 1-2 to start the year. Ferrari’s reliability was back to haunt them, handing over the third podium spot from Leclerc to the jubilant Fernando Alonso, who magnificently took advantage of his new team’s resurgence to beat the big boys. Mercedes fought with Aston Martin but couldn’t get the better of them, as Lance Stroll impressed despite still recovering from pretty severe cycling injuries.
Pierre Gasly overcame the odds to finish ninth from last, while Alexander Albon secured a solid point for Williams to hopefully kick-start their season, with rookie teammate Logan Sargeant also proving his worth just behind. At the other end of the field, it was a disastrous race for Esteban Ocon, who was hit with three separate penalties for an almost comical sequence of events and will be hoping to bounce back from his misfortune this weekend. Bouncing back looks a lot tougher for McLaren though, as Lando Norris was forced to make six pit stops to keep his car going, yet still managed to have a better race than Australian teammate Oscar Piastri, whose debut race ended after 13 laps with a mechanical failure.
So, with the storylines in place, and the drama waiting to unfold, we head to Saudi Arabia to hopefully watch a great race. Ideally, we would have a fight at the front, as well as just for the podium, but that may be too much to ask for considering Verstappen’s utter dominance in Bahrain. In any case, great racing is pretty much a guarantee at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, so sit back and enjoy the show.