This weekend, the Jeddah Corniche circuit will host its first ever F1 race after months of constant construction work in order to have the track completed ahead of the race. However, many are critical of the decision of letting this race go ahead, as there are many problems surrounding it.
Written by Evan Veer, edited by Janvi Unni
Firstly there’s the track itself; the layout features many high-speed turns and with little to no runoff for most corners, meaning even a small mistake could result in a severe crash. To improve the safety of the track, a lot of the walls use TecPro barriers, which are far better at absorbing a car’s impact compared to the walls usually used on street tracks. But even with these safer barriers there is still a major concern that a car could end up going slowly or standing still in one of the high-speed sections, which would be really risky on this circuit specifically because some of these turns are blind, meaning you can’t see the other end of the corner before you turn in, and the walls being so close to the track mean that it could be extremely hard to evade danger without crashing into the wall yourself. All of these risks combined make it rather likely that we’ll see multiple safety cars or even a red flag in this race, and it puts the drivers at a far greater risk than usual.
Then there’s the problems with the track’s construction; normally the FIA requires the circuit to undergo an inspection of the full layout at least 90 days before the start of the F1 race weekend. This was not possible for Saudi Arabia however, as the construction work hasn’t even been fully finished at the time of writing this piece. This is clearly problematic for the tracks’s safety and never should have been allowed to happen, but it seems the money the race brings in is too much to give up on for the FIA, even if it puts the lives of the drivers at risk.
Lastly there’s the question whether F1 should be going to Saudi Arabia in the first place. According to Human Rights Watch, the Saudi govermnent has been using sporting events to take the attention off of their terrible human rights record which includes locking up critics of the government and repressing women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, while the govermnent uses torture, threatening of families and even public beheadings.
By racing in Saudi Arabia, F1 is giving off a signal that these horrendous actions aren’t of that great concern, and is helping the Saudi Government’s tactics that they use to cover up and get away with their human rights violations.
In my personal opinion the race should not go ahead this year because of the questionable safety of the track, and F1 as a whole should reconsider their stance on allowing countries with severe human rights violations to host F1 races, and should at least give major attention to the current situation in these countries during the race weekends.