Formula 1 raced in Saudi Arabia for the first time in 2021 with a night race at Jeddah Corniche Circuit. Here’s everything you need to know about the latest addition to the F1 calendar.
|FIRST F1 RACE||2021|
|TRACK LENGTH||3.836 miles|
|NUMBER OF LAPS||50|
|NUMBER OF TURNS||27|
|MOST POLES||Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez (1)|
|MOST WINS||Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen (1)|
Rumours of a Formula 1 race in Saudi Arabia have been ongoing for a number of years. In 2019, it was announced that a permanent circuit was to be built in Qiddiya, outside of capital city Riyadh. The plans were confirmed in January 2020. Track designer Alex Wurz appeared with a number of past and present Formula 1 drivers – including World Champion Damon Hill, David Coulthard, Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean – in an event on the proposed site of the circuit. It was confirmed at the event that the circuit was designed to FIA Grade 1 standards, meaning that Formula 1 could theoretically race there – though not until 2023. Instead, for the time being at least, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will take place on the streets of Jeddah, the country’s second-largest city.
Saudi Arabia has attracted other major motorsport events in recent years. The Race of Champions, held at the King Fahd International Stadium in February 2018, was the first ever international motorsport event to take place in the country. Meanwhile, Formula E has raced in Diriyah since 2018 and the Dakar Rally has been held in the country in each of the past two years.
JEDDAH CORNICHE CIRCUIT
The track layout for the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was unveiled on 18th March 2021. The Jeddah Corniche Circuit is designed by Hermann Tilke, and is situated on the Jeddah Corniche. It is the fastest street circuit in Formula 1, with an average speed of over 250km/h. Race organisers say that the circuit – which has 27 turns set out over 6.175km – prioritises overtaking, rather than scenic views. The race takes place at night.
Formula 1’s presence in Saudi Arabia has been criticised due to the country’s human rights record. Amid accusations of “sports-washing” by Amnesty International UK, F1 defended their new race with a spokesperson saying: “For decades, F1 has worked hard to be a positive force everywhere it races, including economic, social, and cultural benefits.”
It is not known how long F1’s contract to race in Saudi Arabia is for, but a spokesperson commented that the sport expects to race in the country for “a decade, if not longer” in February 2021.
2021 SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX RECAP
Tensions ran high at the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. As the red flags were called out three times, championship contenders Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton made contact on track.
F1 visited Saudi Arabia for the first time in 2021 on the all-new Jeddah Corniche Circuit – the fastest street track the sport has ever visited. Teams ran tributes to the late Frank Williams on their cars for the race weekend, who had passed away one week earlier. The perils of the new track became clear in Free Practice 2, as Charles Leclerc wrecked his Ferrari with a heavy crash.
On Saturday, Valtteri Bottas encountered misfiring issues in Q1 and made contact with Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo in Q2, but was still able to reach Q3. Max Verstappen was on a blisteringly fast lap which looked set to secure him pole position in the closing moments of qualifying. However, the Dutchman made a mistake at the final corner and crashed into the wall.
Lewis Hamilton started from pole position and led the opening lap ahead of his team-mate. After a quiet opening ten laps, Mick Schumacher made heavy contact with the barriers on Lap 10, reminiscent of Leclerc’s Friday crash. The Mercedes drivers pitted under the Safety Car, while Verstappen opted to stay out. It looked to be a strategic mistake from Red Bull – that was until the Red Flag was called, giving Verstappen the upper hand.
At the restart, Verstappen and Hamilton were side-by-side at Turn 1. Hamilton took the lead but Verstappen re-passed, albeit off the circuit. Esteban Ocon overtook Hamilton for second place before an incident behind the leaders brought out the Red Flag once more. Sergio Perez was tagged and hit the wall, with George Russell and Nikita Mazepin eliminated from the race in the resulting melee.
Controversy reigned in the stoppage, as Michael Masi presented Red Bull with the opportunity to decide the grid order at the restart. Ocon subsequently started from pole position, with Hamilton alongside him on the front row. Verstappen passed both of them on the inside at Turn 1. As the race passed its halfway point, Hamilton was back on Verstappen’s tail and attempted to overtake once again at Turn 1. But the Mercedes driver was run wide, while Verstappen also missed the corner. Verstappen was instructed to give the position back to his title rival. In doing so, Hamilton ended up hitting the rear of the Red Bull. Verstappen then let Hamilton by once more a few laps later, before immediately re-passing him. Almost straight after this, Verstappen collected a 5-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage. Hamilton ultimately passed Verstappen on track and went on to claim victory.
Bottas was charging in the closing stages and passed Ocon on the line for the final podium position. Hamilton’s win tied him and Verstappen on points heading into the final round of the season.
JEDDAH CORNICHE CIRCUIT WINNERS AND POLESITTERS
|Year||Polesitter||Team on Pole||Winner||Winning Team|
|2021||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes|
|2022||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||Max Verstappen||Red Bull|