Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021: The Jeddah Circuit, Qatar Recap, and More
Well, Mercedes fans got what they wanted in the latest Grand Prix in 2021: Hamilton came out top of the Qatar F1 race and Verstappen came in second place. Of course, things could have been much worse for Red Bull and Max Verstappen, as he was hit with a grid penalty before Sunday’s race and started in the seventh spot, but quick thinking and neat driving helped him jump up to second by lap five.
However, it was the Lewis Hamilton Show in Qatar, as he barely had to look in his side mirrors the entire race and won comfortably ahead of Verstappen by over 25 seconds. Even so, the points still count no matter what the time is, and Mercedes will have to be slightly annoyed Verstappen earned 20 points (19 for second place and an extra point for having the fastest lap), while Hamilton grabbed a much-needed 25 points.
Although it is of little concern to the championship race, Fernando Alonso proved he’s still got life in him and took third place for team Alpine. This podium finish was the first for the well-revered two-time F1 champion since Hungary in 2014.
So, how do things look now heading into the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix with two races left? Verstappen stands on 351.5 points while Hamilton sits on 343.5 points. Despite things being a two-car race for pretty much the entire F1 season, it’s incredibly refreshing to have such a tight ending and real stakes on the line.
Venue, time, and where to watch the F1 Saudi Arabia race
The Jeddah circuit in Saudi Arabia is another new addition to the Formula One calendar this season. The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will take place on Sunday 5th December, with the full weekend schedule available below in GMT for UK F1 fans:
Friday December 3rd
- Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – Practice 1 – Sky Sports F1 (13:30)
- Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – Practice 2 – Sky Sports F1 (17:00)
Saturday December 4th
- Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – Practice 3 – Sky Sports F1 (14:00)
- Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – Qualifying 1 – Sky Sports F1 (17:00)
- Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – Qualifying 2 – Sky Sports F1 (17:22)
- Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – Qualifying 3 – Sky Sports F1 (17:45)
Sunday December 5th
- Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – Race – Sky Sports F1 (17:30)
What you need to know about the new Jeddah circuit
Taking place at night with floodlights placed around the track just like in Qatar, this 50-lap race contains 27 turns and is actually the second-longest on the schedule at 6.174 km (3.836 miles). Located on the Red Sea coastline, it’s certainly going to be one of the prettiest but also an incredibly fast street circuit, with top speeds of up to 322 km/h (200 mp/h) expected on the track.
Fears that the F1 Saudi Arabia track will not be finished
In the weeks leading up to the inaugural Formula One race in Saudi Arabia, there has been a lot of concern that the actual track won’t be completed on time. Pictures surfaced on social media in October showing the Jeddah circuit looking nowhere near completion. However, FIA race director, Michael Masi, assured fans that the track would be ready in time despite the fact that construction is still on-going literally days before the race:
“I was there a couple of weeks ago and obviously, there is a lot going on there”, said Masi. “There’s a huge amount of work happening concurrently [but] the FIA and F1 are getting daily updates of where things are at. And it’s progressing very, very quickly. Yes, there’s a lot to do. There’s nothing to deny there. I think everyone will acknowledge there’s a lot to do. But I’m still confident of the race going ahead.”
Will the Jeddah circuit favour Red Bull or Mercedes?
While it’s hard to know exactly how the track will run with it being the first time on the F1 calendar, there are several factors that would be an advantage to both Red Bull and Mercedes cars.
Mercedes cars usually perform better on high-speed circuits, and the F1 Saudi Arabia track could well be one of the fastest we’ve ever seen. Red Bull will love the very twisty corners that are particularly evident in the Saudi Arabia track, too. It certainly looks as if things will be very balanced between the Red Bull and Mercedes, so it will likely come down to the incredibly important qualifying laps to see who gets the top spot. Being able to get away first in clean air and without another driver to dodge around should never be underestimated.
We’re also expecting to see a lot of overtaking, particularly just before the final corner where the track broadens, which is certainly good news for F1 fans who grow tired of the race becoming practically set in stone after the qualifying spots have been confirmed. Hopefully, there are no pesky distractions in the form of penalties or disqualifications that we’ve seen a lot recently – just let the drivers simply drive.
Can Verstappen seal the F1 championship?
Max Verstappen and Red Bull can certainly secure the F1 championship after the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. However, it will depend on many factors. For example, If Verstappen wins (and gets the extra point for the fastest lap) and Hamilton finishes in sixth place or lower, then Verstappen will win his first championship and take down the Mercedes dynasty that has ruled for the last seven seasons.
Nevertheless, pigs will fly if Verstappen thinks that Hamilton isn’t giving absolutely everything he’s got to win the race and stay in championship contention. At 36 years of age, Hamilton has the motivation and experience to win the next two races and claim his eighth title, plus, the Mercedes car is running better than ever and will be lightning quick on the Jeddah circuit.
Verstappen is 24 years old and is tired of being in Hamilton’s large shadow. He’s one of the best drivers we’ve seen in a long time and the natural successor to the current champion. He’ll want to dethrone Hamilton and prove to the world that he and Red Bull have got what it takes for the F1 title. Plus, with Verstappen still eight points ahead of Hamilton in the standings, Red Bull’s got to feel good about their chances and know that Mercedes may take more risks in order to steal a win.
Predictions for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021
The first F1 Saudi Arabia race is going to be incredibly close. The circuit looks to favour the Mercedes car and Hamilton is on a charge with strong momentum right now. We believe it’s going to be Hamilton in first place, then Verstappen in second, and very likely Bottas (who will leave Mercedes in 2022 to be replaced by current Williams driver, George Russell) for the third spot.
Whatever happens in Saudi Arabia and the final race in Abu Dhabi, things look set for easily the most exciting F1 championship race in a very long time.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that Hamilton will have no plans to retire in 2022, regardless of the result in 2021.
“Looking ahead to next year, the performance of the cars is likely to be closer together,” Hamilton explained in a recent interview. “The races will be more intense, so driving skills can carry a lot of weight. That’s why I want to stay in F1, because it will really be an opportunity to show my skills. In our sport, it is not that simple, sometimes there is an opportunity to overtake, but not so many, that’s why I am thrilled. I believe my spirit can help the team make progress because I know what I need from the car and where performance needs to go.”
2022 will see new regulations for all F1 cars, which means we may not see such Mercedes and Red Bull domination like in previous years. There is optimism that the races will be much closer and the results will be not as predictable – something necessary to keep current fans engaged and to grow the sport.
Here are a few important changes for Formula One cars in 2022:
- It has been created to allow for tighter racing and more overtaking
- Over-wheel winglets and wheel covers will feature on the car
- Look for a totally new front wing and nose design
- The cars will be run on far more sustainable fuel – F1 is still working on a fully sustainable fuel in the not-too-distant future
- The current 2021 power unit will be brought back for the next season
- Low-profile 18-inch tyres have been introduced to prevent overheating
- There is a heightened focus to make the cars safer and stronger – lessons have been learnt from previous crashes
- Over 7,500 simulations have already happened to get the 2022 F1 car ready for racing, although the cars will now be heavier
Author: Joe Garland