Posted on March 24, 2022
FORMULA ONE IS BACK IN SAUDI ARABIA this weekend less than four months after it debuted its new Jeddah facility. And changes brought on by the FIA after several incidents in that race could even enhance its reputation as the fastest street circuit on the 2022 calendar.
These largely consist of opening up sight-lines through corners by moving barriers further back, while Turn 27 – the final turn – has been widened by the removal of a grandstand, which is expected to make the lap slightly faster.
It’s good to see Turn 13 still features 12 degrees of banking, helping the rapid flow of the circuit that makes it the second-quickest lap of the year overall, after Italy’s Monza.
The 50-lap Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is the second consecutive night race on the calendar, which means that track temperatures can differ between the sessions – as was the case in Bahrain – with FP2 and qualifying more representative of race conditions.
Pirelli has again chosen the compounds in the middle of the range: C2 as the P Zero White hard, C3 as the Yellow medium, and C4 as the Red soft. This time though the teams head into Jeddah with no experience of these tyres and cars on the circuit.
The new surface from last year offers a good level of grip (scoring three out of five in Pirelli’s classification) and reasonably contained levels of asphalt abrasion (scoring two out of five in Pirelli’s classification), which should lead to moderate wear and degradation.
The severity of the loads and speeds is average, with overall tyre stress scoring three out of five. Due to the rapidly flowing layout, the track is not particularly demanding in terms of traction and braking (scoring two out of five in Pirelli’s classification). A high degree of track evolution over the weekend is expected, thanks also to the Formula 2 support race programme.
“Jeddah marks a completely different challenge compared to the opening grand prix in Bahrain due to the diverse track characteristics, both in terms of layout and asphalt.
“Drivers will also use a softer range of compounds this weekend to cope with the specific demands of the track, which is nearly as quick as Monza. The teams head into Jeddah with no experience of these tyres and cars on the circuit.
“And conditions could be somewhat different from last time in Saudi Arabia, with the race now being held at a different time of year and a few track modifications in store.
“The nominated compounds are the same as 2021, but their make-up has also changed entirely from last year.
“As a result, the teams will have a lot of work to do to assimilate as much data as possible during free practice, especially in FP2 which will be the only relevant session, being held at the same time as qualifying and the race.” Mario Isola.
The Formula 2 season continues in Jeddah with the P Zero Yellow medium and Red soft compounds – a step harder than the supersoft, which was the softest option last year.
Mario reckons the soft will present a different challenge for drivers, adding more options in terms of strategy and helping with any potential safety car restarts.
There is no refuelling during qualifying this year, so the cars will now be heavier at the start of the session: the soft delivers more versatility across different fuel loads and has a longer life, enabling the drivers to push harder for longer.
Each driver has five sets of tyres (three medium and two soft) to use across the weekend.
Aussies Jack Doohan and Calan Williams will be out to make amends!
With the release earlier this week of the report into Abu Dhabi, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem said negotiations are underway with Michael Masi to determine where he can fit into the governing body.
“We are grateful of the three years that he invested with us and he put his time in. We are negotiating with him, of course, to stay in the FIA. He’s an important figure to us. So our people are negotiating other, I would say not a job, but another place for him within the FIA.” FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem
Masi hasn’t spoken publicly since the drama that rocked motorsport, so it will be interesting to see what unfold in coming weeks.
At 44, he’s a young man and should he hang with the FIA there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be back in one of the most prestigious roles in world motorsport in a couple of years!
What do you think?
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