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Jeddah Hosts Mighty Quick GP

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Posted on March 7, 2024 Tags:

After Max and Cheko showed the F1 pack a clean quartet of Pirellis at last weekend’s Bahrain season opener on the Persian Gulf, the caravan has arrived at Jeddah for this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

It’s just a quick 1200km flight from super sandy Sakhir to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, a street track nestled alongside the Red Sea.

Formula 1 brought forward the usual grand prix weekend schedule by one day last week at Bahrain to accommodate the start of Ramadan, on the second Sunday of March.

And the same applies here in Saudi Arabia – with two free practice sessions on Thursday, FP3 and qualifying on Friday, then (as in Bahrain) the grand prix itself on Saturday.  

According to the gurus at Pirelli, the two tracks could not be more different. Sakhir’s abrasive surface and thermal degradation was particularly high and stability under braking, and for traction, proved a handful for drivers.

Now they face a track with quite a smooth surface and very high speeds, with an average per lap of 250 km/h, second only to Monza, the Temple of Speed.

At 6.174km it’s the second longest track on the calendar, particularly twisty with 27 corners, the most of any circuit. On grand prix Saturday drivers will tackle it 50 times!

The fact many of the turns are medium to high speed means the tyres are subjected to high lateral forces.

As a street circuit, there are not many run-off areas and so the risk of accidents is quite high, so the Safety Car could have an input on the race. Overtaking is pretty tricky, with the best opportunity coming on the entry to turn 1.

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

As in Bahrain, qualifying in Jeddah and the race take place in the evening, starting at 20.00 Saudi time, with temperatures lower than during the first free practice sessions on Thursday and Friday.

The Jeddah Corniche Circuit, which was introduced into the Formula One calendar in 2021, presents a total race distance of 308.45 km.

Based on the experience of the previous three editions of this race, Pirelli has chosen its three mid-range compounds: the C2 as Hard, the C3 as Medium and the C4 as Soft.

Another difference when compared to Bahrain is race strategy. Last Saturday, the overwhelming majority of drivers made two stops, with a three-stopper the only other likely choice. However, in Jeddah, it is quite possible to envisage a one-stop race, with drivers swapping between Medium and Hard depending on their grid positions.

As is usually the case at street circuits, track evolution will be very high and in qualifying, it will be crucial to choose exactly the right moment to go out on track to set a good lap time. Also important will be getting the preparation lap just right.

In past events here in Jeddah, Pirelli has noted drivers doing two preparation laps to get the Softs to the right temperature and that can cause traffic related problems.

F2 and F1 Academy support races

The last female driver to take part in an F1 weekend was F1 Academy managing director Susie Wolff (pictured left) for Williams at the 2014 British GP, when she took part in Practice One. Lella Lombardi is the last driver to race in the Grand Prix itself, in 1976, and she’s the only woman to score points when she finished sixth at the 1975 Spanish GP.

Apart from the usual support race in the shape of the second round of the Formula 2 championship, the Jeddah circuit also hosts the F1 Academy for the first of its seven rounds this season, all run alongside a Grand Prix event.

For the second consecutive year, Pirelli is the Official Tyre Supplier for the all-female championship.  

All F1 Academy cars are shod with 13-inch Pirelli P Zero DM, designed to maintain a constant performance level even over longer distances so racing drivers can develop their skills without having to deal with variables usually found in major championships relating to tyre wear.

As of 2024, the F1 Academy is ranked as a genuine junior category, with the top five drivers in the championship awarded points towards an FIA Superlicence.


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