Formula 1 fans are still chatting about the incredible one-two Ferrari victory at the opening race in Bahrain, as we head into the second leg of the doubleheader in Saudi Arabia.
For the second time in four months, the drivers will battle on the calendar’s fastest street circuit that has been designed as a combination of Baku and Monaco. There have been a few tweaks to the 6,1km-long track with improved sightlines and a 1,5m wider final turn.
Ferrari and Red Bull head to Jeddah as favourites after providing a searing pace in Bahrain. However, the energy drink team’s race ended spectacularly with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez retiring with an unknown issue.
It meant Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz scored a one-two result for the Italian team who seem to have a car that is fast and handles corners well. While we feel Leclerc is a strong contender for the race win, it’s Verstappen that we feel will be faster over one lap and therefore expect to see him on pole under the Arabian night sky.
The fast and flowing nature of the track where the average speed is north of 250km/h means the Mercedes-powered cars might struggle against the rest of the pack based on pure pace. We anticipate the Ferrari-powered teams, that include Haas and Alfa Romeo to perhaps upset the apple cart somewhat.
It’s never brave to discount the Mercedes team, and what everyone in the paddock will be looking at is how much they can improve their package from last weekend. Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were lapping a full second slower per lap than race leader Leclerc for long periods in Bahrain.
Due to the track’s high-speed nature, we think the drivers will definitely find it difficult to stay out of trouble and therefore a virtual safety car and full safety car are likely to come out.
Look out for Kevin Magnussen in the Haas after he finished fifth in Bahrain, the Dane will carry huge confidence into this weekend’s race.
Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel is still waiting to return a negative Covid-19 test and so cannot yet travel to Saudi Arabia for this weekend’s Grand Prix.