The penultimate Grand Prix of the 2021 Formula 1 season takes place at a brand new location: Saudi Arabia. Situated in Jeddah, the Corniche circuit was still under construction two days prior to the start of the GP weekend. It is a high-speed circuit by nature and has been designed by Carsten Tilke to allow maximum opportunities for overtaking. F1 freelance journalist tweeted an incredible statistic that 79% of the lap will be at full throttle. The estimated top speed is 322 km/h. All the talk of high-speed corners plays into the hands of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton as the W12 has shown prodigious pace at tracks with long straights. The track features three DRS zones which open up a can of words between Red Bull criticising Mercedes’ rear wing and subsequent higher top speed.
The 50-lap race will be a battle of speed and F1.com said the average speed for a lap of the 6.175km track is 253km/h. That number makes it the second quickest average speed to Monza. Focusing on Saturday’s qualifying session, it would seem that the stats are in favour of Mercedes who claimed pole position in all the races last month. “The car has been performing well recently and is probably in the best place it has been all season,” said Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff ahead of the event. “We expect to be in the hunt.” This makes us put Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas favourites to grab pole position. Hamilton’s title rival and leader in the drivers’ championship will be wary of the Mercedes duo and look to Sergio Perez for assistance if he’s to win his maiden championship this season. It’s unlikely a winner will come from outside these four drivers as the gap in speed the Mercedes and Red Bull cars possess is extraordinary. Hamilton finished a full minute ahead of third-placed Fernando Alonso in Qatar last month. Those drivers fighting for point positions in the top 10 will face tough competition from the likes of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari. The former has scored points in his last 13 races and will hope to finish off the season with more points.
The Jeddah Corniche circuit is made up of 27 turns and is a street circuit by nature, with the drivers getting perilously close to the walls around the circuit. We could definitely see the safety car make an appearance due to the drivers not having a lot of experience with the circuit. In terms of tyre choice, Pirelli has chosen the C2 compound as the Hard tyre, the C3 compound as the Medium tyre, and the C4 compound as the Soft tyre. Turn 13 is one of the corners to look for as it has 12-degree banking and in turn, will put a lot of pressure on the tyres.
We’re in for another cracker of a race and we’ll certainly see lots of action under the lights in Jeddah.