The 2022 Formula 1 season has begun, and after the first race in Bahrain, we go straight to the second GP of this season. After debuting for the 2021 Saudi Arabia Grand Prix with a duel between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, a duel between Charles Leclerc and Verstappen may now be on the cards. Read everything you need to know ahead of this race weekend in this preview from GPblog.
Saudi Arabia GP
As mentioned, the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix does not have a long history. The first race was held in 2021, after the circuit already appeared on the preliminary 2021 calendar presented by F1 in late 2020. There was and still is a lot of criticism of racing in Saudi Arabia because human rights are violated in the country.
The race in Saudi Arabia will be held on the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. The goal of the organisation was to have the fastest street circuit on the calendar, finding a mix between Monaco and Baku. The circuit has very tight tight corners, but the speed never drops to very low speeds due to the angle of the corners. In a simulation, the circuit proved to be the fastest on the F1 calendar, with an average speed of 250 kilometers per hour.
The circuit, like so many circuits on the F1 calendar, was designed by Hermann Tilke. F1’s in-house architect was brought in again to design and came up with the street circuit that is 6,174 meters long and has 27 turns. The circuit is lined with floodlights, so the drivers race in the dark.
Nevertheless, Tilke’s design was also criticised, as the combination of high speed, blind corners and a narrow track created a particularly high risk of huge crashes. In 2021 the damage was not too bad, but there were some moments when things could have turned out differently. It remains to be seen whether the planned changes will improve on this.
As mentioned, there has already been one Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia and that is not even that long ago. In fact, the first race was held in December 2021, as the second-to-last race on the F1 calendar. The title battle between Hamilton and Verstappen could have been decided for the first time at this circuit, but in the end the decisive race was the one in Abu Dhabi.
On the fast street circuit, qualifying was especially impressive and Verstappen seemed to be on his way to pole with a masterful lap. However, the Dutchman made a mistake in the last corner and hit the wall. As a result, he started from P3, behind Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. However, it did not provide less spectacle.
Pit stops by Mercedes during a virtual safety car gave Verstappen the lead. When the virtual safety car proved not enough to clean up the damage, a red flag was raised and Verstappen could grab new tyres and restart the race from pole. However, the Dutchman got off to a bad start, braking too deep into the first corner and pushing Hamilton out wide.
Another crash brought another restart and Red Bull had accepted Michael Masi’s offer to start from P3. That way Verstappen’s action did not need to be investigated and he simply gave the spot back. In the first corner of that restart, however, Verstappen was extremely eager and took back the lead.
Hamilton, however, proved to have more pace throughout the race and caught up with the Red Bull driver again. Verstappen did everything to keep Lewis behind him, but was punished for this. When he wanted to let Hamilton pass, the Brit crashed into Verstappen. They could continue their way, but for this Max got a penalty after the race. Hamilton later passed Verstappen and won the race.
Formula 1 in 2022
The 2022 F1 season is just one race old and so we cannot yet state which team is good at a particular circuit. However, after the Bahrain Grand Prix, it was clear that Ferrari and Red Bull Racing currently have the best car. Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen fought for pole and victory in Bahrain, only Red Bull ended up with zero points.
Red Bull was in fact fast, but saw both drivers drop out with a similar problem. Red Bull haven’t revealed what the proble is, but it is clear that it must be solved before the next Grand Prix.
Mercedes is lagging behind the top two teams, but Mercedes wouldn’t be Mercedes if they did everything possible to close that gap now. A week may be too short a time, but with such a completely new set of regulations, the development curve will be very steep.
Just like in Bahrain, you don’t have to worry about the weather conditions in Saudi Arabia. There is a lot of wind on Friday and Saturday, but that wind will decrease considerably before the day of the Grand Prix. The teams and drivers should also take into account the rising temperature throughout the weekend. On Friday, according to Weather.com 27 degrees, on Saturday 29 and on Sunday it can be as high as 32 degrees.
Forecast for the Grand Prix
After the Bahrain GP, you can’t ignore Ferrari. The team grabbed, if with some luck, a 1-2 and dominated the whole weekend. Red Bull Racing was close, but the first win since 2019 will give the Italian team a lot of confidence. Besides, Ferrari was already very good on street circuits in 2021.
Red Bull Racing will be close again in Jeddah. The Dutchman was lightning fast in qualifying here in 2021, until the last lap. If he can match that speed, there might be more in it for the Dutchman in 2022.
However, the most important factor in Saudi Arabia is also (un)luck. Accident is at a small corner on this circuit and if you are not in the wall, a safety car or red flag could come at exactly the wrong time for you. A surprise at this circuit can never be ruled out.
Timetable Saudi Arabia Grand Prix 2022
First free practice: 14:00-15:00
Second free practice: 17:00-18:00
Third free practice: 14:00-15:00