Thursday, January 27, 2022

Saudi Arabian GP: 5 things to look out for ahead of the inaugural race in Jeddah

Saudi Arabian GP 2021: Formula 1 heads to Jeddah as Max Verstappen gets ready for his Matchpoint No.2 in new territory.


Saudi Arabian GP: Alright then, it’s the final home stretch. Two races remain. Back-to-back race weekends. Nothing in both the Championships. It could all easily go down right to the wire. Reliability could still decide the titles this year. It’s time for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix!

F1 heads to Jeddah, another all-new venue for the sport, to potentially decide this year’s Champion of the World. More on that later. Not only that, but the circuit, correction, F1’s “fastest street circuit” promises to deliver a chaotic yet, mesmerizing race.

There’s no Sprint Race/Qualifying left to run. From tomorrow, as soon as the drivers head out on the track for the very first time, all of the focus would be on gathering as much data and experience as possible so that come Sunday, all the twenty men can live up to the fast-flowing (my new favorite word) throughout some 50-odd laps.

The hype is real. True story. There is no exaggeration here. Nobody genuinely knows who’s going to win, who’s going to take the title home. Lewis says he’s relaxed, Max says he’s ready. I am getting goosebumps as I type this, but for the second-last time in 2021, the game is on!

1. Max Verstappen, your 2021 Formula 1 World Champion?

To start with perhaps the most important storyline of them all – will Verstappen be crowned this year’s King on Sunday? Well, if you factor in the horrendous probabilities, he just might. All he has to do is to outscore Lewis by *just* 18 points.

Verstappen needs a 26-point advantage going into Abu Dhabi to be crowned the Champion there, but if somehow, the Dutchman wins and gets the fastest lap (the full 26-point haul), and Hamilton finishes in P6 or lower, the trophy is coming home!

While it may look achievable, to a certain extent, you should know that since the Jeddah track is set to be super quick, it could very well play into Lewis’ hands. Mercedes has already said that it will give Hamilton his freshest PU for the Saudi race.

Ask me, I honestly believe that Max will become Red Bull’s champion for the first time since 2013. He is a better and quicker driver than Lewis. Of course, Hamilton will have that fresh engine advantage, but it could all go south.

2. The circuit

Even Hermann Tilke, the maker of the Jeddah Street Circuit, would agree when asked whether or not he thought the race would be run on time. It was always in question, some even thought that there would be some leftovers, but that’s not the case, thankfully.

The F1 circus heads to Saudi Arabia at a track that is considered as the second-quickest on this year’s calendar – behind Monza. F1 predicts an average speed of 252 km/h, while on a given lap, drivers are said to be at full throttle for 79% of the lap. Crazy.

With 27 corners so close to the walls, there will be plenty of drama, red flags, safety car periods, you name it. I am not jinxing anything, but rather just stating the facts. The circuit looks horrendously quick, and the drivers will be looking to extract every bit of tenth out of the corners, even if it means losing a front wing or two. As for how the racing will go…

3. The DRS train

27 corners, 6.174 km/lap, a total race distance of just over 308 km – these are some of the numbers we should understand before we expect anything. There are also going to be three DRS zones in total – one on the start/finish straight, one from T20-22, and the other one from just before T25-27.

When we talk about the actual racing itself, we again step into the unknown. We don’t know how many overtakes will we see. In Qatar, the prediction was very little, but we did get a great show. I feel the same will happen in Saudi Arabia, although the sequence from T4-12 might just make it a bit difficult.

The prime overtaking spots are going to be T1, T13 (a banked corner), and T27, a hairpin. Those who are brave enough could even go for a lunge down into T22. Again, that’s how I see it. Considering the nature of the circuit, it could get difficult to pass other cars, but with the mistakes being punished here, it could be good for those who keep their cars out of the walls.

4. The other battles

Apart from the usual Red Bull-Mercedes chit-chat, come race day, we could even see Ferrari securing P3 in the WCC and Alpine securing P5.

Speaking of the drivers, still a lot to play for between Bottas and Checo for P3 – Valtteri is 13 points ahead of the Mexican. Judging by the current pace, don’t be surprised if Red Bull secures a 1-3 in the Championship.

As for the rest of the grid, there’s a tight battle between Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc, and Carlos Sainz. Pierre Gasly could overtake Daniel Ricciardo for P8, but he would be needing 17 points over the Australian in doing so.

5. The silence at Williams…

Only a few days ago, the motorsport fraternity lost one of its most brilliant. influential man, Sir Frank Williams. He was the longest-serving team principal in the history of Formula 1, and his death will surely leave a hole in the sport.

He was responsible for bringing in top talents like Nico Rosberg, Jenson Button, Damon Hill, and many others. But as they say, the show must go on. He’s leaving a team as strong and optimistic as Williams of today. Everyone on the grid owes to Sir Frank Williams. May he Rest In Peace.


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