Saturday, January 29, 2022
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Saudi Arabian GP: Lewis Hamilton fastest in FP 1 and FP 2 at Jeddah

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Saudi Arabian GP: At last, the Jeddah circuit got completed. Well, not 100% completed, but enough to make racing happen, more safely and engagingly. And boy, what a masterpiece, Hermann Tilke has created!

The fast-flowing, 27-corner, F1‘s “fastest street-circuit“, is so good, that drivers had already expected a lot of carnage, sparks, the works, before they even set foot at the track. Although fortunately, no one was seriously injured. More on that later.

Bottas was perhaps the most impressed by the nature of the circuit as he said it out loud: “This track is ******* cool!” But, enough with the appreciation. Let’s get down to business.

To be very honest, we all care only about one thing – who gets the most points on whom. Will it be Max? Or Lewis? Will there be carnage? If the FP1 & FP2 data is anything to go by, it is very evenly matched between the two. Max looks strong over one lap, whereas Lewis has control over the race pace.

Mercedes

The Brackley-based outfit came into Saudi Arabia with the freshes PU available for Hamilton and the aim to beat Verstappen fair-and-square and by all means. Heading into the penultimate race of the year (I am crying), Lewis said that he was relaxed.

He should be too because he has the advantage in the long runs. He finished FP1 & FP2 in P1, but there seems to be still some concerns over his single-lap pace. Although that could be down to teams running different engine modes. “We’re not rapid on the single lap, I would say, compared to the others, but our long-run pace seemed like it was not too bad… Who knows what’s going on?” he said.

On Valtteri’s side, it seems like it is now the perfect time to play the wingman, play the team game, as the Finnish was close to Hamilton in both the sessions. Toto and Lewis would want him to keep that confidence and pace going into Sunday, but as we’ve already witnessed several times this year alone, he doesn’t give a squat anymore!

Red Bull

Christian Horner says he is rather “encouraged” by Red Bull and Max’s pace in Jeddah as the Dutchman, who leads the World Championship by eight points, finished FP1 just 0.056 seconds behind Lewis in P2, and FP2 in P4.

The circuit is a little bit tighter than the data suggested. The corners are a little bit tighter, so it’s not all the emphasis on horsepower. That’s encouraging,” said Horner.

Ever since the lights went green, Max looked in utter control of his Red Bull machinery. Christian further said that the Jeddah circuit suits Max’s driving style – high speed, walls closer to you, kerbs, and so on. It truly was a spectacle to watch him dance around.

Perhaps the worry is on Checo’s side, again. The Mexican finished P11 in FP1 and P9 in FP2 but still says that all’s not lost. So says Horner, “Sergio – he’s a slow starter but he gathers momentum and you can see he’s building, building, building.

And he’s a wily old fox; he knows not to take huge risks too early on a street circuit. I think he’s always gone well at circuits like Sochi and Azerbaijan and Monaco, I’ve got no doubt he’s building those foundations.”

AlphaTauri

It’s a huge shame that AT couldn’t live up to the hype, the speed shown in Qatar. Once again, it was Pierre Gasly who led the charge for the team, and by some margin!

The Frenchman thoroughly enjoyed the circuit it seemed as he crossed the finish line in FP1 and FP2 in P4 and P3, respectively. Even Yuki Tsunoda joined the party for a brief moment as the Japanese driver was in P4 I think it was for several moments before getting dropped to P8 towards the end of FP2.

If only the two AlphaTauri boys can keep up with this pace, it would make racing on Sunday that much better.

McLaren & Ferrari

Woking has always been the numero uno when it comes to medium-and-high-speed corners. And with Jeddah having more than 90% of them, it should be advantage McLaren, but it didn’t seem to be…

Daniel Ricciardo finished in P8 in the first practice session but got demoted to P11 in FP2. Lando, on the other hand, finished P13 in FP1 and jumped to, well, one place above, in P12.

Such has been his form of late, analysts still predict a lot of pace from Norris as the Brit has always been the go-getter for McLaren. When we talk about Daniel, if it is the same tomorrow as it is currently, it could be yet another disappointing weekend for the Australian. Maybe the Italian GP victory was a piece of luck, after all…

On Ferrari’s side of things, maybe the drivers tested every inch of the track. In FP1, both the drivers had pretty good outings – Sainz finished ahead of Leclerc in P6. When it came to FP2, as far as I can remember, it was more or less going according to plan, until it wasn’t.

Towards the end of FP2, Charles, on his flying lap, I think he was, spun at T22, the dangerous blinding corner, and there he was, inside the barrier, with his Ferrari in ashes. Not literally, though.

His car had taken massive hits on almost all the corners, but it was good to see him walking, albeit limping a bit. There were a few concerns with whether the chassis and PU had to be changed or not, but Ferrari has said they are good to go. Crucially, Modena was ahead of Woking.

Alpine

I don’t know… How come a team that was nowhere last year, can win this year, score podiums, and finish inside the Top 6 regularly?! Friday was no different for the French team as it took its time to understand the track, but when it did, its drivers were unstoppable.

Nando and Ocon had finished FP1 in P9 and P12, respectively, but under the floodlights, in racing conditions, they both ended their days in P5 and P6, respectively. If today’s pace is anything to go by, Ferrari and McLaren have a lot to worry about.

Aston Martin

A rather dull Friday for the team meant the highlight of the day was when Sebastian finished in P10 in FP1. Few hours later, the German ended his day’s proceedings in P16. As for Lance, he was P14 earlier in the day, and P15 later in the evening. Dismal.

Alfa Romeo & Williams & Haas

Both the Alfa drivers are racing in F1 for the second-last time. Realizing that, Giovinazzi certainly gave us a smile on our faces when the Italian Jesus ended FP1 in a brilliant P5. That said it was all back to normal as he finished in P13, with Kimi one place behind, in FP2.

The Williams team has got a lot on its shoulders in Jeddah – first the sad demise of Sir Frank Williams, second that it’s Russell’s second-last race with the team before he shoots to Mercedes, and third that there’s absolutely no pace. Oh boy.

As for the two Haas drivers, Mick was miles ahead of Nikita Mazepin. Maybe Papa Mazepin should also buy himself a better and faster driver?

Tomorrow…

The Jeddah circuit is narrow, is super quick, but also favors the brave. Time and again, we saw today how traffic can become and will become an issue, especially during Q1. The hairpin at T27 could be the prime spot in us, hearing a lot of complaints from the drivers.

All eyes are on who puts in the fastest lap come Q3. My bet is on Verstappen, he looks more comfortable and planted than Lewis, but I also know that Hamilton becomes a beast when it’s Saturday. Be that as it may, don’t forget to tune into Quali for it will be epic. True story.

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