Why Jeddah is the ultimate driving challenge

7/3/2024

Located on the shoreline of the Red Sea, the thrilling Jeddah Corniche Circuit has quickly established itself as a track not for the faint-hearted. With drivers on full throttle for 70 per cent of the lap, the hybrid street course is one of the fastest on the calendar. Last year’s pole time was set at an average speed of 251.814km/h.



With three different winners in its first three events, the Saudi Arabian venue has a reputation for providing unpredictable races. With the track’s high speeds and unyielding barriers, both Esteban and Pierre know that precision, bravery and momentum are vital to extracting a quick lap time.

Why Jeddah is the ultimate driving challenge

Due to its lack of use during the year, grip levels are low in practice and offline it can remain slippery for the entirety of the weekend. Similar to Bahrain, the exposed nature of the flat coastline can lead to sudden gusts of wind which can blow sand onto the track surface. Plus ambient temperatures drop when the track action takes place after sunset.



Since the inaugural event in 2021 a number of revisions have taken place to help drivers. They include repositioning the apex wall back a few metres at Turns 14 and 20 to improve sight lines and adjusting the height of the kerbs.

Why Jeddah is the ultimate driving challenge

At 6.174km, the anticlockwise Jeddah Corniche Circuit has more corners than any other on the calendar and is the second longest behind Spa-Francorchamps. The narrow configuration means fans positioned above Turn 3 can enjoy spectacular double-headed views. On the left-hand side they get to see drivers navigate the fiddly first corner, while on the right they watch the cars tackle the high-speed sequence of Turns 22 and 23.


After the first chicane, drivers build up pace in sector one and keep up their momentum by being as close to the wall as possible, while trying not to ride up over the kerbs. After the initial twisty section there is a small straight before Turn 13 that takes the cars the opposite way along the coast line.


With a slight gradient and 12 degree banking, you’ll often see different lines taken around this hairpin because it’s critical to get a good exit for the fast roller-coaster switchback that follows. Despite the track featuring 27 corners (16 left, 11 right) many are taken at full throttle. The location for the first Drag Reduction System (DRS) zone is between Turns 14 and 22 where speeds approach 300km/h.


Heading towards Turn 22, drivers will dab the brakes, come down three gears to scrub off 120km/h and aim to be back on full power as soon as possible for the second DRS zone. This is the fastest section of the circuit (over 315km/h) where top speed performance and energy management is critical. The final hairpin returns the drivers to the pit straight and features the third and final DRS zone on the lap.


The fourth F1 race to take place in Jeddah gets underway later this week and both Pierre and Esteban are looking forward to getting back behind the wheel under the floodlights…