Just one week after roaring into action, Formula One is back for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and the second race of 2022.
The scene for part two of this Middle Eastern double-header is the high-speed challenge of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, which provides an entirely different test for the ten teams with its sweeping narrow streets.
It's only the second time Formula One will have visited Saudi Arabia, following the country’s inaugural Grand Prix almost four months ago, in what was a dramatic penultimate round of the 2021 championship.
Jeddah lived up to its billing as the fastest street track in F1, with last year's pole position clocking in with an average speed of 254kph – to make it the second quickest circuit on the calendar, after Monza.
The twenty drivers will cover plenty of ground at these high speeds, thanks to the 6.174km lap distance. That length puts the Jeddah Corniche Circuit behind only Belgium's Spa-Francorchamps in a list of the longest tracks F1 will visit this year.
There are a staggering 27 turns, the most on any circuit in Formula One, with the hairpins at Turn 13 and Turn 27 on opposite ends of the track providing opportunities for overtaking.
The three DRS zones will aid wheel-to-wheel racing, too, most notably down the main straight and into the heavy braking of the first corner.
As with other races in the region, the 50-lap Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will run under floodlights on Sunday evening, brightly illuminating the racetrack's layout within Jeddah.
What are the drivers saying?
Nicholas Latifi battled to a solid 12th place finish last year and will be looking for another strong showing this time around.
“I’m looking forward to heading to Saudi Arabia for the second race of the year,” said the Canadian.
“The track was a new addition to the calendar in 2021, but was definitely one of the most fun and exciting races.
“I also really enjoyed the combination of it being a night street race; that added to the atmosphere and was an interesting new challenge.
“Both myself and the team are heading to Saudi looking to build on the learnings that we took from Bahrain.
“We’re not starting the season exactly where we want to be, but there are some positives and we’ll continue to push to make sure things improve.”
After getting back into the swing of things in Bahrain, Alex Albon is optimistic ahead of his first taste of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
“It’s a new track for me and not an easy one to get up to speed with,” he said.
“So whilst I’m looking forward to that challenge, I know it’s going to be a tough one.
“I think it’ll be a track that is a bit better suited to the characteristics of the FW44; it’s smoother with more medium and high-speed corners, so I’m hoping we go well there.
“The more running we do, the more we’ll understand this car and how we can work to maximise its performance, so I’m mostly just looking forward to getting back out on track.”
From the Pit Wall
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance at Williams, is fully aware that Saudi Arabia poses a very different set of challenges than those faced one week ago in Bahrain:
“The second race of the year is an opportunity to see the 2022 cars at a very different type of track,” he explained.
“The nature of the corners and the long straights in Jeddah will introduce some new challenges for the FW44 and whilst we have done a lot of preparation, it is likely that we will encounter something unexpected.
“This is simply the nature of taking a whole new car to such diverse tracks early in the season.
“We are looking forward to the challenge and to seeing how the new generation of cars tackle this high-speed street circuit.
“This is Alex’s first trip to Jeddah and so he will need some time to understand the track and to gain confidence in the car and tyres.
“Pirelli have brought tyres from the middle of their compound range and adapting the car setup to suit the tyre behaviour will be one of our major tasks on Friday, alongside managing any porpoising that may be induced by the high car speeds.
“There will be a lot to get through on Friday and we are keen to get the cars back on track and get that work started.”
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Did you know?
Williams were the fastest Mercedes-powered team in the speed traps during qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix, with Nicholas Latifi reaching 319.4 km/h (198.5 mph).
Saudi Arabia is the fifth Grand Prix in Formula One to hold its race fully at night, after Singapore, Sakhir, Bahrain and Qatar. Although Abu Dhabi finishes at night, the race begins just before sunset.
There were four Virtual Safety Cars, two red flags and one Safety Car period at the last Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, with 2021 Williams driver George Russell caught up in the incident that triggered the second red flag.
Although the core track layout hasn't changed since 2021, the organisers have implemented various safety improvements, including moving barriers back for higher visibility and widening Turn 27.
The banking at the first hairpin on the circuit, Turn 13, sits at 12°. Although less than Zandvoort's impressive 19° Turn 3, it's still steeper than the 9° banking found at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway.