Jeddah circuit could be even quicker after changes

Henry Valantine
One of many high-speed sections of the Jeddah circuit. Saudi Arabia. December 2021.

A view down one of the high-speed sections of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. Saudi Arabia, December 2021.

Circuit officials in Saudi Arabia say changes made for safety at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit could actually make lap times even faster.

The arrival of the track came with the promise that Saudi Arabia would be building the world’s fastest street circuit and while that has proven to be the case, several high-speed crashes took place and drivers complained about a lack of visibility around certain corners, prompting changes to be made for this year’s running of the race.

Saudi Motorsport Company CEO Martin Whitaker confirmed barriers have been pushed back at several corners and while there were “12 or 15 points around the circuit” that needed to be looked at in the close season, the short timescale in which to make the changes mean a significant portion of those goals have not been achieved.

“The footprint of the circuit remains the same, apart from Turn 27,” said Whitaker, quoted by “We’ve just moved some of the barriers back a little bit in certain areas so it improves the sightline through that corner.

“It could make [it] a little bit quicker, one imagines, if it’s not fast enough already. Most of the changes have effectively been done this year.

“I think we’ve effected between seven and 10 of the changes they were looking for. The rest will take a bit longer.

“For example, the sightline on the inside of Turn 23/24 is a bigger task and we just didn’t have time to do that.

“That’s one area where I think the FIA race director can help in terms of telling the driver to be wary when they are going through, or not to slow down there on a qualifying lap.”

Turn 1 at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. December 2021.
Turn 1 at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Saudi Arabia December 2021.

Whitaker added he feels the majority of the problems experienced by drivers in Jeddah came with the closing speeds experienced during qualifying.

With that, he believes measures can be taken before the weekend to ensure qualifying is as safe as possible, including pre-emptive messages to drivers to ensure they are not in harm’s way on a flying lap.

“The speed of the circuit is such that drivers were arriving very quickly on slower cars,” Whitaker explained.

“I think the main issue there was not so much the race but more in qualifying, where you’ve got cars backing off to take advantage of a decent lap.

“The FIA can do things about them obviously, because in the drivers’ briefing they can tell people they can’t slow down in certain corners or around certain areas.


“But predominantly, it was felt much better for us as the promoter and the organisers of the circuit to look at what we could do.”

The inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix last December saw two red flag periods and a multitude of incidents on track, notably the jostling and contact between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the front of the field.

Formula 1 heads back to Jeddah for the second race of the 2022 season on the weekend of March 25-27.


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