Formula 1 is headed to the streets of Jeddah for the second race of the 2023 season, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
First added to the calendar in 2021, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit is distinct for many reasons. For instance, it was the fifth full-night race added to the calendar and also claims to be the “fastest street circuit” on the calendar, with cars regularly averaging 160 mph around its high-speed turns.
The track in Jeddah is also the second longest track in Formula 1, trailing only Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
After an impressive 2023 debut by Red Bull, taking the 1-2 finish in commanding fashion at Bahrain, the teams return to a track that the team dominated last year with Sergio Perez taking pole position in qualifying and Max Verstappen ultimately taking the win on race day.
Besides Red Bull, the eyes of the Formula 1 world were squarely set on Aston Martin after an amazing start to this year’s season, with one driver, Fernando Alonso, finishing on the podium and the team solidly in second place in the Constructors’ championship.
The question is now whether Aston Martin can continue its strong start in Jeddah or whether Ferrari and Mercedes can reassert their place at the top of the order.
With the fast speeds of the Jeddah circuit, Ferrari looks to benefit the most and could threaten the podium. However, a ten grid-place penalty for Ferrari’s strongest driver, Charles Leclerc, will handicap the Italian team and dim their prospects.
The penalty resulted from Leclerc taking a third energy store and control electronics component. Drivers are allowed to have two for the entire season, but Leclerc has already taken three after only one race.
Other teams to watch this weekend are Alpine and McLaren, who both had weekends to forget in Bahrain. Alpine’s first race was disrupted by driver and pit team errors that saw a slew of time penalties derail Esteban Ocon’s day, while McLaren had mechanical issues torpedo both drivers’ days.
Both teams will look for a clean weekend where they can truly affirm where their current car is in the pecking order.
Further down the order, drivers to watch include rookies Logan Sargeant of Williams and Oscar Piastri of McLaren, who both had strong showings in Bahrain but came up outside the points.
Pirelli has selected the mid-range of the available tires. “For the rapid Jeddah track, we have confirmed the same compound choices as last year as they showed very good consistency throughout the race weekend,” said Mario Isola, motorsport director for Pirelli.
“In the two races held up to now, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix has been quite unpredictable because of the frequent safety cars and neutralisations, being a typical street circuit,” added Isola.
Vegas oddsmakers like Max Verstappen (-200) to repeat as the winner in Jeddah, with teammate Sergio Perez (+500) enjoying the second-best odds. Fernando Alonso (+800) is close behind, followed by the two Ferraris, Leclerc (+1,000) and Carlos Sainz (+1,400).
The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix qualifying begins Saturday, March 18, at 12:00 p.m. CST, while the race kicks off the following day, Sunday, March 19, at 12:00 p.m. CST.
This Formula 1 column is brought to you by Elliott Griffin, principal of Griffin Communications. To read his previous coverage on all things F1, click here.