A sneak peek at the Saudia Arabian GP Jeddah Corniche Circuit

Saudia Arabian GP
Eric Lafforgue / Getty Images

Five races remain on the 2021 Formula One schedule and two of the final three Grand Prixs will be held in countries hosting the series for the first time with the addition of the Saudi Arabian GP and the Qatar GP.

The penultimate race on the calendar could be one of the most exciting and interesting events of the season as the flat 3.84-mile Jeddah Corniche Circuit is projected to create some of the fastest lap times with the most corners of any 2021 track.

“The circuit in Jeddah will be extraordinary,” said F1 track designer Carsten Tilke at Formula1.com. “It will be a different kind of street track, something the world has never seen before.”

The Jeddah Corniche Circuit is being designed in a part of the city that was mostly empty of buildings, which allows the track designers to create the longest, and they believe fastest, street circuit in Formula One history. In fact, the Jeddah circuit is shorter than only one permanent course with Spa-Francorchamps measuring at 4.35 miles in length.

Since this is a purpose-built track creating its own system of roads, including banked corners, it stretches the definition of a street course, but those concerns will fade away as soon as cars hit the pavement.

The track is positioned on the shores of the Red Sea, so there will not be any significant elevation change that would scrub off momentum. Simulations suggest speeds for the Saudia Arabian GP will be in the range of 157 m.p.h. Australia’s Albert Park is about 10 miles per hour slower.

With so much open space, the temptation existed to create long straightaways, so they did. But Tilke and his engineers did not scrimp on the corners. Jeddah will boast more turns than any other current track with 27. The Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore has 23. This year’s finale will be held at the Yas Marina Circuit one week later in Abu Dhabi, where drivers will have to master 21 turns.

“Why this circuit works so well is that it will have the atmosphere of an urban venue, but the space and run-off so we can increase the speed of the corners,” said Tilke. “This is something you can normally only do at a permanent facility, but here we have been able to create very challenging fast corners that the drivers will love.

“I have driven the lap many times on the simulator and with sections featuring walls close to the edge of the circuit, you really need to concentrate to avoid making a mistake. It will be very rewarding for those who can master all 27 corners.”

The unique topography is not the only factor that allows the designers to take bold moves. The Jeddah Corniche Circuit is essentially a place holder for a permanent course planed for 2023 at Qiddiya, near the capital Riyadh. Jeddah will also host the 2022 Saudia Arabian GP on March 27.