until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Saudi F1 track being changed to help ‘drivers’ sightline’

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix track will be tweaked for the 2022 race to help the “drivers’ sightline from the cockpit” after a crash-heavy first Formula 1 race last year.

While the new high-speed Jeddah street track was a hit with drivers over a single lap, there were immediately concerns about visibility through the fast sweeps and the lack of run-off from the first day of running.

Fears that a crash would give following drivers no time to react or room to avoid other cars were realised in the grand prix when a big accident after a restart wiped out Sergio Perez, George Russell and Nikita Mazepin.

The track was barely finished in time for its inaugural race because of a tight build schedule and the second Saudi grand prix is taking place just four months afterwards, as it switches from hosting the penultimate round of the 2021 season to the second round of 2022 in April.

CEO of the Saudi Motorsport Company Martin Whitaker says there is work being done in the short time between.

“The length of time between the two races has enabled us to reflect on some aspects that did and didn’t work,” he said.

“And we have been striving to improve on some areas for our second event.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Race Day Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

“Firstly, there are going to be one or two slight changes to the track. These tweaks are directly related to a drivers’ sightline from the cockpit. It’s minimal work, but it will help improve forward visibility in a couple of corners.

“Secondly, we will make some small modifications to the barriers that will favour the lines the drivers take around the course.”

Because of the late finish, the track suffered from other “teething troubles” with its infrastructure.

Whitaker said the organisers are “planning on shifting some of the angles of the grandstands to improve visibility” and also looking to improve traffic management inside the circuit and outside.

There was a potentially dangerous situation on Sunday around the race as the narrow area just outside the paddock, where many guests and personnel have to travel by foot, was also being used by multiple cars, buses and trucks.

Additionally, the road network immediately outside the track caused logistical problems because there were so few access points into the circuit.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Race Day Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

“We had to get the whole facility ready in a short space of time, but now with this small gap to our second race we are better placed to understand our limitations,” said Whitaker.

“Because of our location, we can’t change too much because the track is positioned on a narrow strip of land next to the sea, but we are certainly looking at the circuit’s entrance and exit.

“Due to the confines of the track’s location traffic management was an issue and there were characteristics of the road system that created unnecessary delays.

“There are lessons we have learnt, and we have the time now to get these aspects resolved to make sure everyone who returns will have an equally good, if not better, experience.”

The track is the centrepiece of development around the Jeddah corniche but it is only meant to be a temporary home for F1 before it moves to a purpose-built facility near Riyadh, the host city for Formula E’s Saudi Arabian races.

Initially, F1’s move to Qiddiya was slated as being possible as early as 2023 but the suggestion is Jeddah could continue to host its grand prix for longer.

“The most important thing is that the long-term future of a race in Saudi Arabia is secure,” said Whitaker.

“The construction of Qiddiya near Riyadh is ongoing but the focus is very much on Jeddah at the moment and about maximising the opportunities on this fantastic circuit.”

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