F1 2021
Round 21

Saudi Arabia's F1 Debut

sa Jeddah

Round 21 of the 2021 season see’s another new race on the Formula 1 calendar. Saudi Arabia hosts its maiden event as our battle in the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships heats up heading into the final two rounds.

Saudi Arabia's F1 Debut

Another new track to learn and explore means a busy Friday for the team as we try to best prepare our Power Unit settings ahead of a crucial weekend. The Jeddah circuit is one of three races under the lights to see out the 2021 season, and despite its night status temperatures remain warm in Saudi Arabia even after the sun sets.

Toyoharu Tanabe
Toyoharu Tanabe
Honda Racing F1
There are only two more races this season and only two more for Honda before we leave the sport. We go into this final pair of back-to-back races fighting for both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles and it starts this week in Saudi Arabia, which is hosting its first ever Formula 1 Grand Prix. 
The Jeddah Corniche Circuit runs alongside the Red Sea using normal roads and is described as a street track, but it has nothing in common with places like Monaco or Singapore. At 6.174 kilometres it is the second longest circuit of the year and instead of 90 degree corners, typical of a street venue, it has 27 mainly high speed flowing turns with a predicted very high average speed.  We know it features a long full throttle section and is generally high speed, but there will be many things to discover after the cars actually go out on track on Friday, such as the type of asphalt used for the track surface, the ambient and track temperatures and other features linked to its layout. 
A new event always means more work for engineers to see how our simulation work correlates with reality and we will need to be ready to adjust settings very quickly during the sessions. Therefore, just like Qatar a fortnight ago, this will be a very busy weekend for the engineers. Everyone at Honda knows what our target is for these last races and we will all be pushing very hard alongside our two teams to achieve our goals.  

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen 33
Red Bull Racing
We still lacked quite a bit of pace compared to Mercedes [In Qatar] so we’ll see how we get on this weekend. The track in Qatar was definitely one of my favourites, it was a lot of fun to drive. I’ve driven the [Jeddah] track on the simulator and it seems like a really fast track, so there’s no room for error. Of course, there will always be a bit of guess work as we haven’t driven on the track there yet. It’s going to be interesting and I’m looking forward to the challenge. It’s been fun to go to different tracks again this year. I’m feeling calm, I know that I will always try to do the best that I can and we’ll just find out where we are going to end up. Nothing has been decided yet and we are all up for the challenge, there’s still a lot of racing left to do and we are going to give it our all that’s for sure.  It’s going to be an exciting end to the season.

Sergio Perez
Sergio Perez 11
Red Bull Racing
It looks like a really fast circuit, so I am excited to get out there and see how it feels in the car for real. I don’t think I’ve ever driven on such a fast circuit before with so many high-speed corners, so I think it will be quite a challenge. Everyone is in the same position and hasn’t had the opportunity to race there yet so practise sessions will prove to be very important to get our eye in. Those points in Qatar and the last three races were really important in the Constructors’ Championship. We’ve managed to close the gap to Mercedes and now it’s time to go all in, we’ve got nothing to lose, and we will give our very best. If we manage to have two perfect races as a Team then I am sure that we are going to be able to come out on top. It is a very unique challenge, and these final two races will epitomise that. I’m enjoying it a lot coming to the end of the season with such an important fight on our hands. I’m really looking forward to Jeddah and then Abu Dhabi, this is why you start racing, for moments like this.

Pierre Gasly
Pierre Gasly 10
Scuderia AlphaTauri
In overall terms, the last triple-header went very well for us, with strong Qualifying performances; fifth in Mexico, fourth in Brazil and Qatar. We also had good races, apart from the Sunday in Qatar, when the car did not go well, destroying the tyres very quickly. Of course, with the team we have now studied the reasons for that in the hope it won’t repeat itself. Unfortunately, in the Championship the position is more complicated, as Alpine had a good weekend in Qatar. It was great to be on the front row again, the first time since I raced in Super Formula in Japan in 2017, and being there alongside Lewis was very cool. I hope there will be more of those moments in the future. Even though I was there slightly by default, we have come close a few times this year and it was a good experience. I got a taste for it!
Judging from what I saw on the simulator, Saudi will be extremely quick, with a large number of very high-speed corners, some of them blind. I think it’s going to be very complicated from a driving point of view and there will be the extra challenge of the track surface being completely new. No cars have ever raced on it, there will be no rubber down and probably some oil will still be coming out of the tarmac, which is what normally happens at a new circuit. So, we are looking at a street circuit with quite low grip, which is a new challenge as no one has any data from the track. But for our part, we showed in Qatar that we can adapt fairly quickly to a new situation, running near the front immediately from the Friday. However, we will have to work hard to be quick over a single lap and also a long distance, to find the right compromise for both Saturday and Sunday. Another thing that is clear from the simulator is that the speeds are very high, but the walls are very close, so it should be impressive from the cockpit and a nice challenge, which we must prepare as well as possible for.

Yuki Tsunoda
Yuki Tsunoda 22
Scuderia AlphaTauri
That last triple header was good for my confidence in the car.  I improved a lot and that could be seen from my pace, which was better than at previous races. That was all positive. In Mexico, I had an engine penalty, then an accident on the first lap and Brazil was tough with the lack of practice because of Sprint Qualifying, I believe I could have done better. Qatar went well up until the race and I had a strong performance in Qualifying. So, there are some good points and some bad ones from the last three races.
Since Qatar, I have spent a day karting. It’s always good to do something different, driving something that’s not a Formula 1 car. You can learn from it and get interesting feedback that can be useful to help you improve in some areas. Alex (Albon) was also there, so we had a good fun karting session together. It’s also physically demanding, using different muscles to those you need in an F1 car, making it also useful from the training point of view. Apart from that, I spent some time in the simulator learning the new Saudi track. It’s really fast and that means confidence in the car will be an important factor, because the run-off areas are not so big. It will be important for me to do a good job of building up speed during the free practice sessions. At least I am in the same situation as the other drivers, as this circuit will be completely new to everyone, just like Qatar.

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