Scheduled for Sunday, March 19, 2023, the Jeddah Street Circuit will host the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. The race, announced in 2021, immediately sparked controversy over concerns about the country’s human rights record.
Despite the criticism, Formula 1 is set to continue visiting the Middle Eastern nation in the coming years. In 2021, drivers encountered the new circuit for the first time. The Jeddah Street Circuit is renowned as the longest and fastest street circuit on the calendar, featuring 27 corners, with Formula 1 drivers navigating the majority of the lap at full throttle. Despite several drivers praising the circuit designers on Saturday, criticism soon surfaced, with some drivers deeming the track dangerous, leading to multiple red flags across different classes throughout the weekend. For the 2022 race, adjustments were made in response to these concerns.
Inaugural Race at Jeddah Street Circuit in 2021
The 2021 race proved to be a spectacle. Lewis Hamilton started on pole position alongside teammate Valtteri Bottas, with Max Verstappen beginning from third place. Initially, not much happened after the start, but a crash involving Mick Schumacher prompted the first red flag. Both Mercedes drivers pitted, while Verstappen stayed out, strategically gaining the lead and benefiting from a free tire change during the red flag period.
At the restart, trouble ensued immediately, resulting in the second red flag. Verstappen had gone off the track, re-passing both Hamilton and Esteban Ocon. Consequently, he had to restart from third place again. The Red Bull Racing driver’s second start was much improved, quickly recovering the lost positions. The race then featured the well-known battle between the two title contenders. During a passing attempt by Hamilton, Verstappen went off the track again, prompting the race officials to instruct the Dutch driver to relinquish the position. As he attempted to do so, the two collided. Verstappen received a ten-second penalty, allowing Hamilton to win the race, while Verstappen ultimately finished second, entering the season’s final race with an equal number of points.
Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on the F1 Calendar until 2025
The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix has a contract with Formula 1 to host the race until the end of the 2025 season, marking one of the longest deals in Formula 1 history. Whether the race will remain in Jeddah until then is uncertain, as there are discussions about the possibility of relocating the race to Qiddiya in the future.
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