The title fight between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen is getting even more intense as we head into the inaugural Saudi Arabian GP. What is in store for us in Jeddah?
A Tough Start
The Saudi Arabian GP has faced a lot of adversity since the start of the project. Many organizations criticized the GP for recent human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. More importantly, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, the pair with 11 world titles between them, haven’t shied away from talking openly about the problems faced. The missile interception during the Formula E race in Diriyah left fans to ponder the safety of the event. The Jeddah Corniche Circuit did not exist until a few months ago, and they have done a great job finishing the circuit on time. To put it in perspective, the FIA just approved the circuit on Wednesday.
An Exciting Race?
The Saudi Arabian GP will be exciting. The track is the fastest street circuit with an average speed of 250+km/h, much like Monaco, but twice as fast. Drivers will be at full throttle for 72% of the lap! There will not be any small accidents during the weekend because of how small the runoff area is, only big ones. The track looks to be dusty and oily due to its recent construction, potentially another 2020 Turkish GP?!
Due to the nature of the circuit, the Safety Car probability will be close to 100%, according to the teams. The tire compounds for this GP will be C2, C3, C4, one step softer than the Qatar GP, despite concerns for punctures at high speed. The track is the second-longest on the F1 calendar, spanning 6.174km along the coastline of Jeddah. There will be three DRS zones on the circuit. Twenty drivers and their necks will have to endure 50 excruciating laps on this fast flowing circuit.
Will It Be Number Eight?
Lewis Hamilton is favored for the win in Saudi Arabia by most. The fast corners of the circuit appear suit Mercedes and the fresh PU from Brazil is expected to be in Hamilton’s W12, potentially giving him the edge this weekend. If things go as expected and Hamilton wins, he could leapfrog Verstappen if teammate Valtteri Bottas takes P2. Or we could see the two title protagonists level/separated by a point or two depending on the fastest lap at Jeddah if they finish P1 and P2. Then heading into Abu Dhabi, Max Verstappen will be running on a seven race old PU. This could be a struggle with the two long straights at the Yas Marina Circuit. However, there have been rumours of a new PU either in Saudi Arabia or Abu Dhabi. That would just be a five place drop for the current championship leader, potentially giving him the edge to win the title.
However, as we have seen twice this year at Silverstone and Monza, the two title protagonists could tangle again in Jeddah due to the oily surface and the nature of Turn 1, 2, and 3. If it happens, the title will likely belong to Max as he only needs a second-place finish in Abu Dhabi.
The Abu Dhabi GP is usually calm and predictable, so Hamilton and Verstappen will likely have a 1-2 in my opinion. If Max Verstappen or Lewis Hamilton fail to score points or score little, the title will belong to the other driver.
Teams would need their second drivers to perform as well. There are only five points are separating Red Bull and Mercedes at the top of the constructor championship. Sergio Perez and Valtteri Bottas will be crucial to their teams’ strategy, concerning fastest laps and dirty air.
The Saudi Arabian GP will welcome the return of Formula 2 after a two- months absence for its penultimate round. Oscar Piastri leads future Alfa Romeo’s driver Guanyu Zhou by 36 points heading into Jeddah.
Tune in at 17:30 GMT on December 5th to watch the race the Formula One race.
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