Saudi Arabian GP: Preview - Aston Martin


Lance: "It's a brand-new track in Saudi Arabia, which means the early practice sessions will be crucial - and we'll be learning every lap of the weekend too. It's a good challenge - and, after finishing sixth in Qatar, we want to carry that form into the final two races of the season to end our year on a high."

Sebastian: "The circuit looks interesting; it's very long, has plenty of corners and looks very fast. We have prepared for the track as much as we can, but there's nothing like getting laps on the board. We're aiming to score more points this weekend."

Cognizant's Keys to the Race

The C2, C3 and C4 tyres appear for the 12th and final time this season. But continuity counts for little initially, as the principal focus will be understanding the new circuit as quickly as possible during the sessions. That's made more complex by track evolution and sessions taking place in both evening and night conditions.

While overtaking opportunities will only become clear later in the weekend, there are three DRS zones on the circuit at Turns 20-22, Turns 25-27 and Turns 27-1. With all three zones coming late in the lap, it's likely that the final sector will be the best place to make a move on Sunday.

Predicting session interruptions is challenging, but new circuits tend to incur more stoppages due to unfamiliarity. The first race weekend in Baku back in 2016 had three red flags in practice and qualifying as drivers explored the limits of the then-new street track. In addition, 13 of the 20 races to date in 2021 have featured at least one Safety Car and/or Virtual Safety Car interruption.

Unlocking the Lap

While there has never been a representative lap of the new Saudi Arabia circuit, simulation gives an idea as to what to expect.

The run to Turn One could be a flashpoint in the race as drivers blast along a main straight of over 500m before braking into a very tight and narrow left-right flick through Turns One and Two.

The narrowness of the circuit is demonstrated through Turn Three's kink and the winding Turns Four through Eight, which should feature minimal braking and high speeds.

Angle of attack and entry speeds will be crucial to Turn Nine, a sharp-angled right hander that follows immediately after the slalom to Turn Eight.

Drivers will get right up to the wall on entry and dart left through Turn 10, avoiding running wide at the exit, which segues into Turn 11.

It's then another high-speed run all the way to the long Turn 13 hairpin. Now on the back of the circuit, this is a continual snaking run back towards the finish line.

Turns 15 and 16 mirror the style of Turns Nine through 11 before drivers fly towards the three DRS zones.

A dab of brakes into Turn 22 may create opportunities for drivers willing to brake late and take a riskier outside line, but the flat-out gradual curve of Turns 25-27 offer the best chance of slipstreaming.

The lap then ends with another hairpin before drivers go again for another relentless high-speed lap in Jeddah.

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Published: 30/11/2021
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