Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN heads to Jeddah for the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, the penultimate round of the 2021 season, to take place this weekend on the city's Corniche Circuit.
The streets of Jeddah have been busy places for hundreds of years: pilgrims on their Hajj would transit through this gateway to Mecca, filling the city with foreign accents and colours of faraway lands and turning this part of Hejaz, languidly laying on the shores of the Red Sea, into one of the most bustling and cosmopolitan of the whole Kingdom. After sunset, under the light of stars and torches, the haggling of the markets would stop and different sounds, voices and music would fill the air of those long Arabian nights. The stories of that time still echo through the labyrinthine streets of the old town, and so do the influences of the many people who ruled this city - the Turks, the Wahabis and many more in past times.
Those streets are busy and lively today, with vibrant souqs framed by coral-coloured houses, the old palatial abodes of merchants, where the local and the foreign meet: those streets are going to be even busier still, as the merchants of speed come to town. Like a modern-day caravan, the circus of Formula One will bring its eclectic mix of tongues, colours and wares - and while in the past the riches on offer were precious metals and spices, today's prizes are made of trophies and points.
After sunset, no longer under the stars but in the light of thousands of floodlights, the city's waterfront will fill up with the sound of engines. Not unlike the merchants of old, these outsiders will strut and barter, some coming away winners, some losers, on a hot Arabian night. It's a story as old as the sand of the desert: a modern take on the tales that have been shared for centuries, here in Jeddah.
Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal: "The team is ready as we enter the final stretch of the season. We head to Saudi Arabia with the curiosity that always occurs when a new track makes it to the calendar, and the confidence in our means as we aim to get back to scoring ways. Qatar was a bit of an outlier in which we didn't have the same pace we showed after the summer break, but we know we can be back fighting for top ten placements on both Saturday and Sunday in Jeddah. As always, we will need to do a good job straight from FP1 to maximise our chances, but even more so on a completely new track: every minute will be crucial to gather information about the circuit, the tyres and every other factor that will have an impact on qualifying and the race."
Kimi Raikkonen: "We are heading to another new track and, like last time out in Doha, preparing for the race in the most effective way will be crucial. The track looks fast and, as a street circuit, it's a place where you need to be focused all the time: I am curious to drive it and won't form an opinion about it until then. It's going to be interesting and I don't see any reason, if we do our job properly, why we wouldn't be as competitive as we have been in the last few months. For sure, part of what will make or break a good result will be our readiness to make the most of the circumstances, but that's not different from every other weekend."
Antonio Giovinazzi: "Two more races until the end of the season means two chances to have a good result to finish off the year with a smile. The last few weeks have been quite busy for me, but I find this keeps me focused and fired up for this weekend of racing. The track in Jeddah is a big question mark for everyone, nobody has raced on it so, in a sense, we are all starting from scratch here. It can be an opportunity for us and we'll need to do our homework to make sure we give ourselves the best chance. It's early to say if this layout will work well for us or not, but I want to think we can give a good account of ourselves."