The final double-header of the Formula 1 season is about to get underway. There are two races on consecutive weekends in the Middle East, starting in Saudi Arabia and moving on to Abu Dhabi, the latter traditionally hosting the final round of the season. Saudi Arabia’s debut race takes place in Jeddah, one of the major cities in the country, with its main focus being tourism and business. This city of four million inhabitants has already hosted major sports events, such as the final of the Supercoppa Italiana in 2019 and the Spanish Supercoppa in 2020. Formula 1 is in fact the third major motor sport event to be held in Saudi Arabia, following on from Formula E, which has held 3 E-Prix at the Al Diriyya street circuit and the 2020 Dakar, which ran through the desert areas of Jeddah, Riyadh and Quiddiya.
The track. The circuit, known as the Jeddah Corniche, as a long section follows the coastline, measures 6.175 kilometres, making it the second longest track on the calendar after Spa-Francorchamps. Where it differs from other street circuits is in its flowing corners without the usual 90 degree turns passing close to the walls. There are also sections that look like being very high speed, with some simulations suggesting a top speed of over 320 km/h at turn 27, with an average lap speed that could exceed 260 km/h. Three DRS zones are planned, while other sections also offer overtaking possibilities. There are 50 laps in the race (308.750 kms).
Programme. The race will take place at night, running to a similar timetable to Singapore, so that all sessions are late in the day. The first free practice on Friday begins at 16.30 local (14.30 CET) while the second starts at 20 (18 CET). On Saturday the final hour for preparation will be at 17 (15 CET), followed by qualifying at 20 (18 CET). The first Saudi Arabian Grand Prix gets underway on Sunday at 20.30 (18.30 CET).
GP entered 1028
Seasons in F1 72
Debut Monaco 1950 (A. Ascari 2nd; R. Sommer 4th; L. Villoresi ret.)
Wins 238 (23.15%)
Pole positions 230 (22.37%)
Fastest laps 254 (24.71%)
Total podiums 777 (25.19%)
Ferrari Stats GPs in Arab-speaking countries
GP entered 33
Debut Morocco 1958 (M. Hawthorn 2nd; P. Hill 3rd; O. Gendebien ret.)
Wins 6 (18,18%)
Pole positions 6 (18,18%)
Fastest laps 8 (24,24%)
Total podiums 23 (23,23%)
Saudi Arabian Grand Prix: facts & figures
3. The number of Asia Cup football tournaments won by Saudi Arabia, in 1984, 1988 and 1996. Football is the national game, by number of participants and fans. The “Falcons” as the national team is known, have a respectable record in the World Cup, having reached the final stages five times (1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2018). In 1994 Saudi Arabia got through to the last 16.
5. Arab language nations, including Saudi Arabia, that have hosted a Formula 1 Grand Prix. Topping the list is Bahrain on 18 (17 Bahrain GPs and the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix). Abu Dhabi is next on 12, with Morocco, the very first race in 1958, and Qatar, on one each.
13. The position of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the list of largest countries in the world. The state was established in 1932, covers an area of over two million square kilometres and the population is just over 34 million.
27. The number of corners on the Jeddah circuit, the most of any track on the calendar and the second highest ever after the Nürburgring Nordschleife that has over 150. In third place was the old 8 kilometre-long Interlagos with 26.
28. The wins for Abdulaziz Al Faisal in international races. Born in 1983, the sports car specialist is the most successful Saudi driver. Among his major wins is the 2015 Dubai 24 Hours. Also worthy of note, Karim Ojjeh, winner of the LMP2 class in the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours and Reema Juffali the first Saudi woman racing driver, currently competing in the UK GB3 series, where she twice qualified on pole last season. The 29-year-old has been announced as a race ambassador for this weekend’s inaugural event in Saudi Arabia.
This week in our history
1/12. Ferrari GT racer Andrea Bertolini turns 48. He was also a Scuderia test driver in the Michael Schumacher era. Although he never raced in Formula 1, Andrea completed endless kilometres of testing in the early 2000s at the wheel of Maranello single-seaters. His great experience means he was also a designated tester for the F1 Clienti cars. In the summer of 2021, Andrea reached the milestone of 500 car shakedowns at the Fiorano track, when he went out in the 375 F1, which was then driven on the Sunday of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone as part of the 70th anniversary celebrations for the Scuderia’s maiden Formula 1 win..
2/12. In 1962, Lucien Bianchi took his first win in a Ferrari in the Angola Grand Prix, run on a track using roads in the capital Luanda. The Italian-born Belgian was at the wheel of a magnificent 250 GTO entered by Ecurie Francorchamps, the Belgian Ferrari importer run by Jacques Swaters, a personal friend of Enzo Ferrari. .
3/12. In 1960, at the tender age of 18, Mexico’s Ricardo Rodriguez won the Nassau Governor’s Trophy in the Bahamas. He drove a 250 Testa Rossa entered by a personal friend of Ferrari, Luigi Chinetti and after the win, he spoke highly of the Mexican to Enzo. Ferrari offered him the opportunity to race in Formula 1 in the following year’s Italian Grand Prix, which made Rodriguez the youngest ever driver to race in Formula 1 until the arrival of Mike Thackwell in 1980.
4/12. Francois Migault was born in Le Mans in 1944. He took part in 13 Formula 1 GPs but mainly enjoyed a brilliant career in Endurance racing, in part with Ferrari. In a semi-works 365 GTB/4 entered by Luigi Chinetti’s NART, the Frenchman won the 1972 Daytona 24 Hours partnered with the American Milt Minter.
5/12. Henri Oreiller was born in Paris in 1925. He picked up the most medals at the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz. The skier won gold in the downhill with a 4”1 advantage over second placed Austrian Franz Gabl the biggest gap between first and second in this discipline at the Olympics, also winning the combined. Then came a bronze in the special slalom. After hanging up his skis, Oreiller turned to rallying and sports car racing, “the only other sport that gives me the right shot of daily adrenaline,” he told journalists. He was equally proficient on wheels as on skis, usually racing Ferraris. He won the prestigious Coupes de Paris and Coupes du Salon in 1961 in a 250 GT and the following year he won the famous Albi GP. He lost his life that same year in the Paris 1000 Km, on the treacherous Montlhéry track..