The second round of the 2023 Formula One World Championship takes us this weekend to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit on the Red Sea coast.
The circuit's track layout was designed by well-known circuit architect Hermann Tilke, and its 3.83-mile length is second only to the 4.35-mile long Spa-Francorchamps. It has 27 corners, the highest number of any circuit on the calendar, and its average speed in the previous two races has been above 150 mph.
The track surface offers a medium level of grip but the sand blown in from the nearby desert can affect things, as can dramatic changes in wind direction. Pirelli has nominated its medium compounds for the race: C2 is the White hard, C3 is the Yellow medium, and C4 is the Red soft.
Jeddah Corniche Circuit, home of the Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Teams also have to deal with rapid temperature changes as the race progresses, as the Saudi race starts at dusk and runs into the night. The current weather forecast calls for fine conditions throughout the weekend, with peak temperatures hovering around 90 degrees F.
Changes made to the track this year include some new rumble strips on the escape roads and some smoother curbs. A number of the walls have also been repositioned to help improve visibility in some areas and to make the corners slower elsewhere.
After some practice on Friday, Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen was the fastest, followed closely by teammate Sergio Perez, and then the Aston Martins of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll. It was also confirmed that Ferrari's Charles Leclerc will have to take a 10-place grid penalty for having exceeded his allocation of power unit control electronics.
Going into Saturday's qualifying session and Sunday's race, Verstappen leads the 2023 Drivers' Championship with 25 points. Perez is second with 18 points and Alonso third with 15 points. In the Constructors' Championship, Red Bull leads with 43 points, versus the 23 of Aston Martin and 16 of Mercedes-Benz AMG. Last year's winner in Saudi Arabia was Verstappen, driving for Red Bull.