The Formula 1 circus stays in the Middle East for the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, for another night race, this time around the streets of Jeddah rather than through the deserts of Bahrain.
Despite holding its first race just 15 months ago, the Jeddah Corniche Circuit has quickly established itself as one of the toughest challenges on the F1 calendar at combining high speeds, claustrophobic walls and twists and turns.
The grand prix is set to move to a purpose-built circuit in Qiddiyah but that date has been pushed back, so fans get to see what’s likely to be another action-packed weekend on the shores of the Red Sea.
Red Bull come into the race as the clear favourites after Max Verstappen took the win twelve months ago beating Charles Leclerc in an exciting race-long battle.
Lewis Hamilton won the inaugural event in 2021, this time at the end of the season to set up the ill-fated title decider in Abu Dhabi, after his rivalry with Verstappen reached new highs when the Dutchman brake-checked his nemesis on the back straight.
However, we’re unlikely to see a repeat of that this weekend as Mercedes admitted failure of their 2023 car before the lights had even gone out at Bahrain, while Leclerc surely won’t feature at the front either as he takes a grid penalty.
It’s not been plain sailing for Verstappen either as he arrives carrying a sickness that forced him to miss Thursday press, but if the Bahrain GP is anything to go by then he could be at 70% and still contend for the win in his Red Bull rocketship.JEDDAH WEATHER
Friday, Practice 1 and Practice 2
Like in Bahrain, there’s just one practice session in the night-time conditions of qualifying and the race, meaning it’s extra-important for teams to nail FP2.
The sun sets just after 18:30 local time, and with the hour-long FP1 and FP3 sessions starting at 16:30 they’ll be dealing with the blazing heat of another intense, cloudless day.
It’s expected to be 30 degrees celsius when cars first hit the track, though the temperature might well have dropped a couple of degrees just by the end of FP1.
Starting at 20:00, FP2 takes place well after sunset with temperatures hovering just above 25 degrees.
Saturday, Practice 3 and Qualifying
The warm weather continues, even intensifies, heading into the weekend. Pushing the mercury all the way up to 33 at high noon, things will have cooled off a couple of degrees for final practice but those cold jackets will still be highly-prized assets for drivers when not in the cockpit.
Likewise for qualifying, the temperature will be a degree or so hotter than the same time on Friday at around 27 degrees.
Another thing to note is the wind: in both daytime free practice sessions it comes in an easterly or south-easterly direction blowing in from the sea.
However, as night falls that switches to more southerly gusts, a pattern visible on all three days.
This is where it gets interesting as we could see the first-ever wet-weather Saudi Arabian Grand Prix!
No, only joking, it’s more sun in the day and clear skies at night with the temperature again around 27 or 28 degrees come lights out.
The wind will have picked up by a few miles per hour too (a bit like Aston Martin compared to 2022 then), but by and large it’ll a similar meteorological experience for drivers as the rest of the weekend.