Toto Wolff Talks Saudi Arabia

Mercedes F1 Team 2022 Saudi Arabian F1 GP preview

The new F1 season started in dramatic fashion. There were some great, feel-good stories up and down the field at the first race and Ferrari did a strong job to claim a 1-2 finish.

For us, we made a step forward in terms of performance compared to the pre-season tests but were clearly third quickest behind Ferrari and Red Bull. We know the W13 has potential, and we need to continue learning, find out how to unlock it, and maximise our opportunities for points in the meantime.

Lewis did a fantastic job to claim P3 and George drove a strong and mature race, making up places to finish P4. We scored the maximum points we could and more than we were expecting to. That’s partly down to others’ misfortune but reliability has always been a crucial factor in Formula One.

Now we head to Jeddah and a very different track; fast, twisty and much of the lap taken at full throttle. We were there just a few months ago for the first Formula One race in Saudi Arabia, and with a new car and new tyres that we’re still learning how to get the most from, it will be a steep learning curve. That’s a challenge we’re looking forward to!

Fact File: Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix track is located on the Corniche, a waterfront area in Jeddah next to the Red Sea. The waterfront location presents similar challenges to Abu Dhabi with sand blowing onto the track and changes in wind direction from day to night.

Mercedes F1 Team 2022 Saudi Arabian F1 GP preview

Start of the race 44 HAMILTON Lewis (gbr), Mercedes AMG F1 GP W12 E Performance, 77 BOTTAS Valtteri (fin), Mercedes AMG F1 GP W12 E Performance, 33 VERSTAPPEN Max (nld), Red Bull Racing Honda RB16B, action during the Formula 1 stc Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021, 21th round of the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship from December 3 to 5, 2021 on the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - Photo Florent Gooden / DPPI

The Jeddah Corniche Circuit has the most corners of any track on the F1 calendar with 27: 16 left-handers and 11 right-handers. This does make it more challenging for the team and drivers to get up to speed during the practice sessions.
The Saudi Arabian GP venue is the second-longest track in F1 at 6.174 km. Spa-Francorchamps is the only track that is longer (7.004 km). This means energy management is tricky and puts more focus on the MGU-H and hybrid system performance.

As we saw in 2021, Jeddah has a higher risk of Safety Cars compared to other tracks because of its street track nature, with incidents taking longer to clear and fast corners causing bigger incidents, while a longer track means there is more potential for mistakes. There have been some changes made for 2022, to increase run-off areas and improve safety.

Ahead of the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Jeddah was billed as the ‘fastest street circuit in the world’ and that proved to be the case, with average speeds of around 250 km/h – higher than Baku, which isn’t far off, but Jeddah is helped by having some corners that are taken flat-out or within DRS zones.

Drivers reach over 310 km/h three times on the long straights during Qualifying in Jeddah. With three DRS zones, too, it has one of the highest percentages of lap distance spent at full throttle, with 80%.

Turn 13 has a 12% gradient, with banked corners opening up more lines and helping to build momentum onto the next sweeping, fast section.

Turn 2 is the circuit’s slowest corner, taken at around 85 km/h, while the quickest are the 315 km/h Turns 21 and 26 – both located on straights that include DRS zones.

By the time F1 cars hit the track in Saudi Arabia on Friday, it’ll have been just 111 days (three months and 21 days) since they were last racing in Jeddah.

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is a night race, so alongside lighting the buildings and bridges, there are expected to be over 600 light posts illuminating the track.

Last year’s race in Saudi started at half past the hour, but this has now fallen back in line with other races, starting on the hour this year.

With 2021 being the first race at the Jeddah track, the surface of the circuit was very sandy and ‘green’ – meaning the track evolution was high and grip levels were increasing with every session. We expect this to be very similar this year.

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