Saudi Arabia Grand Prix Preview: The Run Down Ahead Of Jeddah

Saudi Arabia Grand Prix preview: the run down ahead of Jeddah

From on-track drama to off-track turmoil, we'll cover it all and give you our race predictions ahead of this weekend's F1 in Jeddah.

AND JUST LIKE THAT, the Formula 1 2024 calendar ticks over to our second Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia for a night race in Jeddah. An interesting season opener in Bahrain saw storylines materialise, unlikely foes develop and a Red Bull car continue to flex its RB20 muscles. 

The initial impression coming out of Bahrain is that Red Bull is setting the standard once again, similar to how they started in Bahrain in the 2023 season. Admittedly, this was no surprise; we’ve come to expect that F1 is now the Verstappen show. But can this weekend be the injection of competition we’ve all been craving? 

With lights out only days away, let’s preview what should be a rapid weekend at the Jeddah Corniche circuit. 

The track 

To kick things off, the Jeddah Grand Prix is the fastest street circuit and the second fastest track after Monza. Throw in a mix of banked hairpins, blind high-speed corners, and a turn-one chicane that seems to puzzle drivers and cause chaotic track changes and you have a recipe for mayhem. In previous years, the track has played host to some of the craziest grid leapfrogs.

Instagram | @f1

The Jeddah street circuit will suit quick, front-running teams. However, this doesn’t rule anyone out of contention. Each car has an abundance of speed, it’s how and when they use it that counts. Qualifying might be the biggest tell for how the race will unfold.

Team Drama for Ricciardo?

Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda have left F1 fans worldwide scratching their heads after both drivers went head-to-head in arguably the most entertaining on-track drama at the Bahrain Grand Prix. 

Late in the Bahrain race, a team order was given to tell Yuki Tsunoda, in p13, to let teammate Danny Ric pass him due to Ricciardo having quicker tyres and an overall better chance to get into the points. This team order had Yuki extremely upset, initially refusing to let Ricciardo pass him at such a late stage the race. This obviously annoyed Ricciardo. However, Yuki finally was forced to let Daniel through, which, as you can guess, annoyed Yuki. Are you still with me? 

After Ricciardo failed to pass Kevin Magnusson ahead of him, Yuki’s frustration at the entire situation led him to dive-bomb Ricciardo on the cool-down lap. This escalated into an ugly exchange of words over team radio, and now, we are left with unthinkable tension between two fan-favourite drivers. 

Instagram | @visacashapprb

It’s an ugly start to the Visa Cash App RB team, producing a heated storyline so early in the 2024 season. All eyes will be on Ricciardo and Tsunoda to see if the two buried the hatchet in Bahrain. As we all know, hatchets are never really buried in F1.

What the practice sessions have told us 

The floodlights were on for the second practice session at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, and it was a bumpy start for Valtteri Bottas, who spun out early on. But the real star of the show was Fernando Alonso, who topped the times for Aston Martin ahead of George Russell and Max Verstappen. Even the seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton had to settle for eighth place behind the likes of Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez. The track conditions were more representative of the race day, after a hotter and more humid first practice session. And boy, did these drivers make the most of it. Verstappen was quick to take the lead, Perez not far behind. However, it was Alonso’s wind-affected lap that took him to the top of the leaderboard. 

Instagram | @f1

It wasn’t all smooth sailing though – there was a 10-minute delay for repairs to loose drain covers in the pit-lane. I know, please no more drain cover stoppages. But once the green light was back on, it was all systems go for the teams. McLaren and Aussie young gun Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris showed promising pace. Sadly, Danny Ric seemed the slowest of the bunch.

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix race predictions

At this point, saying Max Verstappen will win the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is more of an expectation than a prediction. He’s in another league behind the wheel of an F1 car, and you can expect the Dutchman to come out of the gates hot in Jeddah.

What makes this weekend interesting is the off-track drama surrounding the Red Bull team principal and Drive to Survive main character Christian Horner, which has ultimately sent the team and team boss Helmut Marko and, naturally, Max Verstappen’s own father into turmoil. For the first time in years, Camp Red Bull has been in disarray. The negative noise and rumours could be a reason, probably the only one, we don’t see Verstappen win in Jeddah. 

Instagram | @maxverstappen1

Joining Max on the podium, you can’t go past the Ferrari lads, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. Finally, the Prancing Horse team looks like they’re finding themselves. Although no stranger to a comedic pit lane or strategic mess-up, if that can all be avoided and front brake issues can be resolved, I see two in-from drivers on a track that suits a Ferrari, rounding out the top three. 

As Mild as these predictions begin to seem, remember that Jeddah is notorious for red flags, safety cars and on-track fireworks. Every driver will push their cars through fast corners and long straights. With points to prove and scores to settle, expect this race to produce classic F1 theatrics. 

Where can you watch the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Australia?

Like all races in the 2024 F1 season, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will be broadcast live in 4K on Fox Sports and Foxtel Now, at the bright and early time of 4 am Sunday morning. The race can also be streamed live and on demand on Kayo.

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