The organizers of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix expect to host the race in Jeddah until 2027, as work continues on a future Qiddiya circuit.
When the race was first brought to Saudi Arabia, it was on a semi-permanent street track — the Jeddah Corniche Circuit — to allow Formula 1 to be held earlier than waiting for the project at Qiddiya to be ready. Qiddya is a tourism mega-project near Riyadh where construction started in 2019, but the racetrack aspect is still a number of years away from being finalized so further investments have been made in Jeddah.
Saudi Motorsport Company CEO Martin Whitaker says the existing circuit needed to be adapted to ensure it remains suitable for a number of years, ahead of hosting the second round of the 2023 season.
“It’s important that we future-proof the Jeddah track and for this reason we have again been working with the FIA and Formula 1 to ensure that we have a circuit that will allow us to stage the sport in Jeddah while work begins on the track in Qiddiya,” Whitaker said.
“The Qiddiya automotive center is being designed to lead the world in Formula 1 circuit design and entertainment. A unique and exciting project, Qiddiya will be a location that everyone will want to visit but right now and in the immediate future the focus and eyes of the world will be on Jeddah and the Red Sea coastline in the month of March.”
The Jeddah circuit is now also used for other racing and events including FIA WTCR and multiple track days, but has undergone certain changes to better suit the new F1 cars.
“We have worked closely with Formula 1 and the FIA to make some small changes to the corners, essentially to improve sight-lines for the drivers. When you’re traveling at 200mph and are just a couple of inches from the ground, having visibility for the next section of the racetrack is critical,” Whitaker explained. “So at a number of corners we have moved the barriers back — in some cases as far as five to seven meters (16-23ft) — to help with that forward visibility. While the drivers enjoy the challenge of this track, we understand there are certain things we can do to give them more confidence.
“While the configuration of the track is exactly the same, we have made slight revisions by tightening up the radius of Turns 21, 22 and 23 — the quick left-right before the back straight. The impact of that will reduce the speed into the corner by around 30-50km/h (19-31mph).
“We have also changed many of the curbs, but this is in line with what a number of circuits worldwide are having to do. It’s primarily down to the design of the new Formula 1 cars, as their lower ride height means they don’t ride the curbs as well as the previous iteration of car. We have therefore changed curb heights so they are more accommodating to the current F1 design.
“The other changes we have made include moving the medical center to a new location on the outside of Turn 27, which has improved access and we now have a medical helicopter stationed on-site for much of the year to serve the local community.
“We’re making some exciting changes to the podium that we are working through with Formula 1 and the FIA which is designed to improve the experience for the fans. We are building a new Formula 1 Champions Club suite at the pit entry end of the paddock. At the other end is our new facilities center. We’ve also been carrying out more remedial work to the paddock, Paddock Club, and the overall facilities.”