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Saudi Arabian GP: Bernie Collins analyses strategy options for teams at high-risk Jeddah street circuit

Sky Sports F1's strategy expert Bernie Collins analyses the key considerations for teams at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix; watch the Saudi Arabian GP live on Sky Sports F1 with practice under way on Thursday and SATURDAY's race at 5pm

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Look back at some of the most dramatic moments to have taken place at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit

Ahead of this week's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Sky Sports F1's strategy expert Bernie Collins analyses some of the key considerations for teams and drivers in Jeddah.

Red Bull made an ominous start to the season in Bahrain last weekend as Max Verstappen picked up where he left off in 2023 by cruising to victory ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez.

However, there is hope among rivals that the track layout and highly abrasive surface in Bahrain exaggerated the advantage Red Bull have carried into the season.

The Jeddah Corniche street circuit offers an altogether different proposition for teams and drivers and will test elements of performance that were significantly less relevant in Bahrain.

Collins, who was head of race strategy at Aston Martin up until midway through the 2022 F1 season, has flagged the following elements.

Risk and reward in tough search for perfect qualy lap

Not only is Jeddah a street circuit, but it's also absolutely rapid. That means there is almost constant danger waiting for the drivers in the form of the barriers.

Therefore, in every session, the drivers are left striving to find the balance between risk and reward, most intensely during Friday's qualifying.

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Anthony Davidson takes us through a lap of the Jeddah Corniche circuit with Sergio Perez's 2023 pole lap

The challenge for the drivers has been eased ever so slightly by the barriers being pushed back in 2023, a move made to improve visibility and help avoid accidental blocking during qualifying.

Despite this, putting together a 'perfect' qualifying lap is a massive task given the low margin for error in the multiple high-speed corners and sections of the lengthy circuit.

Whoever comes out on top in what should be a fascinating battle for pole position on Friday will have undoubtedly earned their place at the front of the grid.

Track position key in likely one-stop race

Unlike in Bahrain, where there were plenty of overtaking opportunities, track position is far more important in Saudi Arabia and a greater emphasis will be placed on qualifying.

A large pace advantage is required to pass the car in front, and this could be even more extreme than in the past amid concerns over the difficultly of closely following this year's further-developed cars.

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Highlights of the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at Jeddah Corniche Circuit

In contrast to Bahrain, low levels of degradation are expected, which means we are likely to see most of the field pull off one-stop strategies without too much stress.

The most popular route to that last year was a first stint on the medium tyre followed by a second on the hard compound, which is likely to remain the same given Pirelli are bringing the same allocation of C2, C3 and C4 options.

The circuit's characteristics is likely to result in fierce battles up and down the order where the timing of an intended sole stop could prove crucial.

Be ready for Safety Car drama!

If at this point you're worried it sounds as though there could be a lack of jeopardy on race day, don't despair!

The layout means that just about any sort of incident is likely to lead a Safety Car interruption, which has the potential to completely shake things up.

The high potential for a Safety Car means that we're likely to see plenty of variety in how teams attempt to run their one-stop strategies, as some may look for an early undercut while others stay out in the hope of a cheap stop.

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The timing of a Safety Car could also dictate that some drivers switch to two stops.

Strategists will also have to contend with the possibility of a Safety Car being upgraded to a red flag, which could easily occur in the event the race director believes the track is going to take a significant period of time to clear up.

Teams will have to make instant decisions, based on guess work over the possibility of a red flag, over whether they pit or stay out before being given what becomes a free pit stop in the event of a full stoppage.

Whatever happens, this high-speed circuit ensures that drivers and strategists must remain fully focused for all 50 laps under the lights.

Sky Sports F1's live Saudi Arabian GP schedule

Thursday March 7

  • 9.50am: F2 Practice
  • 10.50am: F1 Academy Practice
  • 1pm: Saudi Arabian GP Practice One (session starts at 1.30pm)
  • 2.55pm: F2 Qualifying
  • 4.45pm: Saudi Arabian GP Practice Two (session starts at 5pm)
  • 6.15pm: F1 Academy Qualifying
  • 7.15pm: The F1 Show

Friday March 8

  • 11.55am: F1 Academy Race 1
  • 1.10pm: Saudi Arabian GP Practice Three (session starts at 1.30pm)
  • 3.05pm: F2 Sprint Race
  • 4.10pm: Saudi Arabian GP Qualifying build-up

Saturday March 9

  • 12pm: F1 Academy Race 2
  • 1.20pm: F2 Feature Race
  • 3.30pm: Saudi Arabian GP build-up: Grand Prix Saturday
  • 7pm: Saudi Arabian GP reaction: Chequered flag
  • 9.30pm: Saudi Arabian GP highlights

Watch the second round of the new F1 season - the Saudi Arabian GP - live on Sky Sports F1 this coming week, with practice on Thursday, qualifying on Friday and the race at 5pm on Saturday. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership for just £21 a month for 12 months

Anthony Joshua's heavyweight showdown with Francis Ngannou takes place on Friday March 8, live on Sky Sports Box Office with the main event expected around 11pm. Book Joshua v Ngannou now!

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