Next stop Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Formula 1 starts two weeks after the opening race in the desert of Sakhir on the spectacular street circuit in the next kingdom in the Middle East.
The roles on the track seem to be clearly distributed before the Grand Prix on Sunday (6 p.m. / Sky). Are they really?
Can Red Bull be beaten on the Jeddah Corniche Circuit?
Hard to imagine after the sovereign start with the victory of defending champion Max Verstappen in front of his teammate Sergio Perez. "I don't think it will be easy," said two-time champion Verstappen, looking ahead to the upcoming race and referring to the different track characteristics. Verstappen comes to the conclusion that you need a fast car. But that's exactly what Red Bull has.
In addition, Ferrari had to change the control electronics in Charles Leclerc's car after Bahrain's exit and the supposed Verstappen challenger per se has to go ten places back on the starting grid. And at Mercedes nobody expects the big turnaround, almost only Aston Martin remains, especially with the two-time champion Fernando Alonso, third at the start in Bahrain.
Why will it probably be difficult for Mercedes with superstar Lewis Hamilton in Jeddah?
Team boss Toto Wolff does not expect the big turnaround, he has already announced that they don't have "game changers" with them. The car concept - Mercedes has practically dispensed with the side boxes this season - again does not work. The conversion measures require time, but also money. And that is limited by a budget cap for the teams. When the Silver Arrow was still really fast, Hamilton had won the premiere in Saudi Arabia in 2021.
Has Formula 1 returnee Nico Hulkenberg ever started there in just two races in Saudi Arabia?
In the past year. The now 35-year-old stood in for Sebastian Vettel, who had to pass due to a corona disease. Hulkenberg drove the Aston Martin to twelfth place. Mick Schumacher, now only a reserve driver at Mercedes, was unable to compete on the race course last year after he crashed the Haas car in qualifying in a serious accident. Remarkably, in the previous two editions in Saudi Arabia, no German has ever made it into the top ten. In 2021 Vettel, like Mick Schumacher, was eliminated.
What characterizes the route?
It's super fast, it's super tight, and that makes it dangerous. Mick Schumacher's serious accident in 2022 triggered a corresponding safety discussion. The cars race at an average speed of around 250 kilometers per hour over the more than six kilometer route. Only in Monza, the "Temple of Speed" in Italy, are they even faster. The circuit, which was also designed by the German Formula 1 architect Hermann Tilke, holds a record, but: At 27, no track has more curves than the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
When will practice, qualifying and the race take place and who will be broadcasting the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix?
It starts with the first free practice session on Friday afternoon at 2.30 p.m. CET. The second exercise session, also over an hour, is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. CET. After the 3rd free practice session on Saturday (2:30 p.m. CET), qualifying starts at 6:00 p.m. CET, as does the race the following day. Everything is transmitted by the pay channel Sky.