Three Grands Prix in just sixteen months. The organizers of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix faced a major challenge, especially bearing in mind that for the first edition, parts of the originally planned structures had not yet been completed.
After the first editions, held just a few months apart between the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, the promoters of the Saudi appointment listened to and put into practice the feedback from the riders, modifying various parts of the track to improve safety and visibility.
The rather narrow layout and poor visibility in some blind corners had in fact prompted the team’s standard bearers to underline how these elements could represent a big problem in terms of safety, especially in qualifying, where the cars alternate between slow laps and hard laps. A difference in speed which, in certain corners, could have caused accidents if the drivers had not been warned, given that the ideal line sometimes crosses with the one that tends to be exploited in the slower passages.
Already for the 2022 edition, the organizers had made improvements to the track to optimize the view, widening some points and moving the barriers placed on the sides of the track. However, in view of 2023 the interventions made were much more significant and it was Martin Whitaker, CEO of the company that takes care of the organizer of the race, who spoke about it.
“The circuit is fantastic. The place is magnificent, there have been so many changes. In general, think that 3 Grands Prix in the last 16 months is a big challenge. First of all, it’s much more mature, even the palm trees are now grown and look like real palm trees! But in general, all the structures and roads around the track have also been completed. It almost seems ridiculous to say, but a big step forward has been made compared to the first edition. The place looks much more professional,” Whitaker explained referring to the general aspects, with infrastructure that has now finally been completed.
“Several changes have been made on the track, I think the riders will be satisfied with them. During the winter months we’ve made some interesting changes to improve visibility, moving the barriers up by something between two and seven metres. It’s a major change in some places and I’m sure you’ll notice them”, added the CEO on the podcast “F1 Nation” referring to some sections, such as turn 14 for example, where the wall on the right has been set back by 7.5 metres.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images
“We also removed some parts in metallic materials that were on the inside of some curves on the edges of the concrete barriers. The FIA said the barriers were fine, but some metal parts needed to be removed and we did it in six corners.”
The layout of the track hasn’t substantially changed radically, except in one point, namely curves 22 and 23, where an attempt has been made to reduce the speed by around 30 km/h by modifying the positioning of the barriers. In effect, this will mean that the drivers will enter the opposite straight ahead of the final corner at a lower speed.
“That sequence has been made tighter, so it will probably be around 30km/h slower, so they will approach the back straight, the long stretch between turns 22 and turn 27, at a slower speed. It will be interesting to see how that works out.”
Another change to take into consideration is the one made to the curbs, now smoother and more suited to the characteristics of the 2022 single-seaters. However, on the inside of many corners, small bollards have been positioned which, in theory, should ensure that the drivers do not abuse the new stretch of asphalt created after the movement of the side walls.
The detection point of the DRS zone has been moved out of the last curve.
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
“One of the problems was that the track was designed and built in the 2021 single-seater era of the old generation, and so when we moved to the 2022 car era, I imagine that other circuits also faced this problem, the Curbs just didn’t work well with modern-era single-seaters.”
“Because of this, we changed virtually all of the curbs, which are much smoother and with a much smaller angle on the rear side of the curb, so that a car doesn’t actually lose traction when it’s over the curb.”
Finally, the dection point of the third DRS zone has been moved: if until 2022 it was positioned before the last corner, from this year it will be located at the exit of the same. This, in theory, should prevent the pilots from constantly replaying the game of the last few seasons, when they reached the block to avoid reaching the reference line first and losing the use of the mobile wing on the finish straight.
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