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Dec 1, 2021

F1 Race Preview: Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix: Who are the favourites?

2021 Formula One World Championship permutations

How crucial is the fastest lap?

Formula 1 insight and stats

F1 Race Preview: Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton is edging closer to Max Verstappen at the top of the Formula 1 standings, after winning the Qatar Grand Prix last time out. Will the Brit deliver again in Saudi Arabia? Read on to inform your predictions ahead of the big race with expert insight from Jennie Gow.

For the first time ever, Formula One heads to Saudi Arabia – for what is the penultimate race of the 2021 season. From Bahrain back at the beginning all the way to Qatar last time out, we’ve been treated to some exceptional racing, and with a brand new, city centre street track set to welcome the teams in Jeddah, we’re sure to be in for even more thrills.

This next race looks set to be fast and furious with barriers ready to catch anyone who isn’t inch-perfect out. The excitement and tension ahead of the race weekend is palpable, with so much on the line for so many!

Qatar Grand Prix: Last time out

Qatar was the scene of the last race. It was another new track for F1, and on it we were treated to another Lewis Hamilton masterclass. From qualifying through to the Grand Prix itself, he appeared faultless and made the most of the weekend by closing the gap between him and Max Verstappen to just eight points. As for Max, a penalty picked up in qualifying sent him back five places on the grid, curtailing what would have been an intense battle off the line – but he made up ground quickly in the race, finishing second, and was able to secure the fastest lap to boot. So, in terms of damage limitation, it was a good weekend for the Dutchman.

It was one heck of a weekend for Spaniard Fernando Alonso though, gaining his first podium finish since Hungary 2014 with a masterful display. He became the 13th driver (out of 20) to get a podium place this season.

A look at the Drivers' Championship standings

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Bet: Drivers' Championship Betting odds

The Championship

Max Verstappen could actually win the 2021 Formula One World Championship this weekend – here are the permutations which could lead to this outcome:

  • Max wins with the fastest lap and Lewis finishes sixth or lower
  • Max wins and Lewis finishes seventh or lower
  • Max finishes second with the fastest lap and Lewis finishes 10th or lower

It does look unlikely that it will happen this weekend, however, because both drivers have finished in the top two 12 times this season (60% of races) and have finished all of the last four races in the top two. They are head and shoulders above the rest of the field this year and unless something goes awry for Hamilton, the Championship fight should go down to the wire next time in Abu Dhabi.

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Saudi Arabian Grand Prix: The track

The 6.174km Jeddah Corniche Circuit lends itself to a high-speed race with its long straights and fast corners. The average speed here will be second only to Monza in 2021, and the track has the most corners of any track on the 2021 calendar.

As this is a street circuit the barriers will be close and the race will be fraught with jeopardy. As with Qatar, this brand new night-time race will mean there is limited data for teams to pour over – they will also run at fairly unrepresentative times in the first and third practice sessions which means that FP2 is a key session to try and understand temperatures, track evolution, and how the tyres will work during the race.

As with Qatar, this brand new night-time race will mean there is limited data for teams to pour over

Last time out there were several punctures up and down the field and very limited information that they were about to happen. Valtteri Bottas came a cropper first and other teams had to react quickly or decide to take the gamble and risk staying out. It was a fascinating, high-stakes game, which paid off for the one-stops Fernando Alonso and Estaban Ocon at Alpine but not for Lando Norris at McLaren or for Mercedes, who failed to get Bottas to the end of the race after he pitted. There was too much damage on the car to fight for anything meaningful after that point. So, practice is key to this weekend, as is nailing qualifying and keeping the car out the walls. Expect red flags and safety cars for this one!

Once again, you have to think that the race win will go to either Max or Lewis. IF Max wins and Lewis is second they would go into the final race of the season split by 15 points (let’s ignore the fastest lap right now!). However, IF Lewis wins and Max is second then they would enter the last race of the season separated by just ONE point. Therefore, the fastest lap could become a major player in this Championship fight – imagine if Hamilton were to win this race with the fastest lap (unlikely but not impossible), then Max and Lewis could enter the final race level on points after 21 races!)

Best of the rest

Alpine had a great weekend last time out and you could see from Friday’s practice sessions that they were able to get their cars working at optimal performance levels quickly and were able to nurse their tyres… not everyone was able to do that! If they can do the same again, then they could find themselves in with another shout of being the best of the rest.

However, Ferrari should be more comfortable in Saudi Arabia and McLaren will be hoping for a better weekend too. The battle for third/fourth and fifth/sixth is intense and while it looks like Ferrari and Alpine have now done enough to beat their rivals (McLaren and AlphaTauri respectively), some unfortunate results (e.g. a DNF or two) could turn things on their head in both battles, so all the teams involved in the fight need to keep their wits about them.

Stay up to date with the 2021 F1 season by reading Jennie Gow’s weekly race preview before analysing the latest Pinnacle F1 odds for each race!

Odds subject to change

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