Strategy guide for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

By on

With the F1 field having made the short trip from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, drivers were met with a very different set of challenge due on the layout of the challenging Jeddah Corniche Circuit. F1Technical's senior writer Balázs Szabó delivers his strategy guide for the Jeddah F1 race.

While Pirelli brought the harder compounds to the season-opener in Bahrain, the second race of the season will see drivers use the three compounds from the middle of Pirelli's range. It means that the C2 will serve as Hard, the C3 as Medium and the C4 as Soft on the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

The Milan-based manufacturer has elected for relatively high minimum starting pressures, with 24.0 psi for the fronts and 21.0 psi for the rears. The camber limits are -3.25° for the front tyres and -1.75° for the rear tyres.

However, given the fact that the Jeddah circuit is a street circuit and there are not many run-off areas, the risk of accidents is quite high, as is therefore the chance of seeing the Safety Car on track or even having the race red-flagged.

Strategy options

Despite the softer compounds, Pirelli expects drivers to perform a one-stop strategy, with drivers swapping between Medium and Hard depending on their grid positions. It is because degradation is low and overtaking is pretty tricky, with the best opportunity coming on the entry to turn 1.

Sergio Pérez won the Saudi Grand Prix last year, with Max Verstappen and George Russell joining him on the podium. As was the case in both previous editions, the 2023 event was a one-stop race, with those leaders, plus Fernando Alonso (P4), starting on a medium tyre and swapping for a hard.

Pirelli expects drivers to approach the 50-lap Jeddah F1 round with a one-stop strategy with two different variations considered possible. One option would see drivers start the race on the medium tyres and perform a tyre change between Laps 19 and 25. This second stint would see drivers complete the rest of the race distance on the hards.

According to the Milan-based tyre supplier, it is also possible to start on the red-walled softs and carry out a tyre swap for hards between Laps 15 and 21.

However, on paper, the quickest way to the flag is the medium-hard one-stop strategy based on the previous three races. With the run from the start line to the first turn is only 168m, the soft tyre does not give a significant advantage compared to the medium tyre with Pirelli estimating an advantage of 3.5m.

The two-stop strategy doesn’t look particularly attractive as Pirelli thinks that it is around 15 seconds slower than the one-stop strategy. If someone elects to complete the race distance with a two-stop strategy, he would possibly start the race on the softs to take advantage of the additional grip level at the start. Following a relatively short first stint, drivers would switch to the medium rubber between Laps 10 and 15 to complete a long second stint before reverting to the red-walled tyres for the end of the race.

In reality, drivers would only switch to a two-stop strategy if there is a safety car or virtual safety car interruption. It would shorten that pit stop from 20s to just 11s which. Going by the previous three races, there is a real chance for an interruption as the safety car made an appearance in each of the three Jeddah races.