Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021 – Preview

The penultimate round of the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship sees the Team head to Saudi Arabia and the ancient port city of Jeddah for the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix this weekend. We do so with heavy hearts following the passing of our Founder and Former Team Principal, Sir Frank Williams at the age of 79. Sir Frank was a racer at his very core, and we will be racing in his honour this weekend, with numerous tributes planned to celebrate his extraordinary life.

The venue for this weekend’s race is the temporary Jeddah Corniche Circuit which weaves and sweeps its way along the coastal resort’s waterfront. Despite featuring the most corners on the 2021 calendar, the track also claims the title of Formula One’s fastest ever street circuit, with speeds set to average near 252km/h, quicker than those at Silverstone. The FW43B will be illuminated by the city’s lighting as it contends with the quick, winding bends of the 6.174km track under the setting sun, adding to the unique atmosphere of the Kingdom’s first Formula One weekend.

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance: The sad events of last weekend mean that this is our first race weekend without Sir Frank Williams as the patriarch and figurehead of the Williams organisation. Although he had only very rarely been at the track in recent years, he still had a strong presence in the garage; his passion, strength and unstinting enthusiasm providing additional motivation to those of us fortunate enough to race the cars bearing his name. Although an era ended last weekend, Frank’s legacy will live on and we will continue to race in the manner that he would expect, drawing upon his memory as a source of pride and inspiration. We send the Williams family our deepest sympathies and reassure them that we will continue to honour his legend.

For the penultimate round of the 2021 F1 Championship we go to another new venue. The brand-new Jeddah Corniche Circuit sits by the Red Sea in the modern port city of Jeddah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The circuit is a big contrast to the Losail Circuit in Qatar and features a very long lap with a multitude of fast sweeping corners, all set within a street circuit. We will need to see how much grip the newly laid surface offers, but the natural layout of the corners means that it is very much a high-speed circuit, which should flow nicely and encourage some fascinating racing. The drivers will enjoy it and they will get a lot of satisfaction from a single flat-out qualifying lap.

The late sessions under floodlights will be a big feature of the event, both visibly and in terms of the car and tyre behaviour. We can expect quite a variety of approaches to setup and tyre use, and it is likely that most drivers will still be refining their car setups as we head into the night-time qualifying session on Saturday. With each lap in excess of 6km, the drivers won’t get too many attempts at each corner sequence prior to qualifying and this will add to the pressure and should help deliver an exciting session in which the most adaptable and instinctive drivers should excel.

In recognition of the street circuit setting, Pirelli have provided tyres from the middle of their compound range, which should ensure a good level of grip and the possibility of mixed strategies on Sunday.

With two races of the long 2021 season remaining, we are focussed on delivering everything that the FW43B is capable of and signing-off the season with some positive momentum to take into 2022. We aren’t going to see any inclement weather in Saudi Arabia or Abu Dhabi and so we will need to concentrate on maximising the tyre performance and giving the drivers the best possible opportunities to push the car to its absolute limits: we will need to rely on basic race engineering skills.

George Russell: It’s with a great sadness that we head to Saudi Arabia this weekend following the passing of Sir Frank, but as a team we are determined to pay our respects and honour him in the way we know he would want us to; by racing. In terms of British sport, Sir Frank was an incredibly important figure. Not just because of the adversity he faced, but because of the success that the team went on to achieve following his accident. He was somebody that so many people looked up to. He would be wheeled around the whole factory and there was this presence in the room whenever he was around. It motivated the team to really get on with their jobs and be so dedicated, because of the man he was.

On track, I am looking forward to getting my first look at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. It is sure to be an exhilarating track to drive with its high-speed nature and, when you couple that with the fact it’s a street circuit and the walls will be close, I’m sure it will be a thrilling spectacle both inside and outside the car. As we head into this final double-header of the season, our full focus as a team remains on consolidating our position in the Constructors’ Championship and we will be giving it absolutely everything to do so.

Nicholas Latifi: There is no doubt that the whole the whole team will be racing for Sir Frank this weekend. His contribution to Formula One cannot be underestimated, and to represent his name on the world stage has been an honour. We’ll continue to push hard to take the team back up the grid.

I’m looking forward to experiencing the Jeddah Corniche Circuit and discovering another brand-new track. Street circuits are always exciting; the extra adrenaline that you get from driving between the tight city walls makes it really enjoyable, despite also being an extra challenge. From what I’ve experienced in the simulator, the high-speed nature of the circuit is going to make things quite intense. There are a lot of corners, most of them very quick, so it will be an exciting track to drive. This will also be my first street race held at night, which adds another interesting element that I’m looking forward to tackling.

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