The Jeddah Corniche Circuit will host the first-ever Saudi Arabian GP as F1 visits the country this weekend for the penultimate round of the 2021 season. 

With a combination of 27 corners, flat-out sections, close walls, and no run-off in places, the 6km Jeddah venue is set to provide the drivers with a punishing test. 79% of the lap will be spent at full throttle, while the lap’s average speed is estimated to exceed 150mph. 

Championship leader Max Verstappen, who could be crowned world champion in Saudi Arabia if results go his way, described the circuit as “very fast” after getting his first taste on Red Bull’s simulator. 

Drivers will get their first real-world experience of driving the circuit - which was only completed last week - during Friday’s two practice sessions. 

And Lewis Hamilton says there are “a lot of unknowns” for the drivers to discover when they finally hit the track.

“We have all these simulations but we don’t know what the track grip level is going to be until we get out there, it looks quite dirty,” he said.

“It’s not far off Silverstone-kind-of-surface. We’ve got these long, long straights. Everything is a little bit different to the simulator - a lot of the tracks have these perfect scans of the track whereas this one is a guesstimate of what the track is going to be like. 

“There’s a lot of unknowns and none of us will know until we truly get onto the track tomorrow.” 

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Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas said the flat-out sequences and blind corners leave little margin for error. 

“Track itself is really interesting, really high-speed, quite narrow in places, definitely penalising for any mistakes,” the Finn explained. 

"I’m actually looking forward to feel how it is. It’ll be an interesting one and, performance wise, it’s impossible to predict. It’s a new track, we don’t know the actual grip level, etc. For sure it’s going to be close.” 

Although dry and warm conditions are expected across the weekend, drivers are wary about the new track surface having low grip levels and being dusty. 

“It is probably one of the dustiest tracks at the moment,” said McLaren’s Lando Norris. “I’m hoping it’ll clear up a bit before tomorrow. 

“It looks to be a challenging circuit, very high-speed, not a lot of room for error. Quite different to most tracks. 

“Street circuits are generally slower speed, and then you have high-speed but normally a lot of runoff. This is kind of in the middle. Very different to tracks we’ve gone to this year. So a new challenge for us all.

“I’m confident personally as well that it is a track that will suit me and my driving style. So I’m looking forward to it.” 

‘Like Monaco with a touch of Baku’ 

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Haas F1 rookie Nikita Mazepin said the track has characteristics similar to both Monaco and Baku and will require a lot of confidence in order to master. 

“It’s a Monaco-type circuit in terms of how close the walls are with a touch of Baku in it as well,” the Russian said. 

“I’m very much looking forward to the first lap, because I’m not sure what its going to bring but the surface is a lot of fun, it’s not flat which is a great thing to have.

“This lap is quite long and you do need confidence on this circuit because if you over-push it at times when you shouldn’t, it can be quite hurtful.” 

After spending an entire day in the simulator on Tuesday in preparation for the race, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon cannot wait to test the limits of the circuit. 

“What a track!” the Frenchman said when asked for his initial impression of Jeddah. “It reminds a bit of Macau, some parts of it. 

“It’s going to be pushing the limits with what you can do in the F1 car and how close you can get to the walls at such speeds. 

“Very, very high-speed and easy to make a mistake. A proper street circuit, one where you’ll have to have balls!”

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And Ocon was not alone in being reminded of Macau by the characteristics of Jeddah. 

"Some of the sections remind me a little bit of Macau,” said Daniel Ricciardo. “It was a long time ago that I was there but it is a high speed street circuit. 

“There are elements of that in Baku, but it is really only the last part, otherwise Baku is quite twisty. 

“It is definitely going to be a challenge, but something that is fun and exciting. I got pretty excited today on the track ride. I did a bit of the sim as well during the week. So I'm looking forward to the first few laps.” 

How difficult will overtaking be? 

Given the fast-flowing and tight nature of the track - with an average concerning speed of 143.5mph - there are big question marks about how much overtaking will be possible, if at all. 

While seeing the cars flat-out in qualifying promises to be spectacular, the drivers have mixed opinions about whether the race could end up being a procession. 

There will be three DRS zones to try and aid overtaking opportunities, but as Alpine pair Ocon and Fernando Alonso warn, that is not necessarily a guarantee of action. 

“Three DRS zones doesn’t mean that there will be more overtaking, but for sure Turn 1, I see it as a good opportunity,” Ocon said. 

“I think the last corner is going to be good to get close to the car in front to make the move into Turn 1. I think those are going to be the two main spots.” 

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His two-time world champion teammate Alonso added: “Like other street circuits, it’s going to be difficult to follow the cars, and then it’s difficult to overtake. 

“Even with three DRS, it’s going to be an extremely difficult race to overtake people.”

But Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is optimistic that Jeddah’s layout can provide an entertaining spectacle, even if overtaking is tricky.

“There are lot of DRS zones and they are very, very long,” he said. “I think one third of the track is with DRS, so I don't think that overtaking is going to be extremely difficult like we are used to on a city track. 

“But I definitely believe it's going to be a very challenging track for us drivers. Very, very high speed with the walls, so no room for mistakes. It's going to be a tricky one, but I'm looking forward to it.”