Jeddah’s newly-built 6.174km street circuit will play host to the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix this weekend as the 2021 F1 title battle enters its closing stages, with Max Verstappen leading Lewis Hamilton by eight points. 

Billed as the ‘fastest street track’ on the F1 calendar, the high-speed Saudi layout has already been tipped to favour Mercedes’ car. 

Hamilton is set to get his more powerful Brazil engine back for the Jeddah event after the seven-time world champion ran his older power unit on his way to making it back-to-back wins with victory in Qatar. 

“It’s another unknown, and we’ve seen pretty big swings of performance over the recent races,” said Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin.

“If we look at the track in Saudi, I think it should suit us. For Lewis, we have got the more powerful engine to go in the car, so that’s going to give him a useful boost.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner also believes Mercedes could have the edge in Saudi Arabia but has predicted a close conclusion to the championship fight. 

“I think it’s going to be tight,” Horner said. “The next track arguably should favour Mercedes, and Abu Dhabi, with the modifications made there, who knows?

“It’s been incredibly tight so we go into those races eight points in the lead in the drivers championship, we’ve reduced the championship lead in the constructors to five points. So both are fully in play

“That’s fantastic, because we’re now at the climax of this of this world championship.”

3006929.0064.jpg

Despite being considered the pre-event favourites by many, Shovlin pointed towards Mercedes’ defeat to Red Bull in the United States as a prime example of how nothing can be taken for granted during such a competitive season. 

“The track should suit the car but then we would have probably said that in Austin,” Shovlin explained. 

“We felt that we should be able to put together a decent set-up and take the fight to Red Bull and they had a bit of an edge there, so we’re always cautious to go to a race thinking that it’s all going to go our way.

“What we do know, though, are the things that we’ve got to get right on the set-up, what we need to get right on the tyres and how they’re working, and that’s what we’re going to be busy doing, making sure we’ve taken every opportunity to arrive there in good shape. 

“With a new circuit arriving in good shape is such a good thing, for the learning curve if you’ve got a good car to start with you can just improve it from there.”