Saudi F1 track changes reduced ‘blind fear’ – Sargeant

The “blind fear” of tackling the Formula 1 circuit in Jeddah has been reduced by layout adjustments for 2023 that improve safety and visibility, according to Williams rookie Logan Sargeant.

Hailed as the fastest street track on the calendar, the host venue for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix has drawn criticism since its debut in 2021 for its enclosed walls that block drivers’ sight lines around corners.

Ahead of a second race in March 2022, the layout has been revised as some walls have been pushed back and the track widened, but new stages have now been introduced ahead of the new season.

Most notably, adding a beveled curb and changing the position of a fence reduced speeds in the left-right sequence of turns 22-23 by 30 mph.

Additionally, a fence has also been pushed back 7.5 meters at the faster Turn 4 and five meters at Turn 20 to improve visibility.

Sargeant, who made his FIA F2 debut at the HWA Racelab site in 2021 before returning to the track for Carlin last year, felt the changes eased “blind fear”.

Asked by Autosport if the tweaks had helped, the Floridian said: “The changes they’ve made are definitely positive from a driver perspective.

“Visually, being a lot more open, it takes away a bit of that sense of blind fear of not knowing what’s around the corner.

“They raised the back of the exit curbs to finally stop the dip.

“So I think it’s all positive and more reasonable for a driver.”

Logan Sargeant, Williams Racing

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Piastri: Simulator can’t replicate Saudi ‘fear factor’

Despite the modifications, the circuit remains revered among drivers and its “fear factor” is not something that can be replicated in the simulator, according to McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.

The Australian, who like Sargeant is a top-flight rookie, won the second FIA F2 sprint and distance race at the Saudi venue en route to the 2021 title for Prema Racing.

But after a year on the sidelines in his role as an understudy at Alpine before switching McLaren, Piastri admits he is still rusty.

This adaptation process is not aided by the team’s soon-to-be-replaced simulator experience, which Piastri says cannot completely repeat the “fear factor” of the Corniche’s exposed coastal circuit.

He said: “It’s difficult to fully replicate the conditions with the direction of the wind, the level of grip on the track.

“Obviously, in a street circuit, the grip constantly evolves quite quickly. It’s hard to do.

“On a sim, the fear factor isn’t quite there. It makes things a bit more forgiving on the sim, but there’s a lot to try and dial in, so when I hit the track for the first time.

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