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  • Writer's pictureToni Sokolov

Saudi Arabian GP 2024: FP2 Race Pace Analysis

Saudi Arabia GP 2024: FP1, Fernando Alonso
Photo credit: Pirelli Media

Formula 1 is on tour in the Middle East at the start of the 2024 season! After Bahrain, we have an extremely different track configuration in Jeddah with its Corniche Circuit which is the fastest street circuit in F1! It's very long and not too demanding on the tyres, but also very smooth and challenging to turn on the tyres at the working temperature. This is why Pirelli is on the softer side of its range with C4, C3, and C2 tyres available to the teams for this weekend.

This track has a much different set of corners in comparison to Bahrain, it's rather front-limited with the long and fast curves and hard braking at the end of the lap. Bahrain track is rear limited (traction) due to its nature with long straights, slow hairpins, and complex corner exits. Jeddah Circuit offers a new view of the cars that we have for the 2024 season!

Just as it was in Bahrain, FP2 was again, very calm, without many incidents (only traffic issues due to the nature of the track), with only wind being problematic for the drivers. Overall, we got a great race simulation that will be relevant for the race on Saturday.

Do you know who's the favorite to win this race? Max Verstappen and Red Bull. Unfortunately, nothing much changed from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia as Red Bull is still looking like a dominant force, especially in the hands of Max who averaged 1:34.038 on the Medium tyres (C3). Perez was averaging 1:34.530 with the same tyres and 5 more laps than his teammate, but the data didn't lie. Their tyre deg combined with the speed they're getting out of that car is an amazing combination.

The closest competitor to Max Verstappen was George Russell on the same Medium tyres as he was averaging slightly faster times than Perez at 1:34.410, which is a great sign for Mercedes. It was similar back in Bahrain, but Mercedes struggled in the race with poor Hamilton qualifying and overheating on both of their cars. Lewis managed to average 1:34.591 on Mediums, with his stint getting shortened by possible mechanical issues on the engine side.

Ferrari is next in line which was running with their engines turned down a bit. There is a good possibility that they have more pace than what they showed in FP2 with Sainz averaging 1:34.741 on Medium tyres. Also, Sainz isn't 100% healthy for this weekend and he might not be driving at his best. This is why we need to look at Leclerc who was doing his racing simulation on a set of Soft tyres (C4) and did very well! He averaged 1:34.401 with a decent tyre deg and a very quick last lap of 1:33.886 on 15-lap old tyres at that point. I would still bet on Ferrari in front of Mercedes for the race, but it's going to be close.

Saudi Arabian GP 2024: FP2 Track view
Photo credit: Pirelli Media

Lando Norris also copied what Leclerc was doing as he was another car that did its race simulation on C4 tyres averaging about 3 tenths slower than No.16 Ferrari. His average was 1:34.653 which is a decent result for McLaren. Piastri was slower with his Medium tyres and averaged 1:34.9, which as you can see the trend is again... 2-tenths slower than the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz. McLaren could be in the mix, but with Ferrari having a bit more HP reserve and a healthier Carlos Sainz it could be a hard task for the British team in Jeddah.

The man that topped the standings was a vital 42-year-old Fernando Alonso! Aston Martin was pushing a bit more and Alonso had a very good lap, but I wouldn't be expecting him to be on top in today's qualifying! Nevertheless, Fernando had a very good race simulation, that positioned him with McLaren of Piastri. He averaged 1:34.867. The times would be better at the end if he didn't have a bit of traffic on its way. Lance Stroll is half a second away. Aston Martin was my "disappointment of the race" in Bahrain as they looked like a team that took the spot from Alpine in the "middle of nowhere". Hopefully, they can bounce back in Saudi!

The last...and the last team is Alpine :=) Once again, they look uncompetitive with the teams that they're aiming to beat. Tyre wear looks better in Saudi, but the pace just isn't there. Ocon averaged 1:35.418 on the Mediums and Gasly was a bit better with 1:35.261, but that's already 1.2-1.5 sec slower per lap than Red Bull! A lot of work for this team is in front of them. They could struggle to get points in the first half of the year.

FP3 is again in the daylight, just like in Bahrain, so it won't be relevant for us or the teams. It will be a good session for the drivers and their confidence as a preparation for the Quali session. This track takes a lot of confidence and trust in the car to put it all on the line and get the best time from the driver/car combo.

Saudi Arabian GP 2024: FP2 Race simulations
Photo: Race simulations by Toni Sokolov

Saudi Arabian GP 2024 - FP2 (Classification, Maximum speeds, Best sector times)


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