2024 F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix preview: Sainz sits out

Following the past weekend’s season opener in Bahrain, the 2024 Formula 1 World Championship has skipped over to nearby Saudi Arabia for the country’s annual race at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

The race will take place on Saturday instead of the usual Sunday schedule in order to avoid clashing with preparations for Ramadan, which means the initial practice session was moved forward to Thursday and qualifying is scheduled for Friday.

Ferrari has confirmed that Carlos Sainz will miss the race due to a case of appendicitis which will require surgery. Filling in for Sainz will be reserve driver Oliver Bearman.

This weekend will be the fourth running of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Its Jeddah Corniche Circuit, a street circuit that lies along the Red Sea coast in the city of Jeddah, was designed by well-known circuit architect Hermann Tilke and measures 3.83 miles long, making it second in length to only the 4.35-mile Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.

Jeddah Corniche Circuit, home of the Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

It has 27 corners, the highest number of any circuit on the calendar, and its average speed in the previous races has been above 150 mph. The track surface offers a medium level of grip but the sand blown in from the nearby desert can affect things, as can dramatic changes in wind direction.

Teams also have to deal with rapid temperature changes as the race progresses, as the Saudi race starts at dusk and runs into the night. The current weather forecast calls for fine conditions during the race, with peak temperatures expected to hover around 85 degrees F.

Pirelli has nominated its medium tire compounds for the race: C2 is the white hard, C3 is the yellow medium, and C4 is the red soft.

Aston Martin Vantage official safety car for the 2024 Formula 1 World Championship

Being a street circuit, which means narrow passages with nearby walls, the Jeddah Corniche Circuit has a high risk of incidents leading to safety car periods. Across the three previous races in Saudi Arabia, there have been four safety car periods, and two red flags. Starting at this round, the new 2025 Aston Martin Vantage will take over the safety car role from its predecessor.

Going into Friday’s qualifying session and Saturday’s race, Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen leads the 2024 Drivers’ Championship with 26 points. Fellow Red Bull driver Sergio Perez is second with 18 points, and Sainz is third with 15 points. In the Constructors’ Championship, Red Bull leads with 44 points, versus the 27 of Ferrari and 16 of Mercedes-Benz AMG. Last year’s winner in Saudi Arabia was Perez, driving for Red Bull.

The 2024 season of the all-female F1 Academy will also host its first round at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. There will be two races, each running 13 laps, on Saturday.