The finishing touches are being put to the world’s newest, fastest and longest Formula 1 street circuit (as the magazine went to press), which has reached its last lap of construction in record time in the Saudi city of Jeddah, in what has been a race against the clock.
With just days to go until the inaugural Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021 makes its long-awaited debut, anticipation is high for the moment the world’s greatest drivers roar onto the streets of Jeddah for the first time on the weekend of December 3 to 5 and take on the formidable challenge of the 27-turn Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
Situated between the new marina and island mosque on a narrow stretch of land north of the city, the Jeddah Corniche Circuit is expected to set a new standard for Formula 1.
The Jeddah Corniche Circuit has a track length of 6.175 km making it the second longest circuit on the calendar after Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium and the longest street track in F1. The average speeds are expected to reach 252 km/h – the fastest street circuit on the calendar with highest speeds estimated to peak at 322 km/h between Turns 25-27.
Construction of the circuit included building seven stands and seven permanent landmarks and statues positioned inside the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
Work on the track – which is officially termed a temporary facility – began last April in Jeddah’s corniche area on the Red Sea, which frames the racing action against a spectacular coastal backdrop.
Developed in partnership by Tilke Engineers and F1’s own Motorsports Division, the circuit design has made strong use of the long, sweeping roads along the corniche area, utilising this feature and existing roads as much as possible along the narrow stretch of coastal land within the confines of the general infrastructure, resulting in one of the most unique and challenging circuits yet to feature in Formula 1.
Designed to deliver spectacular racing, the Jeddah Corniche Circuit is rich in many exciting features. These include a record-equalling number of turns (27 in total: 16 left and 11 right), in addition to three potential high-speed DRS sections and a remarkable 12-degree banked corner at Turn 13 that is expected to become a favourite of drivers, broadcasters and ardent photographers alike.
Commenting on the new circuit, Martin Whitaker, CEO of the Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021, says: “The new 6.175-km track is on a narrow strip of land which will form a northerly extension to the current Jeddah Corniche, linking the existing 4 km of walkways and cycle paths to an additional 3 km that will encompass both the island mosque and the new marina. The 27-turn circuit will be both the longest and fastest street circuit on the Formula 1 calendar and will literally be a stone’s throw from the shore of the Red Sea. Perhaps the most spectacular corner will be the Turn 13 parabolica, next to the marina, after which the drivers will accelerate to 322 km/h past the new luxury hotel that has been built in time for F1’s arrival.”
Set to host the penultimate round of this year’s enthralling F1 season, the newest race on the calendar will be staged under the lights at night, and everything is in place for a truly electrifying atmosphere in Jeddah when the pinnacle of motorsport finally arrives in Saudi Arabia, says the organiser.
Getting the circuit ready for the much-awaited race has required careful planning right from the day Jeddah was selected as the venue for the Saudi debut of the Grand Prix.
In line with the ambitious sustainability strategy Formula 1 announced in 2019, the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), promoter of the Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021, says it has exerted efforts to ensure that the Jeddah Corniche Circuit becomes one of the most sustainable venues on the Formula 1 calendar.
Before the construction of the circuit and its adjacent infrastructure could even begin, an extensive clean-up and regeneration of the whole lagoon – on which large parts of the track are situated – had to be implemented.
The lagoon regeneration project was divided in two stages. The first started in May 2021, covering a land reclamation area of 20,025 sq m, while the second stage covering an area of 3,000 sq m was completed in late October. The process included the removal of algae and waste and the subsequent installation of a system to purify and treat the water to prevent the future formation and accumulation of algae.
Furthermore, a staggering 162.814 tons of sludge and debris were dredged from the lagoon and divided into separate stocks, with the former treated and recycled while the latter was safely and responsibly disposed of.
As a result, the surrounding area has already seen a welcome return of wildlife, while the lagoon is already teeming with fish, says SAMF.
The final stage of cleaning involved a process called bioremediation, which uses micro-organisms or other forms of life to reduce pollution through the biological degradation of pollutants into non-toxic substances.
Positioned right in the heart of Jeddah’s magnificent waterfront, the Jeddah Corniche Circuit has been designed and built to serve the city of Jeddah well beyond the F1 race weekend, says the SAMF. Indeed, it is a central element of the city’s grand corniche renovation project.
The brand-new circuit’s infrastructure and design has been built specifically to develop an environment-friendly space for the city that will add lasting value to the general public. To this end, the lagoon regeneration has seen the establishment of a welcome place of respite along the city’s magnificent coastline for locals and tourists alike, in an area where once there was none.
Moreover, an extensive recreational area is being developed along the banks of the Red Sea, extending the popular corniche walkway even further and populating it with a series of outdoor recreational opportunities for children and adults – such as beach volleyball, paddle and tennis courts, new walkways and cycling paths – as well as the establishment of family-friendly restaurants, public restrooms, increased parking spaces and much more.
In all elements of this regeneration project, the primary goal was to preserve and enhance the surrounding soil conditions and the local environment to ensure that via the use of sustainable earthworks and landscaping methods, a flourishing and biodiverse vegetation is sustained alongside the extensive redevelopment in the area, says the SAMF.
Construction of the track itself began in April this year. In an earlier interview with Motorsport.com, the founder of Tilke Engineers Hermann Tilke said: “It’s not a normal street circuit. We had to build most of the streets ourselves and we had to instal a complete drainage system, which meant we had to lift the whole track one-and-a-half metres. So there was a lot of engineering involved.
“We also had to deal with the construction of a number of large buildings and there is still construction going on in the whole corniche area. It will make for a beautiful setting though.”
Overall, the organiser collaborated with 3,000 on-site contractors from approximately 50 separate companies. While many of these partners are Saudi Arabian, the event organisers also utilised the support of suppliers from countries such as Germany, Austria, the UK, Spain and Italy. In addition, and at all times, the rigorous standards and scrutiny of both Formula 1 and their monitoring consultants were applied, says SAMF.
More than 300 engineers from various disciplines have been involved in the construction of the circuit.
Construction of the circuit required 600,000 tons of cement, 30,000 sq m of bricks and more than 1,400 tons of glass and some 37,000 tons of asphalt have been used in the track’s construction.
There are 627 lighting poles around the track and lighting levels are set at 1,500 lux, with more than 200,000 m of cabling, including power and fibre, already laid to ensure everything is lit to perfection. When construction is complete, about 2,000 trees will be planted around the circuit.
More importantly, this achievement was accomplished under the strictest health and safety conditions, with millions of man-hours of work taking place on site with no serious incidents. All work was carried out according to the detailed Saudi labour laws, according to the organiser.
To further ensure all work was carried out in the safest conditions, all workers involved in the construction of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit were required to participate in the Atlas safety induction programme.
Tilke said while the company has developed a lot of big Formula 1 circuits before, but never in such a short time frame.
“This is really a new world record for us,” he stated.
Tilke provides some interesting facts on its Twitter handle: the Jeddah Corniche Circuit is the first street circuit in the Gulf region to feature LED floodlights; it is the first street circuit to feature only slot drains, which have a higher drainage capacity, on the race track. The circuit has 1,025-m of Safer (steel and foam energy reduction) barriers, the largest quantity installed on an F1 circuit. It is the first time such barriers have been installed in the Middle East.