Ahead of this weekend's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, the Ferrari drivers expressed their concerns over the safety conditions on track in Jeddah.
The Jeddah Corniche Circuit is the second longest on the calendar, with 27 corners and an average lap speed of 250+kph in 2021. The track is also a street circuit, meaning the walls are tight to the track and there are many blind spots for drivers at high speed.
Fresh off the back of their 1-2 finish in the season opener in Bahrain, Ferrari men Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz questioned the safety of the track ahead of Friday's practice sessions.
Saudi Arabian GP: Ferrari drivers question safety improvements in Jeddah
Ferrari could hardly have dreamt of a better start to 2022, with their drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz taking first and second in the season opener in Bahrain. Having not won a race since September 2019, to take a 1-2 in the first race of the season was a massive achievement for Ferrari.
They come into this weekend's race in Saudi Arabia as the team to beat, and will be hoping to improve on last year's showing in Jeddah, where they could only manage 7th and 8th in the race.
Last year, the Jeddah Corniche Circuit raised eyebrows for the immense speeds around the track. The track was far faster than any previous Formula 1 street circuit, and concerns were raised about the safety conditions.
Jump onboard with @LewisHamilton for the lap that clinched the Pirelli Pole Position Award in Jeddah 🚀
Putting him on pole for Sunday's crucial race in his title battle with Max Verstappen 🏆#SaudiArabianGP 🇸🇦 #Pirelli @pirellisport pic.twitter.com/I7H6kn7z02
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 4, 2021
Many of the corners were to be taken blind at high speeds, meaning stricken cars could be collected by unknowing trailing drivers. Such a circumstance played out at the race restart, when Nikita Mazepin clattered into the slowing George Russell.
Changes were made to the track for this weekend's race. The barriers were moved further back from the track at the high-speed opening section, in an attempt to improve run-off and safety.
Ferrari man Carlos Sainz was unimpressed when he spoke to the media on Thursday, saying that he did not see the changes improving safety.
I was commenting with Charles [Leclerc] that they just moved the wall, but the driving line will still be close to the wall.
It means our visibility doesn't improve, which for me just shows that we need to keep making this relationship with the FIA tighter, better.
We expected a step in the right direction. In my opinion this is not much better. It is marginally a very small tiny bit, smallest bit better.
Charles Leclerc went off into the barriers at Turn 22, causing an early end to FP2
Thankfully he was able to get out of the car himself and confirm he was ok#SaudiArabianGP 🇸🇦 #F1 pic.twitter.com/wif6Pau2N4
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 3, 2021
Leclerc also expressed his concerns with the track's safety, suggesting that the changes to the barriers had not gone far enough.
It's going in the right direction, but I don't think it's enough, especially in the last part of the track from what I've seen.
The first part from turn four to I think turn 12, it didn't change much with what was probably the most critical part.
But I don't see the changes making a huge difference to the scenario of last year.
The visit of the F1 circus to Saudi Arabia is understandably and rightly contentious for an altogether more serious reason. The human rights record of the Arabian country is abysmal and, just this month, over 80 people were publicly executed in the state.
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel were among those to express their concerns at visiting the country at last year's race. Hamilton's 2021 crash helmet carried the rainbow flag as a protest against the country's archaic stance on LGBTQ+ rights.
It's set to be an uncomfortable weekend for F1 for multiple reasons.