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Five things to look out for at the Saudi Arabian GP including Verstappen exit rumours and safety car chaos

Five things to look out for at the Saudi Arabian GP including Verstappen exit rumours and safety car chaos

The second round of the season is here.

The 2024 Formula One season is about to get into full swing in Jeddah, following the season opener in Bahrain last week which was dominated by the World Champion Max Verstappen.

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix has been on the calendar since 2021, and it has always provided high-intensity action on the fast-paced street circuit where danger is around every corner.

It wouldn't be too pessimistic to say that the race in Bahrain sapped away any sort of blind hope we had of a championship fight this year, with Verstappen finishing the race 22 seconds ahead of the pack.

However, with pre-season testing also having taken place in Bahrain, Jeddah will be the first time we see how each team's new car performs on a new circuit, so there could be a couple of surprises.

With the Saudi Grand Prix just around the corner, here are five things to look out for throughout the race weekend.

Verstappen to steal Hamilton's thunder

Despite the shortest possible turnaround on the F1 calendar, there has been some pretty sensational news floating around the paddock since the season opener involving Verstappen.

Reports have emerged stating that Verstappen is now the odds-on favourite to replace Lewis Hamilton next year. The speculation comes due to the chaos going on behind the scenes at Red Bull, with Jos Verstappen (Max's Dad) at the forefront of criticism of Christian Horner.

The World Champion responded to the rumours ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

"It's a bit of a question mark with new regulations but I knew that when I signed my contract. I am happy within the team, as long as we perform," Verstappen explained.

While the true 'silly season' (transfer rumours) won't be underway for a good few months, news always seems to travel faster during a race weekend so we could get some more concrete news on Verstappen's future very soon.

Battle of the Prancing Horses

One of the most exciting battles during the Bahrain GP was between the two Ferraris, with Carlos Sainz getting his elbows out to pass his teammate Charles Leclerc not once but twice!

This isn't the first time these two have almost collided on track, with the final laps of Monza last year being particularly feisty. With Sainz already confirmed to be making way for Lewis Hamilton next year, this kind of 'friendly fire' racing is something I expect to see in Jeddah.

Leclerc and Sainz- Getty
Leclerc and Sainz- Getty

Whilst Sainz pretty easily breezed past Leclerc in Bahrain, it was revealed after the race that Leclerc's brake issue was costing him around 6 tenths a lap. If this data is accurate it would have put Leclerc above Sergio Perez's Red Bull in second place without the issue, and given Leclerc's usual (not always) dominance over Sainz who finished the race third, this seems a realistic calculation.

With that in mind and assuming Leclerc avoids similar technical problems in Jeddah, it seems inevitable the two prancing horses will be at battle again this weekend, and Sainz has already proven he won't be pulling his punches.

BREAKING: Carlos Sainz will now MISS the Saudi GP with appendicitis and will be replaced by 18-year-old Oliver Bearman.

Mercedes to show their true pace

Similarly to Leclerc, Mercedes' rather underwhelming weekend in Bahrain doesn't really tell the full story, as both cars were suffering from cooling issues.

Don't worry though Merc fans, this issue was more of a technical blunder rather than an actual issue, as George Russell revealed the team used the wrong piece of bodywork on the car for the conditions.

"It was definitely a miscalculation. It would have been quite straightforward to just open the bodywork very slightly & make things much easier," Russell explained.

Russell believes the issues cost both cars a minimum of 15 seconds, which again would put Russell alongside Perez and Leclerc (predicted time) fighting for second place behind... Of course, Max Verstappen.

Safety Car Chaos

Round one in Bahrain lacked a lot of things you want from an F1 race and a safety car was a rather unusual absentee from the race. Despite this making for a rather dull affair it did help create a piece of F1 history, as for the first time in consecutive races all cars finished the race (Abu Dhabi 2023, Bahrain 2024).

It would be an absolute miracle if that trend was to continue in Jeddah where there has been a safety car in every single F1 race at the circuit so far.

Jeddah safety car 2023- Getty
Jeddah safety car 2023- Getty

One of the main reasons for this is due to track layout, as the drivers will be flying at 200 mph just centimeters away from the wall every single lap.

Jeddah is, unfortunately, another one of the tracks that offers minimal overtaking opportunities, however, the races have usually been a spectacle, mainly due to the incidents throughout.

In 2021 we saw three action-packed standing starts due to two red flags and in 2022 an ill-timed safety car saw Leclerc steal the lead from Perez after a pitstop (All cars must slow down during a safety car, minimising the time lost at a pitstop).

This added jeopardy will affect the team's strategies, as teams may be reluctant to make early stops in case they are caught out by a safety car. It is just a complete lottery, but that is exactly what F1 fans want at the moment. If Jeddah continues to provide the safety car chaos it has in previous seasons, we will see Saturday's race turned upside down potentially more than once.

Upgrades Already

One of the beauties of Formula 1 is that if you're standing still you're falling behind. Despite it being less than a week since the chequered flag in Bahrain, only Alpine, KICK Sauber, and Haas are NOT bringing car upgrades for the Saudi GP.

Upgrade list

Red Bull - x3 circuit-specific upgrades

Mercedes - x1 performance upgrades

Ferrari - x2 circuit-specific upgrades

McLaren - x2 circuit-specific upgrades

Aston Martin - x1 performance, x1 circuit-specific upgrades

Williams - x2 circuit-specific upgrades

Racing Bulls - 1x performance, x3 circuit-specific upgrades


- Circuit-specific= An upgrade specifically designed for car performance on the Jeddah circuit only.

-Performance upgrade= An upgrade designed for car performance across all circuits.

Featured Image Credit: Getty

Topics: Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Ferrari, Mercedes, Formula 1, Charles Leclerc, George Russell