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Saudi F1 track changes have reduced “blind fear” – Sargeant

The “blind fear” of tackling the Jeddah Formula 1 circuit has been reduced by layout tweaks for 2023 that improve safety and visibility, according to Williams rookie Logan Sargeant.

An aerial view of the circuit

Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Recognised as the fastest street track on the calendar, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix host venue has drawn criticism since its 2021 debut for close walls that block the drivers’ sight lines through corners.

Ahead of a second race in March 2022, the layout was revised as select walls were pushed back and the track widened but further steps have now been introduced ahead of this weekend's race.

Most notably, the addition of a bevelled kerb and changing the position of a fence has cut speeds through the left-right sequence of Turns 22-23 by 30mph.

In addition, a fence has also been pushed back by 7.5 metres at the quicker Turn 4 and by five metres at Turn 20 to improve visibility.

Sargeant, who made his FIA F2 debut at the venue for HWA Racelab in 2021 before returning to the track for Carlin last year, reckoned these modifications have lessened the “blind fear”.

Asked by Autosport if the tweaks had helped, the Floridian said: “The changes that they made are definitely positive from a driver's perspective.

“Visually, being much more open, it takes away a bit of that blind fear feeling of not knowing what's around the corner.

“They've elevated the back side of the exit kerbs to ultimately stop bottoming.

“So, I think all that is positive and more reasonable for a driver.”

Logan Sargeant, Williams Racing

Logan Sargeant, Williams Racing

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Piastri: simulator can’t replicate Saudi “fear factor”

Despite the modifications, the circuit remains revered among drivers and its “fear factor” is not something that can be replicated in the simulator, per McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.

The Australian, who like Sargeant is a top-flight rookie, won the second FIA F2 sprint and feature race at the Saudi Arabian venue on his way to the 2021 title for Prema Racing.

But following a year on the sidelines in his understudy role at Alpine before making his McLaren switch, Piastri concedes he is still race rusty.

PLUS: How did the 2023 F1 rookies fare in Bahrain?

That adaption process is not helped by the experience from the team’s soon-to-be-replaced simulator, which Piastri says cannot fully repeat the “fear factor” of the exposed Corniche coastal circuit.

He said: “It's tricky to fully replicate the conditions with the wind direction, how much grip is going to be on the track.

“Obviously, in a street circuit, the grip is constantly evolving pretty rapidly. It's difficult to do that.

“On a sim, the fear factor is not quite there. That makes things a little bit more forgiving on the sim, but there’s quite a lot to try and dial myself into so when I hit the track for the first time.”

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