A look back on the FORMULA 1 STC SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX 2023 – the third successive F1 race weekend in Jeddah.

Jeddah Sets the Pace!

As we prepare for the 2024 F1 season, let’s take a moment to look back and remember the action packed, high-speed third visit of Formula 1 to Saudi Arabia for the Formula 1 stc Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2023, which remarkably produced a race winner NOT named Max Verstappen!

Indeed, it was his teammate, Red Bull Racing’s Sergio Perez, who crossed the finish line after 50 thrilling laps around the Jeddah Cornice Circuit to win the FORMULA 1 STC SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX 2023. In front of a bumper crowd of over 140,000 spectators, the Mexican put in a dominant display under the floodlights to secure his fifth victory in Formula 1.

Just five seconds behind Perez was Max Verstappen, who drove superbly after starting a lowly 15th on the grid thanks to a driveshaft issue that scuppered his qualifying session. The world champion even took the fastest lap on the very final lap to secure the bonus point.

The second round of last season’s world championship was another incredible spectacle on the shores of the Red Sea. Fans spent the day enjoying the entertainment both in the hours leading up to lights out — in the circuit’s Fan Zone and watching the grid ceremonies — and long after the incredible drone show and fireworks, they flocked to the post-race concert headlined by Calvin Harris, Travis Scott, and Ahmed Saad.

Fernando Alonso finished third on the road at the world’s fastest and longest street track, but after the event was given a 10-second time penalty by the FIA stewards and was demoted to fourth. Mercedes’ George Russell inherited third place on the podium as a result before this was overturned on appeal a day later and two-time World champion Alonso regained his third spot.

Starting on the front row, Alonso took the lead going into the first corner, but his time at the head of field was short-lived as Perez was back in front by lap four. But worse was to follow for Alonso, as he was awarded a five-second time penalty for incorrectly starting in the wrong position in his starting grid hatch marking. The Aston Martin driver served the penalty, but it was during a Safety Car period, which is not allowed in the rules. As a result, he was given a more serious ten-second penalty after the chequered flag which demoted him to fourth behind Russell.

The Safety Car was deployed on lap 19 because Alonso’s Aston Martin team-mate Lance Stroll had come to a halt at Turn 13 on the instruction of his team due to a suspected mechanical issue. A number of drivers used the caution period to dive into the pits for fresh rubber, including the leaders, and at the restart Perez retained his advantage over Alonso. Just a few laps later, Verstappen was past the Aston Martin and five seconds behind the leader — but he didn’t quite have the pace to challenge for the win.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton finished in fifth place ahead of the two Ferraris — Carlos Sainz from team-mate Charles Leclerc — and the two Alpines. The final point went to the Haas of Kevin Magnussen. He had been involved in a spirited battle with the AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda and wrestled the final points-scoring spot away from the Japanese driver just four laps from the chequered flag.

It seems like only yesterday we were celebrating the inaugural Formula 1 stc Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, yet here we are already getting ready to line up the grid for in March 2024 and the forth race at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit!

To get your adrenaline pumping, here are 5 things you can look forward to in the 2024 Formula 1 World Championship season.

1. More races than ever before!

The 74th year of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship will be the longest in the sport’s history. Beginning in March and ending in December, the world’s premier racing series will feature 24 Grands Prix — the most in a single season. Add in the six shorter-distance Sprint events and that’s an incredible 30 races over the course of 2024.

The action gets underway in Bahrain on 2nd March, before the Formula 1 stc Saudi Arabian Grand Prix takes place a week later at the thrilling 6.1km Jeddah Corniche Circuit. All eyes will be on the Red Sea venue to see if the race will crown another different winner in its fourth edition of hosting a Formula 1 race.

Uniquely, both of the opening Grands Prix of 2024 will take place on Saturday night and will make up two of the six races that will take place under floodlights this coming year.

2. Can anyone stop Max Verstappen and Red Bull?

After his incredibly dominant performance last year, the question Formula 1 fans are asking is who can take the fight to Max Verstappen and Red Bull in 2024?

It’s difficult to believe he’ll be able to maintain his incredible results heading into the new season. Last year the three-time World Champion led over 1,000 laps and won an impressive 19 times. His nearest challenge in 2024 will come from Mercedes and Ferrari, as both teams have the resources and know-how to piece together championship-winning campaigns.

But will their new cars have the pace to catch the all-conquering Red Bull? If not, perhaps the biggest threat to Verstappen’s reign might come from his team-mate. Mexico’s Sergio Pérez started last season strongly — and won in Jeddah — until his form started to tail off as the year progressed. The battle for intra-team supremacy at Red Bull Racing will be as intense as ever.

3. Will Lando Norris win a race for McLaren?

When British driver Lando Norris burst onto the F1 scene in 2019, he was a revelation. Soon after his debut he was scoring podiums and nearly won a race in Sochi. After a difficult start to last year, his McLaren team made great strides and Norris was a podium finisher seven times in the latter part of 2023. The highlight was his start at Silverstone when he passed Verstappen to lead his home race.

But that first Grand Prix win still eludes the 24-year-old, who now has experience of 104 F1 starts despite his young age. Norris will have to keep his young team-mate Oscar Piastri at bay, which makes 2024 an intriguing prospect for McLaren fans. His rival on the other side of the papaya garage took his first win in the Qatar Sprint last year — an impressive achievement for a rookie driver. That will motivate Norris even more heading into 2024.

4. Look out for Fernando Alonso…

As the oldest driver on the Formula 1 grid, Fernando Alonso shows no sign of slowing down. He enjoyed a remarkable renaissance at the beginning of last season, scoring four podiums in the opening five races — including an eventful third place at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit (which was reinstated after the trophy ceremony).

While the Aston Martin team fell down the order in the second half of 2023 (which coincided with McLaren’s rise) there’s no doubt the team are fully motivated to reach the pinnacle of Formula 1. With their brand-new headquarters at Silverstone now operational and Alonso at the helm, watch out for the British Racing Green machines in 2024.

The 42-year-old has two World Championships (2005 & 2006) and 32 F1 wins to his name, but he hasn’t stood on the top step of the podium since the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix — that’s 218 races ago. You wouldn’t bet against it happening again soon…

5. A new support series

The all-new F1 Academy will kick-off the 2024 season with its opening race in Jeddah, supporting the Formula 1 stc Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on the weekend of 7-9th March. This year the all-female single-seater series will visit seven different venues across three continents, and each round will form part of the support package for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship.

Headed up by former Williams test driver Susie Wolff, F1 Academy has been created to develop and prepare female racers to progress to higher levels of motorsport competition — and the identical cars will have an affiliation featuring the livery of one of each of the ten F1 teams. 

Last year Emirati Hamda Al Qubaisi finished third overall in the points standings and as the drivers confirm their seats for the new season, who will succeed reigning title-winner Marta García to be crowned F1 Academy champion this year?