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Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2022

Dieter's Diary: Race day arrives after an eventful weekend for F1

RacingNews365.com Editorial Director Dieter Rencken reports directly from the F1 paddock after the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Saudi GP Circuit Jeddah
To news overview © RN365/Michael Potts



Leave hotel – it’s a working day in Saudi so traffic is heavy, necessitating 45 minutes to cover 20km. En route I seek a fuel station to fill the car ahead of returning it early morning before flying home to Belgium via Dubai. Ironically, in the world's richest oil state, I don't see one on our side of the double highway, so will need to track one on way to the airport during Monday's early hours.


I'd departed early as the circuit invited me to lunch in the premium hospitality area - a two-storey building straddling the circuit after Turn 3. It's a walking buffet consisting of mainly Japanese and Latin American dishes, with the seared wagyu beef being superb; afterwards I gorge on caramel cheesecake while watching a local supercar race from up high…

The vista across the track is majestic and does full justice to the snaking street circuit, something I had missed during my trackside session on Saturday, when high walls and catch fences impeded my viewing.

On my return to the media centre reception area I'm given two boxes containing limited edition Bell mini helmets - one green, one purple - commemorating the 2021/22 races respectively. It's a lovely gesture, particularly as I'm a collector of such helmets.

			© Dieter Rencken
	© Dieter Rencken


Walk the paddock in search of news. It seems earnest talks are underway to up the budget cap to compensate for a doubling of freight and transport costs due to the triple whammy of post-Covid consumer demand, fall-out from the Ukraine invasion and airlines hiking prices to claw back losses under pandemic. The situation was revealed here but seems worse than feared.

Another hot topic is F1's plans for fully synthetic (or bio) fuels from 2026: it seems various fuel suppliers, who convene via the Formula 1 Fuels Advisory Panel forum, are unable to agree on a standard for the future, with some not convinced about the need to develop such fuels. Thus, F1 could find itself developing a "drop in" zero carbon fuel to be supplied to all teams.

All well and good, except the likes of Shell, Petronas and BP could get the hump about their products not being used in F1 and decide to pull team and trackside sponsorship programmes - potentially losing the sport hundreds of millions annually. Hence pushback from oil companies, teams and suppliers.

The irony is, though, that engine suppliers stipulate the fuels and lube specifications used by customer teams, so stickers on flanks of cars do not necessarily correlate with what's in the sump: Aramco does not supply the fuel used by Aston Martin - Mercedes partner Petronas does - and ditto McLaren, whose cars sport Gulf colours. Ferrari customers Alfa Romeo and Haas use Shell.

During my chats about sustainability and F1's 2030 net zero targets, I discover that all flowers and foliage in the circuit's triple-story premium hospitality unit and the top notch Paddock Club were imported from Amsterdam - believe me, wherever I looked I saw green. Saliently, just 0.7 percent of F1's carbon footprint is emitted by the car's engine, yet the sport is obsessed with zero carbon fuels while flying in flowers…


I notice a cruise liner berthed a few hundred metres offshore, which is a good omen: if the captain believes his ship to be safe from missile attacks, then who am I to be concerned? Equally, helicopters are sitting ducks, yet thrash about Jeddah's skies non-stop. As an aside, I'm told the Yeminis who attacked the oil storage facility agreed to a ceasefire for race weekend, but only after Saudi mounted a massive revenge attack.

			© Dieter Rencken
	© Dieter Rencken


Grid time - from the packed grandstands and units overlooking the start area, it's clear race promoter Martin Whittaker's target of 45k spectators for race day has been achieved, with crowd numbers and traffic being well up on last year - which was not only the circuit's maiden race but also the penultimate round in the battle royale between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. Having a full house around 100 days after that race is some achievement.


After the various post-race interviews and media sessions which we'll be publishing in the week ahead, it's time to pack up and head for the airport 20km away. I leave in plenty of time, which is just as well as the satnav directs me to a rental car depot - where cars are washed and repaired, not the return facility, which happens to be another 10km away…

Problem sorted, I check in to fly home via Dubai after three very hectic and tiring weeks away.

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