Footage of new Saudi F1 circuit reveals extreme elevation change

Alex Gassman

by Alex Gassman

Saudi Arabia have proposed a design for a radical new circuit in the Saudi Arabian city of Qiddiya.

New onboard simualtor footage reveals the extent of the track’s ambition design and massive elevation changes.

Saudi Arabia already hold one Grand Prix on the Jeddah Corniche street circuit. But the ambitious oil-rich country is never one to be outdone, and with the F1 limelight very much focused on new USA based races like Miami and Vegas over the last couple of seasons, they’re planning on building a new circuit to steal the show back.

The new track is based in the city of Qiddiya in central Saudi Arabia, on the outskirts of the capital Riyadh. And it’s like nothing you will have ever seen before.

One of the defining features of the proposed design is its elevation. In particular the first corner is reported going to be 70 metres above ground level on a raised platform, like in the image above. Never will ‘track limits’ have been more important to the drivers. 

Early renderings show how the Qiddiya Speed Park circuit will be elevated high above the city, which itself is the “capital of entertainment, sport and art” in Saudi. And potentially massive F1 crashes. It will also feature theme parks and water parks intertwined with the Grand Prix circuit.

The Saudis are always ambitious. Their ‘Line’ project is a great example of that; they want to built a new, 170km long vertical urban living enviroment through the desert. If that happens then I’ll eat my racing gloves.

And until now the proposal for the new Qiddiya circuit had been nothing more than the snazzy artist renderings that you can see above. But now a new video has emerged showing the circuit in 3D form being driven on a simulator by ex-F1 driver and Le Mans winner Alex Wurz. 

Wurz started 69 Grand Prix, scored 3 podium finishes and 1 fastest lap over the span of 7 seasons racing for Benetton, McLaren Mercedes and Williams.

Alex Wurz was approached by the Qiddiya project team to help design the circuit. He’s experienced competing against the best drivers on the best circuits in the world, so you’d think he’s well placed to design a pretty decent circuit.

The Saudis certainly think as much. So Wurz has teamed up with legendary designer of many modern (and boring) F1 tracks Hermann Tilke to bring the design to life. 

Wurz’s experience driving some great circuits is evident in the simulator laps he completes. The track has open sections like Spa and Suzuka, city sections that are reminiscent of Monaco and a corner similar to Laguna Seca’s corkscrew. Fast flowing corners (34 of them in total) fast changes of direction and tight hairpins for overtaking seem aplenty on the 7km track.

The elevation change is one of the most impressive stats. 129m per lap to be precise, which is more than any of the current F1 circuits. Over the proposed 40 lap race distance that would see the drivers climb higher than Europe’s tallest mountain Mont Blanc which stands at 4809 metres.

I’m sure there’s a huge number of hurdles to jump over yet to make this track a reality. Working out how to keep the cars from flying off the 70 metres high circuit and landing on a nearby rollercoaster is one of them. But the Saudi’s bank account isn’t. So it might happen, and if it does it will be quite the spectacle. 

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Alex Gassman

I‘m Alex. I write F1 and motorsport travel guides based on my experience as racing driver and full-time motorsport nerd. I’ve traveled the world watching F1 and other racing series.

I started oversteer48 with the aim of helping other motorsport fans who are planning on watching some racing themselves.

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