There are still five weeks to go until the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Yet, the event in Jeddah continues to be at the center of the discussions between the media and the fans, starting from the matter of the low consideration for human rights to the sport washing affair, up to doubts about the delays in setting up the city circuit, that is being built on the city's waterfront.
Mark Hughes, managing director of MRK 1 Consulting, told RaceFans the eight-month timeframe Jeddah's circuit is being constructed in is one of the shortest they have worked on.
“From my experience and from having worked on projects, Bahrain was built in 16 months, Abu Dhabi was built in 18 months,” - said Hughes - “We built the track in Thailand: From ground-breaking to our first event was 12 months at Buriram and that was another Tilke project. Tilke’s experience of fast-tracking projects is quite exceptional.”
As evidenced by the images released by Henry Hamilton on Twitter, Michael Masi also visited Jeddah, during an inspection on the progress of the construction of the circuit and its compliance with FIA standards.
“We also have regular visits from Formula 1 themselves, a number of Ross [Brawn’s] team have been there over the past couple of months,” he added.
Despite the concern, Hughes assured that the works will be finished by December 5 and that there will be no risk of not running the race in Saudi Arabia:
“The plan is the race will happen on the fifth of December, that will go ahead and I believe it will. From the progress I’ve seen, I’ve got no reason to doubt it.”
“With the amount of time it took to build Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Buriram, I think construction started on the 1st of April in Jeddah and the race is in December, that’s a significantly condensed timeframe.”
He then explained what the characteristics of the track will be, and what safety methods will be adopted, as, when not racing, the track will be used as highways.
“It’s a series of two roads that run parallel along the coastline. One lane takes you north then you get to a roundabout and come back and go south.
“That runs along the whole of the Jeddah city, and it’s an extension of that effectively so that we will join the existing road network.
“All of the barriers that are there can come out, they’re all temporary concrete barriers with sections of fencing, and that track can be reverted back to a public highway after the event.”
“So in the long term, it will be highways. In the infield, there are things like five-a-side football pitches and basketball courts and things. So it’s very much a sports and leisure zone. There are cafes and restaurants that are being built on the waterside, it will be an extension of the existing corniche.”