Let me first tell you about the track before we get onto what the teams have to do as they are under just as much pressure as the engineers and construction crews working through the nights leading up to the race.
On the 5th December we will witness the Jeddah Grand Prix, but what is amazing about this is everything we will see has been built since April this year. That is 7 months building a FIA street circuit track from scratch breaking all previous records.
Over 3000 contractors from 30 different countries were involved which kinds of tells it's own story. This is project management on steroids as everything has to go according to a set time schedule. other tracks in the past have incorporated parts that were already there, but Jeddah had a beach that needed to be reclaimed.
Some of the figures being mentioned are staggering in what has gone into the building of the circuit
600 000 tons of cement
37 000 tons of asphalt for the track (6.175km long)
30 000 square meters of bricks
1 400 tons of glass
200 000 meters of cabling
2000 tress planted
It Is All About Your Simulator
Now back to the teams as this is the interesting part that is going to make the difference between winning and losing the race. Existing circuits are straight forward as the teams have data loaded on their simulators but a new race means this now has to be bought to life.
Certain teams like Mercedes are so far ahead due to Toto Wolff being involved in gaming companies from his own startup venture capital company. His inside line has kept them ahead of all their competitors giving the the crucial edge.
Most teams will be given a file with the circuit layout, but Mercedes build their own. The road surface is checked along with the camber of the corners and every bump along the 6.175km track. A drone is used to get a better perspective along with the racing topography. The gaming side comes in once the track has been laid out as now all the extras like buildings and tress are now added to complete the picture. These are land marks the drivers can use to distinguish what is coming next whether it is a bend or a twist or even a straight. These land marks help the drivers learn the circuit that much quicker so they can get up to speed literally.
The simulator is the most important part of kit besides the car the team have as it plays such an important role. Even though the drivers have never raced the circuit before the team would have done 100's of hours of testing on their behalf before they get behind the simulator.
The car set up will vary depending on what type of track you are racing along with the type of asphalt surface. The right types of wings are selected helping the overall balance of the car. The driver can then tweak certain things whilst testing the simulator for the first time. The data already in the system would be guiding their selections up to this point before the live testing happens the day before the race itself. A team like Mercedes will be 99.9% ready before their drivers have even driven around the track for the first time. The gaming side with the simulator is the advantage they have and will always have the best due to Toto Wolff's involvement.
What was important to note for the Qatar Grand Prix last weekend Lewis Hamilton flew back from Brazil to work on the simulator as it was also a new circuit. Other teams went straight from Brazil to Qatar which also shows the professionalism of Hamilton taking the extra time to make things right. This is what I mentioned about before something that only a Schumacher would have done. This is what separates the men from the boys when it comes to race preparation.
The Jeddah track is only having it's finishing touches being added this week and over the weekend yet certain teams will be waiting patiently to collect more data. That data will be on their simulators come Monday morning as there is nothing left to chance. This sport is worth millions and millions of dollars and nothing is too small to be overlooked.
This is one of the reasons why the FIA bought in monetary budget caps as not all teams had these types of facilities. Mercedes had these facilities right from the beginning and have managed to stay ahead. It helps if your team principal/part owner owns or is a share holder in these gaming companies as the cost would be minimal. This is why many of the teams have partnered up with various computer companies as their needs are that big and important.
Whoever has done their homework for this next race will come out on top and that is why I still believe Mercedes will win this years Championship. They as a team are a class act and have finally focused in on what counts.