Daniel Ricciardo on Jeddah's 'intense, fun' street circuit that leaves no room for error

McLaren driver tells 'The National' it's important 'to have composure, remain calm' around Saudi Arabian GP circuit

Saudi Arabia hosts its inaugural grand prix this weekend with expectations of high speeds and plenty of thrills on a street circuit billed as the fastest on the Formula One calendar.

McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo said Jeddah's 6-kilometre street circuit, built in just eight months, is "very-fast, enjoyable, intense and a lot of fun. It's really flowing, high-speed, six geared corners, you pay the price if you make a mistake."

On Friday night, Charles Leclerc crashed his Ferrari at high speed at Turn 23. Ricciardo said he was relieved the Ferrari driver walked away unhurt.

Speaking about the challenges of racing on a new track, Australian Ricciardo said with street circuits there is little room for driver error.

"The walls are very close. You can certainly be tempted to go over the limit. So it's important to have composure, remain calm and it's very hot as well, so trying to be cool, hydrated and all these sort of things just to help your focus and mental energy."

The 32-year-old added that, because its a new track, Jeddah will only get "faster and faster", but that he was looking forward to clocking up some quick times in Saturday's qualifying.

"We have a few things to work on tonight to improve the car and a few things I can work on but I'm pretty excited for qualifying tomorrow night."

Ricciardo said he was "taken aback" by the fans welcome when the arrived at the airport. "It was quite late too, but there were fans waiting, so we signed a few things and they were just ecstatic to have an F1 race here. Two of them said it was a dream come true to be able to come to a race here in their own country."

Ricciardo said that he his experience in Saudi Arabia so far had been an enjoyable one. "All I need is hot weather and I am happy. I am definitely enjoying it and it's been really cool," he added with a smile. "The facilities here are really good."

The first-half of the season did not go as well as expected for Ricciardo after his move from Renault. Currently eighth in the drivers' standings, three positions below teammate Lando Norris, Ricciardo initially struggled to impose himself at McLaren but has seen an uptick in performances since winning September's Italian Grand Prix.

McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo during practice. Reuters

"There have been some highs and lows, more lows earlier this season and then some highs later. I am happy with the trajectory I have been on. I'm not happy with the first part of the season, but I have certainly turned parts of it around. I definitely fulfilled all of my expectations. I'd say it's been really good."

With only two races left, culminating in next week's season-ending Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Ricciardo says he is looking forward to returning home to his native Australia in the off-season having not travlled home due to the pandemic over the past 18 months.

In the meantime, he hopes to sample more delights of Saudi Arabia's coastal city. "The difficulty is the schedule. Normally with a day race we get go out to a restaurant and see a bit of the city, but the race finishes late and it's difficult. I hope on Sunday night, if we get out at a reasonable time, maybe there's a chance to see more," he added.

Updated: December 4th 2021, 8:29 AM