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F1: Ferrari out to double up in Saudi Arabia

Just four months after the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Formula 1 is back in Jeddah for round two of what is already a fascinating 2022 season.

Last year's race in Saudi Arabia was the penultimate Grand Prix of the year and set the stage for the now-infamous winner-take-all showdown between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi.

Rather than pulling things together for the conclusion to the campaign, this year the race will help set the tone for what to expect over the comings months.

Ferrari put down the first marker in F1's new era following the comprehensive rule changes by recording a one-two finish in the curtain-raiser in Bahrain and Scuderia driver Charles Leclerc is 11/8 to record back-to-back victories.

However, after leaving Bahrain empty-handed, Red Bull will be keen to get some points on the board and they could pose the biggest challenge to Ferrari's aspirations.

Another failure not acceptable for Verstappen

Verstappen was left raging after being forced to retire with three laps to go in Bahrain last weekend, with team mate Sergio Perez following him into the pits shortly after.

A double DNF was a disastrous way for Red Bull to start the season but they should be hopeful of a more positive outing in Saudi Arabia.

The Jeddah Corniche Circuit is the fastest street track on the Formula 1 calendar with drivers averaging over 155mph during the 3.836 miles-long laps.

No track has more corners than the 27 the drivers have to take along the Red Sea coast but with the majority able to be taken at high-speed, it's a circuit with characteristics that suit Red Bull.

The speed trap data from Bahrain showed that Red Bull had the fastest car on the grid in Bahrain and that straight-line speed gives Verstappen the platform to strike back.

The world champion drove a remarkable race the last time Formula 1 visited Saudi Arabia, getting himself in a position to take the win, only to have to cede position to Lewis Hamilton for an illegal overtake late on.

The Dutchman always drives right on the edge but will need to curb his aggression if he's to go one better than last year's runner-up finish at 6/4.

Ferrari firing on all cylinders

Ferrari will provide serious opposition to Verstappen and Red Bull though, based on the data from Bahrain. While Red Bull have the advantage of straight-line speed, the Scuderia appear to have the better aerodynamic package to counteract them.

Generating high levels of downforce will be one of the keys to victory in Saudi Arabia and the Italians look capable of staying right on the tails of the Red Bulls.

Last week's win in Bahrain - Ferrari's first victory in over two years - certainly doesn't look like being a flash in the pan and Leclerc should enjoy attacking this circuit with a far more competitive car than he had last year when he finished seventh.

The 24-year-old appears well suited to racing on street circuits, securing pole position for both the Monaco and Azerbaijan Grands Prix last year.

He's 6/4 to be the fastest qualifier again in Saudi Arabia having finally been handed a car that appears capable of fulfilling the promise that had race fans excited upon his arrival in F1 in 2018.

Leclerc drove an excellent race in Bahrain, showing great maturity for a driver that hasn't had a lot of experience in F1 of challenging for wins having won two of his previous 80 races.

He's backed up by an excellent partner too in Carlos Sainz Jr, who will hope to justify his price of 4/5 to finish on the podium for a third straight race as Ferrari eye for back-to-back one-two finishes for the first time since 2008.

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Hamilton and Mercedes face tough weekend

It's unprecedented to have got this far into a race preview in Formula 1's hybrid era without mentioning seven-time Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes, but they head to Saudi Arabia way off the pace.

Hamilton might have secured a respectable third place finish in Bahrain, one spot better off than team mate George Russell, but the result masks some major issues.

Hamilton was only in a podium place for five laps of the 57 contested at the Sakhir circuit with Mercedes estimating they were 0.8seconds per lap slower than leader Leclerc.

That's as a result of an underperforming Mercedes power unit and the aerodynamic issues that plagued the Silver Arrows in testing.

Hamilton and Russell drove excellently just to stay in the hunt for the top six last time out and can be relied upon to score points again in Saudi Arabia, even with some serious concerns over the downforce their Mercedes can generate. But a repeat of Hamilton's victory from last year at 10/1 looks far beyond this team right now with team boss Toto Wolff admitting they have significant work to do to close the gap on Ferrari and Red Bull.

F1 eager to avoid repeat of Jeddah chaos

Perhaps Mercedes' best hope of a positive result is for a repeat of last year's tumultuous Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to throw a spanner in the plans of Red Bull and Ferrari. The inaugural race in Jeddah featured three starts, multiple collisions and six retirements, and while officials have made a few changes to the circuit, they are mostly minor adjustments.

It's 4/5 that under 16 cars make it to the finish of the high-speed race and where there's chaos, there's an opportunity for the likes of Alfa Romeo and Haas to back up their surprisingly strong starts.

Four of the top six finishers in Bahrain had Ferrari engines with Kevin Magnussen snatching fifth for Hass, Valtteri Bottas guiding his Alfa home in sixth. Bottas' teammate Zhou Guanyu also deserves plenty of credit for snatching 10th on his debut.

The odd one out was Haas' Mick Schumacher but he's 6/5 to score his first-ever championship points this weekend at a venue where he suffered a scary crash last year.

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