2022 AM Wings_Mono Negative

Mike on... the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Aston Martin Aramco's first ever demo run, making history with Jessica Hawkins, Tina Hausmann's F1 Academy debut, and racing on the streets of Jeddah. Plenty for Team Principal Mike Krack to ponder this week.

Mike on Saudi 2024 hero portrait

And we're off. The 2024 F1 season has begun, sandbags removed and the pre-season estimates and guesswork replaced with hard data. Bahrain is in the rear-view mirror, and we have a very busy week in Saudi Arabia for the team.

On the track, we're looking to build on a double-points finish in the season-opener. Off the track, we're lighting up the streets of Riyadh with Jessica Hawkins at the wheel. There's no shortage of talking points for Team Principal Mike Krack.

This is Mike on…

A solid start to the season

"After pre-season testing, we expected to be the fifth-quickest team at the Bahrain Grand Prix and last Saturday's race gave us the confirmation. We were a little better than expected in Qualifying, and perhaps this is something that will continue.

"I'm sure people look at where we finished and see us in the midfield – well ahead of the teams behind but not in touch with the cars ahead. I think we're probably closer than it appeared. Bahrain is tough on the tyres, and in testing, we were giving up a little one-lap pace to help us over a long stint. We went a little bit the other way come the Grand Prix.

"For me, the thing I wanted most from Bahrain was a solid start to the campaign and, all-in-all, that's what we got. Both cars made it to the finish; both in the points; no mechanical problems all weekend. The team did an excellent job at the track and also back in Silverstone. Operations, strategy, tyres, everything worked well.

"You have to give the drivers a race car that allows them to do what they need to do, whenever they need to do it. We didn't have any track time lost; we did not make any big mistakes. Everybody's a bit rusty, of course, that's always the way of these things after three months without a race – but it demonstrates how serious and how dedicated everyone is, and how hyper-focused the team is on getting the job done."

Mike on in line 1

False negatives

"There will be people who look at our performance in Bahrain this year, compare it to our performance in Bahrain last year, and see a negative. That's fair enough – we were on the podium last year and this year we're ninth and 10th. All I can do about that is refer everyone back to my columns from a year ago!

"The reality was that several of our competitors got off to a very slow start to their 2023 campaigns. We took full advantage of that in the early races, which reflects very well on our team – but by the end of last season, we were probably hovering between fifth and sixth quickest.

"A couple of months ago I said that if everyone had an average improvement over the winter, we'd probably be fifth fastest, which is where we are. I think we'll get better, but I'm happy with the start we've made."

Lance and Fernando

"Getting both cars home looked in jeopardy at the start of the race when Lance was hit going into Turn One and spun around. I was very happy with how he drove after that. It was a really good race from the back. He did a very long stint with plenty of pace and, crucially, good tyre management. It went under the radar, but it was a really strong performance.

"When you have to push hard and pass cars, it takes a lot more out of the tyres, especially somewhere as tough on the Pirelli rubber as Bahrain. Other drivers that were attacking had a lot of degradation, but he kept his alive and did the longest stint of all.

"Fernando, meanwhile, did what Fernando does: smooth; ultra-competitive; great qualifying lap. Lance just missed out on Q3 by a few hundredths of a second. It's going to be very small margins this year: anything less than perfect and you're out."

The growing appeal of F1

"As an aside, it's interesting seeing how the Bahrain Grand Prix is growing, and how that is a mirror for F1 in general. There were lots of children and young people in the paddock, in the grandstands and concourses, and I've never seen the circuit so busy. It had a really good buzz. The hotel was the same: lots of people there for the race, lots of engagement. Traditionally, it was one of the quieter Grands Prix. Not anymore, which is good to see."

Mike on in saudi in line fans

Racing on the Jeddah Corniche

"I made the trip from Bahrain to Jeddah on Tuesday, and the race we have on the Jeddah Corniche Circuit is a very, very different proposition. It couldn't be more different. The focus in Jeddah is on high-speed and lower drag levels. The surface is very, very smooth; the tyres last a lot longer. On paper, it should suit us a little bit more.

"It's a big operational job for the team to start the season with a back-to-back. We have a lot to analyse from Bahrain and not much time for that, plus the issue of adding upgrades, the conveyor of new parts, spares and so on. It's a very busy time of year."

F1 Academy

"This week sees the start of the F1 Academy season, where Tina Hausmann will represent us, driving for PREMA Racing. That's a big team to race with, and she has strong team-mates that I think are going to be the reference for the category.

"This initiative is very important, and I'm going to watch with great interest. As with all junior categories – perhaps also with F1 but especially with shorter calendars – the key thing is to finish. Steadily accumulating points rather than going for glory tends to pay off well. As we saw with the newest recruit to our Young Driver Development Programme, Jak Crawford, in Bahrain, you have to finish. That's my message to Tina."

A landmark moment

"Together with our title partner, Aramco, we made a little bit of history earlier this week on the streets of the Saudi Arabian capital, with Jessica becoming the first woman to drive the latest generation of F1 car in the Kingdom – jumping behind the wheel of AMR22 on the spectacular Riyadh Boulevard in the build-up to International Women's Day.

"This is important. Sport has the power to inspire, break down barriers and connect people who otherwise would not be connected. Not everyone can get to a racetrack, so we must take F1 to the people and show them that our sport is open to all."

Mike on saudi in line final image

Inspiring the next generation

"Before getting behind the wheel on the streets of Saudi Arabia, Jessica and Tina helped launch our new Aramco-supported karting initiative, aimed at bringing more women and girls into motorsport. It was an immersive day of STEM-focused tutorials, and we're going to roll out more of these across the season.  

"If you've read my columns before, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of karting, so this initiative makes me very happy. It's the entry level into motorsport and I'd like to imagine a future in which everyone gets the opportunity to do a few laps in much the same way everyone gets to kick a football at some point.  

"The more people we can get to engage, the more talent will come through – but even if you're not competitive, it's a great way to have fun. It's a physical activity, it's a social activity, and if the bug bites, the love of it never goes away. That's why you'll see Fernando, Max Verstappen, Robert Kubica and so on still hanging out at the kart track, having a good time. 

"Our journey and focus continues, on and off the track. Enjoy the race."

You. Us. Together.

I / AM membership

The ultimate fan experience.

Get closer to the team with unparalleled access, behind-the-scenes insights and once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and enjoy exclusive competitions, rewards, offers and more.

I / AM banner