Lewis Hamilton wins the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, full of incidents and controversy.
The exciting race weekend at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit came down to its main event – the Sunday evening’s race, which was crucial for the championship battles.
Lewis Hamilton remained the race leader ahead of his teammate Valtteri Bottas at the start. Max Verstappen also stayed in his starting position, though Sergio Perez almost hit him. There also were a couple of small incidents between Yuki Tsunoda and Esteban Ocon as well as Lance Stroll and George Russell. Both cases were noted by the stewards.
A bit later, Fernando Alonso made a mistake in turn 1 and was eventually passed by Antonio Giovinazzi for the 10th position. Carlos Sainz also overtook the Alpine driver.
The Jeddah Corniche Circuit proved to be an unforgiving track once again on lap 10 as Mick Schumacher crashed into the barrier in turn 22. The Safety Car was deployed and a lot of drivers, including the Mercedes duo and Perez, used this opportunity to make a pit stop. At the same time, Verstappen stayed out and inherited the race lead.
A couple of minutes later, the race was stopped to repair the damaged barriers. At 9:15 p.m. local time the pit lane was open and the cars were back on track for a standing start.
Things got hectic at the restart. Hamilton had a better start than Verstappen and was slightly ahead. However, Verstappen stayed in front after going outside the track. That allowed Esteban Ocon to get to P2. Behind them, Charles Leclerc had a contact with Perez and the Mexican spun and hit the wall.
At the same time, Nikita Mazepin and Russell had a brutal collision. Perez, Russell, and Mazepin all had to retire. The race was stopped once again.
While the cars were at the pit lane, Red Bull and Michael Masi had a conversation regarding the incident between Verstappen and Hamilton at the start. In the end, it was decided that Ocon would be the leader at the restart, ahead of Hamilton and Verstappen in 3rd.
The pit lane was open at 9:40 p.m. and the drivers had their third standing start in 16 laps. Verstappen nailed the start and made a double overtake in turn 1 to take the race lead ahead of Ocon and Hamilton. Later on, the Mercedes driver passed Ocon on the main straight.
Hamilton remained quite close to Verstappen and was willing to retake the race lead. Another incident took place in turn 1 as Yuki Tsunoda and Sebastian Vettel collided. The AlphaTauri driver lost a front wing and had to pit, while the Virtual Safety Car was deployed. Tsunoda was given a 5-second time penalty for causing a collision.
Alonso’s struggles in Jeddah continued as he spun. Luckily, the car was not damaged and he kept going. Vettel had another incident – he had a contact with Kimi Raikkonen. A lot of debris fell off Vettel’s car, while Raikkonen went to the pits. The Virtual Safety Car was on again to remove the debris from the track surface. However, the track was not cleared properly, so the VSC had to be deployed for the third time.
Several laps later, the racing action was resumed. It did not last long though as another brief VSC was out. Hamilton got closer at the restart and attacked Verstappen in turn 1. The race leaders almost collided, but Verstappen stayed ahead despite leaving the track again.
Verstappen was asked to let Hamilton through. He suddenly slowed down in front of the Briton and they made a contact. Hamilton got damage on his front wing and the stewards decided to investigate the incident.
Behind them, Bottas was in the chase for the final podium position. He overtook Ricciardo and started closing to Ocon.
Verstappen let Hamilton through but instantly overtook him. However, the stewards gave the Dutchman a 5-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage. Shortly after, Hamilton took the on-track lead. Vettel’s race ended prematurely with 5 laps to go.
Hamilton went on to win the race and to catch Verstappen on points ahead of the season finale at Abu Dhabi. Verstappen finished second, while Bottas passed Ocon for 3rd at right at the finish line.
The results of the Formula 1 Saudi Arabian GP:
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing||+21.825|
|9||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing||+58.505|
|11||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||+1:17.212|
|13||Fernando Alonso||Alpine||+1 lap|
|14||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||+1 lap|
|15||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo Racing||+1 lap|
|16||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||DNF|
|18||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing||DNF|