F1 – Saudi Arabian GP – Race
Ahlan, MiniFans! After yesterday’s crash, Mick Schumacher won’t take part in the race, despite the driver saying he feels okay. Joining him in those who won’t start today is Yuki Tsunoda, whose car stopped on the way to the grid and had to bow out of the Saudi Arabian GP. Once again Ferrari and Red Bull settle as the top dogs, while Hamilton couldn’t even make it past Q1.
Everyone chose mediums for their first tyres, with three clear exceptions: Hamilton and Hulkenberg at the back, and Magnussen. The start was extremely clean, something quite unexpected for a track like Jeddah. Only a handful of positions got swapped, the most notable one being Verstappen managing to get past Sainz, before everyone settled.
The first tough fight came courtesy of Alpine, as Ocon set an iron defence to protect his position from Alonso, who eventually got past his teammate. Ocon tried to get back to him, but he needed to give the position back due to having gained an advantage off track. This caused both Bottas and Magnussen to get close to the pink cars, but with Alonso back at the helm, they started making a gap big enough so that DRS could not be used. However, the battle continued within the French team until orders were relayed through the radio.
The hard tyre seemed to be working for Hamilton better than anything else in the whole weekend, and 14 laps in, he made it to the first position that gives points out after overtaking Gasly. Meanwhile, Ferrari tried to trick Red Bull, as Leclerc asked to box in order to try and overtake Pérez, but did not go in once he saw the Mexican turning into the pitlane. Barely a minute after that, Latifi crashed into the wall, prompting a virtual safety car first and a fully fledged safety car after that. This caused Pérez to lose positions to Leclerc and Verstappen, while Pérez barely got past Sainz, who complained and said he had been in front and the overtake was illegal.
The complaint on Sainz’s part continued even when the race got restarted, when he managed to get past Pérez after Red Bull informed his driver that he needed to give the position back. His teammate at Ferrari, Leclerc, also did his job flawlessly, managing to fend off Verstappen to keep his lead. Further back, Hamilton had managed to get to sixth place, finally settling right behind his teammate.
The race was mostly settled by lap 30, but Red Bull isn’t a team that is known for backing down from a fight, so both their drivers were still trying to keep up with the Italian cars. However, we know better than to sign off on these things, and both Alonso and Ricciardo’s cars gave up on them in the same lap, while Bottas retired the car as well. All of them seemed to have power issues, pointing at reliability issues. A virtual safety car was deployed after both the McLaren and the McLaren stopped in the pit entry, blocking it and making Race Direction close it. Magnussen had managed to pit for fresh tyres, as did Hulkenberg, but Hamilton, in another stroke of bad luck, couldn’t do it.
Once the cars were removed from the track, the VSC ended and the pit entry was reopened. Hamilton finally pitted for medium tyres, dropping out of the points, and the battle was back on at the front. Neither Leclerc nor Verstappen backed off, with Verstappen eventually blocking his tyres in an effort to cross the DRS line in second place. Leclerc took advantage of this, as Verstappen slowed down a bit too much, and started opening a gap with the Red Bull. However, the current world champion is not a driver that likes settling for second place.
Verstappen eventually got past, while his teammate was also close to being in DRS range with Sainz. One last incident, this time between Stroll and Albon meant a yellow flag was displayed in sector 1, but it wasn’t in the main straight, so Leclerc could use the DRS. However, this wasn’t help enough for the Monegasque, who had to settle with second place and the fastest lap of the race, while his teammate kept third, giving Ferrari another double podium.
Formula 1 is one of those sports where anything can happen at any point during the event. Once the race looked like it was basically decided, bar an accident or similar, three cars decided to come to a stop in the same lap, two of them in the pit entry, slowing the race down for a while before the last round. Verstappen managed to score his first win of the season, while his Pérez could not take advantage of his pole position, due to Red Bull being tricked by Ferrari and the almost immediate safety car that followed. However, it’s still a nice handful of points for the team, who score the first ones of the season, while Hamilton barely made it into the points.