Lewis Hamilton wins action-packed Saudi Arabian GP
Lewis Hamilton has driven to victory today, Sunday, December 5, winning the inaugural Saudia Arabian Grand Prix around the high-speed street circuit in Jeddah. In one of the most spectacular races ever witnessed in F1, the win takes the Brit dead level on points with his title rival, Max Verstappen.
With only one more race to go, at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit, a better script for a season finale could not have been invented. Today’s nighttime showdown in the Middle Eastern kingdom had so many thrills and incidents, including two occasions with red flags suspending the race.
The seven-times world champion led from the off, with his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas doing a brilliant job in second spot holding off the imminent challenge from Verstappen in the Red Bull. Hamilton knocked out several fastest laps in the process.
This was the first appearance of F1 in Saudi Arabia, and its incredible circuit comprising concrete bordered corners, certainly lived up to its pre-race proclamation of being “the fastest street circuit in the world”. Verstappen had discovered this on his flying lap in Q3 as he clipped the concrete and spun out.
On Lap 10, the drama began, as Mick Schumacher went into the barriers at Turn 22, resulting in the race director, Michael Masi, sending out the safety car. Mercedes took this opportunity to pit Hamilton and change tyres, handing the lead to the Dutchman, who stayed out.
A standing start ensued after an 18 minutes delay, with the Brit getting past Verstappen briefly at Turn 1, but running over the kerb allowed Verstappen to regain the lead. Then came what can only be described as laughable from the FIA, and its race director Michael Masi.
A huge collision involving the three cars of George Russell, Mazepin and Sergio Perez saw Masi stop the race again, with a second red flag. For some unknown reason, Red Bull were now ‘offered’ the chance to start Verstappen from second place on the restart. Jonathan Wheatley responded with a ‘counter-offer’ that they would accept this only if Esteban Ocon was on pole.
At this point, Masi realised his error and the Dutchman had to settle for third place. Ocon was given pole position and they started one again. But, once again, more drama as Sergio Perez and Nikita Mazepin collided, and it was red flag time again.
After the restart, quite a moment as the two title challengers came together. It was Lap 37, stewards had instructed Verstappen to concede his place to Hamilton, who subsequently drove into the rear of the Red Bull when the Dutch driver suddenly slowed down. The Red Bull driver refused to give up his position, resulting in a five-second penalty.
Hamilton eventually took the lead on Lap 42, to set up a thrilling climax to the season next weekend in Abu Dhabi. Verstappen could yet face more punishment from today’s proceedings.