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<strong>Verstappen edges out Leclerc to take the win in Saudi Arabia</strong>

Aditya Chaudhuri Aditya Chaudhuri

Double podium for Ferrari after Perez finishes fourth.

Reigning World Champion Max Verstappen pipped current championship leader Charles Leclerc right at the very end to take home his first victory of the season at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Ferrari made it a double podium through Carlos Sainz’s third place finish ahead of pole sitter Sergio Pérez missing out on what could have been a second win for Red Bull due to an untimely Safety Car which ruined the Mexican’s race. George Russell finished P5 ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, McLaren’s Lando Norris, and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly. Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Lewis Hamilton rounded off the final points places.

Leclerc’s second place finish means he still leads the championship by 12 points ahead of his teammate Carlos Sainz. Verstappen’s win puts him third with 25 points following his DNF at the season opener. Ferrari, meanwhile, are starting to build a solid lead in the constructors’ standings with a massive 50 point gap already established by the second race. George Russell’s back to back top five finishes means he has kept Mercedes just a point ahead of Red Bull in the battle for the second place. 

AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, who couldn’t take part in qualifying, was the first retiree of the race, even before the race started, with AlphaTauri deciding to pull out the young Japanese driver due to a drivetrain issue. With Haas’ Mick Schumacher already having been withdrawn by Haas the day before following his high-impact crash during qualifying, the grid had 18 cars starting in Jeddah. Pérez got off the line well and covered off a fast charging Leclerc. Leclerc in his attempt to catch Pérez was so aggressive that he squeezed his own teammate Sainz, who started behind him, and saw the Spaniard lose out in the opening corner to the ever-aggressive Verstappen. A little further back the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly had a horror start, losing places to Kevin Magnussen and Lando Norris by the second lap. Lewis Hamilton, who saw himself exit in Q1 for the first time since Brazil 2017, made up a place by the second lap, moving up to P14 brushing aside Alex Albon.

Hamilton’s teammate George Russell also had a solid start, nipping past Esteban Ocon by the third lap. With Russell going past Ocon, it left the Frenchman right in the sights of his wily old teammate Fernando Alonso, who wasted no time in trying to chase down his younger teammate. The next few rounds saw some of the most exciting wheel to wheel battle we have seen this season, that saw the two Alpine drivers get their elbows out trying to go past each other. Ocon managed to squeeze Alonso on the main straight but the two time world champion came back a couple of laps later and made the move stick and took sixth place from him. By lap 10, Pérez led Leclerc by more than two seconds with Verstappen and Sainz behind him. Hamilton meanwhile had started his charge and already made it to the fringes of the points at P12. 

Pérez was the first to pit on lap 16, although it should have been a Ferrari pit-stop, who seemed to have pulled a quick one past the Mexican, announcing on Leclerc’s comms, asking the Monegasque to pit, only for Red Bull to respond but when the Italian team saw the Red Bull head into the pits, they kept Leclerc out. With Leclerc starting on the hard compound, it seemed like they had got the better of Pérez and it all fell right into place the following lap. The Williams of Nicholas Latifi had a crash, going into the barriers, which saw the Virtual Safety Car deployed initially and later on the Safety Car was deployed, which meant Leclerc could now pit without losing his position. Once racing got underway on lap 21, Leclerc led from Verstappen while Pérez fell to fourth after having to give up his third place following a Safety Car infringement. Leclerc managed to hold on to his lead and built up almost a two second lead by lap 32. Hamilton meanwhile had moved up to P6, with the Brit’s former McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso also having a strong race at P7. 

Lap 36 saw Alonso retire with an engine issue and it opened a floodgate of retirements. McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo retired the same lap due to a power failure while Alfa Romeo’s Valterri Bottas also saw his race come to an end. With two cars on the track, limping back to the pits, the Virtual Safety Car was out and it gave Hamilton an opportunity to make his pitstop. Hamilton missed his chance to come into the pits and that meant he had to stay out until the VSC ended. Up ahead, Leclerc had his hands full with Verstappen and the Dutchman saw an opportunity to go past the Monegasque on lap 41 but Leclerc managed to retake his lead on the main straight with the DRS advantage. Verstappen and Leclerc were right on it for the next few laps and the Dutchman finally learnt from his earlier tries and took the lead of the race on lap 46. Verstappen managed to hold on to his lead by the skin of his teeth with Leclerc throwing everything he had at the Dutchman. Behind Leclerc Sainz finished a comfortable third ahead of Pérez who just seemed to have lost the pace following the restart. 

With that win, Verstappen got off the mark in the season and would feel a whole lot better following his DNF in Bahrain. Even though it wasn’t a podium for Red Bull. The Austrian team will also be glad after a double DNF in the opening race and given that Hamilton could manage only a single point from the race, Red Bull are now just a point behind Mercedes in the constructors’ battle. After two exhilarating races to kick off the season, we take a week’s break before heading to Australia for the first Australian Grand Prix since the 2019 edition. 

Saudi Arabia GP Race review
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Aditya Chaudhuri

Aditya Chaudhuri

Hailing from the City of Joy, the things that bring me joy are cricket, a good non-tilt CS:GO session, F1 and movies.

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