Lewis Hamilton clinched a scrappy win at the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to seal his eighth win of the season. Max Verstappen finished in second position as the two title contenders clashed repeatedly on the track.
Valtteri Bottas battled his way back to clinch the final podium spot as he got past Esteban Ocon just before the finish line.
It was a chaotic race with two red flags, Safety Cars and innumerable Virtual Safety Cars. The two championship rivals clashed on the track and touched and survived the damage. It was a contentious battle with the Race Director and the stewards getting involved at several points.
Hamilton and Verstappen go to the last race of this epic season level on points in the drivers’ championship. As this race showed, the rivalry is at fever pitch with neither driver willing to give an inch.
The race at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia started under the lights with air temperatures at 28 degree C and track temperatures at 32 degree C.
The Pirelli tyre choice at this race is the white-striped hard compound tyres (C2), yellow-striped medium compound tyres (C3), and red-striped soft compound tyres (C4), the middle range of compounds in the Pirelli tyre range.
Hamilton started on pole position with team-mate Bottas joining him on the front row. Verstappen was on the second row with Charles Leclerc.
Sergio Pérez and Pierre Gasly started on the third row. Lando Norris, Yuki Tsunoda, Esteban Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi completed the top ten starting positions on the grid. All the drivers except Norris were on the medium compound tyres in the top ten.
Hamilton made a perfect start and led Bottas and Verstappen into Turn 1. Leclerc and Pérez jostled for positions but Leclerc held on to fourth position. Norris and Daniel Ricciardo gained places as Gasly and Giovinazzi lost places at the start.
Hamilton was outside the DRS-range from Bottas and Bottas from Verstappen when the DRS was enabled on the third lap.
On lap 10, Mick Schumacher crashed heavily into the barriers and brought out the Safety Car. Mercedes double-stacked Hamilton and Bottas and changed to the hard compound tyres. Verstappen stayed out and took the lead of the race.
The race was red-flagged on lap 13 which neutralized the advantage the Mercedes drivers gained by pitting under the Safety Car. Verstappen got a free change of tyres in the pit lane.
The order for the restart from the standing grid was Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Ocon, Ricciardo, Leclerc, Gasly, Pérez, Sainz, Giovinazzi, Tsunoda.
Hamilton made a good start and was ahead of Verstappen who overtook Hamilton from outside the track. Hamilton took evasive action and lost a place to Ocon.
At the back, chaos reigned as Leclerc shunted into Pérez ending his race. Mazepin was in the barriers and the session was again red-flagged.
On the restart, Verstappen was given a penalty for his overtake from off the track. Ocon was in pole position with Hamilton on the front row and Verstappen was behind them.
Verstappen from third position made a great start to take the lead of the race. Hamilton had to overtake Ocon to take second place.
The order was Verstappen, Hamilton, Ocon, Ricciardo, Bottas, Gasly, Giovinazzi, Vettel, Tsunoda, Leclerc.
Verstappen opened up a gap of 1.2 seconds to Hamilton by the end of lap 20. On lap 22, Tsunoda and Vettel came together and Tsunoda suffered damage and limped back to the pit.
The Virtual Safety Car (VSC) was deployed and ended on lap 24. Verstappen again opened up a gap of over one second to Hamilton.
Tsunoda was give a five-second penalty for the incident and Vettel suffered further damage when Kimi Räikkönen crashed into him. Another Virtual Safety Car was briefly deployed.
By lap 29, Hamilton was within DRS-range of Verstappen. The Virtual Safety Car was again deployed to recover debris.
The VSC ended on lap 33. The gap between Verstappen and Hamilton was now 1.7 seconds. On lap 36, yet another VSC was again deployed to recover debris.
On the lap 37, Hamilton almost overtook Verstappen and both the drivers went off the track. Verstappen was asked to give the place back and and he slowed down in the middle of the track.
Hamilton hit the back of Verstappen’s car and damaged his front-wing. Verstappen was given a five-second penalty by the stewards.
Verstappen was again asked to give the place back which he did briefly and then again took the lead using DRS. On lap 43, Hamilton took the lead and Verstappen struggled on the medium compound tyres and fell back.
Hamilton clinched his eighth win of the season and the point for the fastest lap. Verstappen finished in second position and both drivers will go into the final race at Abu Dhabi level on points.
Bottas had overtaken Ricciardo and with a last gasp effort overtook Ocon across the line to clinch the final podium place.
Ricciardo finished in fifth position as he took advantage of the first Safety Car when to stayed out and gained track position. Gasly finished in sixth position ahead of Leclerc and Sainz. Giovinazzi finished in ninth position ahead of Norris.
A stop and start chaotic race with Hamilton and Verstappen involved in numerous clashes at the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Hamilton emerged the winner and we go to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix next week with both drivers on equal points in the drivers’ championship.
2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Race Results:
|1||44||Lewis Hamilton||GBR||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||2:06:15.118||26||50|
|2||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Red Bull Racing||+11.825s||18||50|
|3||77||Valtteri Bottas||FIN||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||+27.531s||15||50|
|4||31||Esteban Ocon||FRA||Alpine F1 Team||+27.633s||12||50|
|5||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||McLaren F1 Team||+40.121s||10||50|
|6||10||Pierre Gasly||FRA||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||+41.613s||8||50|
|7||16||Charles Leclerc||MON||Scuderia Ferrari||+44.475s||6||50|
|8||55||Carlos Sainz||ESP||Scuderia Ferrari||+46.606s||4||50|
|9||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||ITA||Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN||+58.505s||2||50|
|10||4||Lando Norris||GBR||McLaren F1 Team||+61.358s||1||50|
|11||18||Lance Stroll||CAN||Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team||+77.212s||0||50|
|12||6||Nicholas Latifi||CAN||Williams Racing||+83.249s||0||50|
|13||14||Fernando Alonso||ESP||Alpine F1 Team||+1 lap||0||49|
|14||22||Yuki Tsunoda||JAP||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||+1 lap||0||49|
|15||7||Kimi Räikkönen||FIN||Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN||+1 lap||0||49|
|NC||5||Sebastian Vettel||GER||Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team||DNF||0||44|
|NC||11||Sergio Perez||MEX||Red Bull Racing||DNF||0||14|
|NC||9||Nikita Mazepin||RAF||Uralkali Haas F1 Team||DNF||0||14|
|NC||63||George Russell||GBR||Williams Racing||DNF||0||14|
|NC||47||Mick Schumacher||GER||Uralkali Haas F1 Team||DNF||0||8|