The Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team will remember the first-ever Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as one of the craziest nights of their lives, as two red flags, multiple safety cars and VSC’s as well as a dangerous collision between race winner Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, saw Mercedes take control of the Constructors’ championship.
The Jeddah Corniche Circuit certainly delivered, for too many reasons! The Grand Prix saw tensions boil over for Red Bull Racing, whereas Mercedes remained relatively calm, despite losing positions moments before the opening red flag. Both Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas pitted under the first safety car of the race, thinking it would give them an advantage later on. It was a good idea but one which ultimately backfired, after the red flag was flown moments later.
Bottas lost out during the restart as did Hamilton, after being forced wide by Verstappen. The red flag was again brought out though after multiple collisions took place further down the field. At the restart Verstappen was on softer tyres than Hamilton, with the world champion opting for the hard compound. This saw Verstappen get an excellent launch off the line and take the lead of the race.
Hamilton was quickly on the tail of Verstappen though, with the pair duelling for first, the race then began to take an ugly turn. Hamilton towards the end of the race got an excellent slipstream down into Turn 1 and dived down the inside of Verstappen, the Dutchman failed to make the corner and went straight across the chicane, gaining an advantage in the process. He was awarded a five-second penalty as a result.
Red Bull instructed Verstappen to let Hamilton pass, which he tried to do down the back straight after slowing massively. Hamilton wasn’t told that Verstappen was trying to let him pass, the world champion was visibly confused as to what the Dutchman was doing. The talking point of the race then occurred, Verstappen suddenly braked sharply resulting in Hamilton hitting the back of Verstappen’s car, heavily damaging his front-wing. After the race Verstappen was awarded a further ten-second penalty for the incident.
Anger and confusion went back and forth between the teams, drivers and the FIA, with Verstappen then eventually letting Hamilton past before cunningly diving immediately back up the inside at the final corner. Verstappen however then let Hamilton take the lead, this time without fighting back. Hamilton then went on to claim victory and the fastest lap, in what was one of the most bonkers, intense, confusing races in Formula One history. Hamilton is level on points with only one race to go!
For third Bottas closed down on Esteban Ocon in rapid fashion, before out-dragging the Frenchman across the line to take a memorable third.
Team Principal Toto Wolff believes the race was exciting for the wrong reasons, and that it was the teams cool head which saw them take a double podium.
“Winning the race today, in such a dramatic way, I think Lewis deserved it. We could have been out a few times with a broken front wing – it was a spectacular race, if not necessarily a good one. We obviously had frustration at the beginning with the red flag but today was a difficult race to manage for Race Control – when is a virtual safety car is called, when is a safety car called, when is a red flag? It’s so tough, and I’ll reserve judgement until I watch the race back tomorrow.
“Both our drivers kept their cool heads, and kept pushing and pushing. Lewis drove so intelligently and with patience. Valtteri made a great comeback and to take P3 on his 100th race for Mercedes is just brilliant, a big haul of points for the team. At the end it’s all going down to the wire, that’s how the sport should be and we love it!”