Max Verstappen will go into the final round of the season equal on points with Lewis Hamilton after finishing second to his rival in the controversial Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday.
The first-ever race at the Jeddah Cornice Circuit saw Verstappen embroiled in an often over-the-limit battle with Hamilton, with the Red Bull Racing driver ultimately coming out second best.
Verstappen attempted to defend his position at the front of the field, but often pushed his luck a little too far, particularly heading into turn one. However, after being asked to give up the position, he backed off on the back straight, only for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver to hit him as he did not realise Verstappen was letting him through.
The Dutchman ultimately fell behind Hamilton and finished second, with the opportunity to pit for fresh tyres and go for fastest lap out of the question due to the battle between Esteban Ocon and Valtteri Bottas being too close to make it work, particularly with a five-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage hanging over him.
He was handed a subsequent ten-second penalty post-race for what happened on the back straight while letting Hamilton through, but it had no effect on his final position.
“There was definitely a lot of action today, a lot of things happened,” said Verstappen. “I was told to give the position back, so I moved off the racing line and slowed down, Lewis just stayed behind me, I don’t understand why he didn’t pass.
“I don’t agree with the five-second penalty, but it is what it is and we’ll just move on.”
Verstappen says he will put the result in Saudi Arabia behind him as he goes into the season finale in Abu Dhabi next weekend, with the Dutchman still ahead in the Drivers’ Championship due to the number of wins he has achieved this year.
“We didn’t have perfect pace in the race today, so that’s something to work on looking ahead to Abu Dhabi,” said the Dutchman. “We’re on equal points now heading into the final race, it’s going to be an exciting end to the season.”
“It wasn’t the best weekend for the Team” – Sergio Pérez
Team-mate Sergio Pérez’s race was over on the first lap after the first restart, when he found himself spun around by Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on the exit of turn three that saw him hit the wall.
The safety car and subsequent red flag for Mick Schumacher’s crash had seen him drop down to eighth in the running order, but he was able to jump Pierre Gasly at the restart, only for his race to
The incident also caused chaos behind as cars were forced to slow to take avoiding action around the Mexican, who was facing sideways across the track, with the races of both George Russell and Nikita Mazepin ending in another crash.
Pérez says it was painful to lose out on points in Saudi Arabia, but despite Red Bull being twenty-eight points behind Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship, he says they will be doing everything they can to overhaul their rivals in Abu Dhabi.
“It wasn’t the best weekend for the Team, we lost crucial points in the Constructors’ Championship, so we are going to Abu Dhabi now to try and turn things around,” said Pérez. “We were slightly unlucky with the first red flag but we got away well after the second restart.
“We got past Gasly and Charles and as I was coming out of turn three there just wasn’t enough room for everyone, given how the corner was. I ended up tangling with Charles, he clipped my rear tyre with his front right tyre. It was a bad moment for everyone but just a very unlucky one.
“It is just a big shame because we needed those points today. I stayed with the car out on track because we were trying to turn the engine back on, we thought we could restart it but it was a bit on the hot side so we had to retire.
“It was a very important race for the Team today so this one hurts a lot but there is hope for Abu Dhabi. There is still optimism and something to fight for and we will give the final race of the season everything so let’s look forward.”