Max Verstappen took his first win of the 2022 season, after leaving it late to overtake Charles Leclerc at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Team-mate Sergio Pérez finished an unfortunate fourth after incredible bad luck at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
After starting the race in fourth, Verstappen quickly found his way up to third, after Carlos Sainz Jr was boxed in on the opening lap by his Scuderia Ferrari team-mate. From then on the Dutchman settled into the race, making his only pit-stop during the Safety Car for Nicholas Latifi’s crash at the final corner.
Verstappen who sat in second behind Leclerc by the time racing had restarted, found himself within DRS range of the Ferrari driver in the closing stages of the race. He found himself within the one second window, after a Virtual Safety Car was deployed so that a number of stricken cars could be recovered after suffering from sudden reliability issues, much like he did in Bahrain!
It was then full attack from Verstappen, who after initially finding his way past on lap forty-two down into the final corner, was immediately overtaken by Leclerc on the rundown to Turn 1. Incredibly both drivers almost came to a stop on entry to the final corner, after both wanted DRS on one-another. Verstappen finally made his move to the lead stick with just a few laps remaining, to claim his first win and points finish of the new season.
Verstappen loved the battle with Leclerc, but was somewhat disappointed to have seen his team-mate fall out of the lead having controlled the race from pole so unfairly.
“It was a tough and crazy race today. I had a lot of fun battling with Charles again, I really enjoyed it and it’s not easy to get past him, patience is always key, especially if you want to fight for the Championship. In the beginning it was pretty difficult to follow but I think once we swapped to the hard tyre we were able to push more and the pace was better. We played the long game on the tyres which seemed to pay off.
“Towards the end of the race it felt like we were doing lots of quali laps, which was intense but really cool. Ultimately, we were able to win and we can be very proud of that as a Team. It wasn’t easy out there, but I think we maximised all that we could today. It was really unlucky for Checo with the timing of the safety car but we have plenty of races ahead of us where we can make up for it.”
“Today I really deserved the win” – Sergio Pérez
Sergio Pérez will be wondering what could’ve been! The Mexican had the lead and quite possibly the victory snatched from him in cruel fashion. Pérez, who started on pole, controlled the opening phase of the race beautifully. Oracle Red Bull Racing made the call to pit Pérez, after Ferrari had told Leclerc to box. However as Pérez came into the pits, Leclerc flew straight past and into the lead, after Ferrari it turned out had pulled a dummy on Red Bull.
It couldn’t have worked out any worse for Pérez, as on the same lap the Safety Car was brought out for Latifi’s crash, meaning that the majority of the field including his team-mate and both Ferrari’s got a free-stop.
Pérez was then forced to hand third place back to Sainz, after being deemed to have overtaken the Spaniard under the Safety Car. In the end Pérez brought his car home to a disappointing fourth, leaving him feeling extremely unlucky.
“I think sometimes when you don’t have the right luck you cannot win the race, especially on crazy tracks like this, it knocks you down. I think I dominated the first stint and I was comfortably in the lead and had the race under control but unfortunately that wasn’t enough. At first, it was a virtual safety car so I was going to lose a position and then under the safety car I lost out to Carlos too.
“It was the worst timing straight after my pit stop and made regaining P1 impossible after that. It was a bit of a shame I couldn’t get Carlos at the end to be on the podium but I didn’t get the chance. There are definitely a lot of positives to take from this weekend, yesterday putting it on pole and today having the race pace.
“So, we will keep pushing and working hard because today I really deserved the win but bad timing stopped that. I am really pleased for Max and the Team that we got a good result today, it could have been a one, two but unfortunately, we didn’t get it.”