Formula 1

2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – Verstappen Dominates to win Again as Bearman Stars on Debut

5 Mins read
Credit: Sam Bloxham / LAT Images

Max Verstappen continued his dominant start to the 2024 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season with a sublime drive to victory in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Saturday, while Scuderia Ferrari debutant Oliver Bearman finished an excellent seventh.

Oracle Red Bull Racing finished first and second for a second consecutive weekend as Sergio Perez took runners-up spot behind Verstappen despite the Mexican being given a five-second time penalty for an unsafe release during his pit stop.

Verstappen held onto the lead at the start from pole position from fellow front row starter Charles Leclerc, and apart from a handful of laps following an early safety car, the Dutchman was untouchable at the front of the field as he took a ninth consecutive Grand Prix victory.  It was, however, the first time he has won both the opening two races of a season.

The first retirement of the season came at the end of lap one, with Pierre Gasly continuing the BWT Alpine F1 Team’s difficult start to the campaign with a trip to the pits. He complained on the way to the grid of a potential gearbox issue, but after taking the start, his team called him into the pits to retire.

Lando Norris appeared to move on the grid prior to the lights going out, but no penalty was forthcoming, with stewards clearing him of a jump start, perhaps down to the fact he stopped again and was slightly bogged down getting away.

His McLaren F1 Team team-mate Oscar Piastri made light work of Aston Martin Aramco Formula 1 Team’s Fernando Alonso to move into fourth into turn one, while Perez was able to do the same to pass Leclerc for second into the same turn.

Stroll Crash Brings out Safety Car

The safety car was deployed after Lance Stroll crashed his Aston Martin on lap seven, the Canadian touching the inside wall at turn twenty-two that shot him with a broken front suspension into the barriers at turn twenty-three.  He was out on the spot but was able to walk away unscathed on what was somewhat of a high speed incident.

The majority of the field headed to the pits for their one and only pit stop, with Norris, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Hülkenberg and Zhou Guanyu the only drivers not to change to the hard tyres.  Perez was released by the team into the path of Alonso, who was forced to take a little bit of avoiding action as a result, with the stewards handing the Mexican his time penalty.

Norris inherited the lead, the first driver other than Verstappen to lead a race so far in 2024, but it was not long before the Dutchman was back at the front, the pass happening on the run to turn one on lap thirteen.

Hamilton had climbed to third as a result of not stopping behind the safety car but fell back behind both Perez and Leclerc not long after the restart, before both drivers also made their way ahead of Norris to run second and third.  Such was the advantage of the RB20, Perez was able to scamper more than the five necessary seconds clear of Leclerc to maintain second at the chequered flag.

Piastri and Hamilton enjoyed a good battle over fifth prior to the British driver making his pit stop, but the Australian was hampered by a DRS unit on his McLaren not being as good as many other teams, and despite having better tyres and a seemingly faster car, he was unable to make a clean pass for position.  He ultimately inherited fourth after both Norris and Hamilton pitted.

Bearman Scores Points on Grand Prix Debut

Alonso and George Russell were in close proximity for much of the afternoon, but the Aston Martin driver had enough pace to keep the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver behind him, but the star of the day was debutant Bearman, who moved from eleventh on the grid to finish an excellent seventh.

Bearman, a last minute replacement this weekend for an ill Carlos Sainz Jr., started on the soft tyre and pushed Visa CashApp RB’s Yuki Tsunoda at the start, but it wasn’t until the restart after the safety car where he was able to pass the Japanese driver.

The British driver, who had taken pole position in FIA Formula 2 earlier in the weekend before being called up by Ferrari, did not put a foot wrong all evening long, and despite both Norris and Hamilton having fresher, softer tyres in the final stint, he was able to claim seventh and become the first British driver to score points on debut since Paul di Resta back in 2011.

The final point went the way of Hülkenberg, but only after an excellent rear guard defence from his MoneyGram Haas F1 Team team-mate Kevin Magnussen, who played the team game to perfection to delay a queue of cars, the Dane having twenty-seconds worth of penalties hanging over him for a couple of misdemeanours earlier in the race.

The first came after passing Tsunoda with all four wheels off the track, while he the second was for pushing Alexander Albon into the wall at the same turn.  It meant he was able to help Hülkenberg by backing Tsunoda, Esteban Ocon, Albon and Logan Sargeant up in the first sector by sometimes upwards of a second and a half per lap, which allowed the German to pit and come out ahead of them all.

Albon Misses Out on Points, Zhou Suffers Pit Issue

After the contact with Magnussen cost him part of his front wing endplate and being one of those being delayed behind the Dane, Albon finished the race just outside of the points in eleventh, while Magnussen’s penalties relegated him only to twelfth, courtesy mainly of the rest of the field being lapped.

The first of those to be lapped was Ocon, the Frenchman enduring another tough race for Alpine, while Tsunoda will be frustrated to end up only fourteenth having started ninth and running in the points early on.

Sargeant ended fifteenth in the second Williams, while Daniel Ricciardo was rather anonymous in the second RB, ending sixteenth, ahead only of the two Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber drivers, Valtteri Bottas and Zhou.

Bottas was the only driver to make two pit stops during the race, the Finn gambling on the soft tyre for the final stint, but the final pitter in the race was Zhou from tenth.  He perhaps wouldn’t have been a contender for points having not gained as much time as Hülkenberg had by being ahead of Magnussen as the Dane backed up the pack, but a very slow pit stop put paid to a good result.

But ultimately, Red Bull are unbeaten in 2024, Verstappen has the chance in Australia in two weeks time to equal his own record of ten consecutive race victories, while Bearman is likely to be in back in Formula 2 machinery with Sainz keen on returning after his surgery.

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Race Result

11Max VerstappenNEDOracle Red Bull Racing 
211Sergio PerezMEXOracle Red Bull Racing+13.643
316Charles LeclercMONScuderia Ferrari+18.639
481Oscar PiastriAUSMcLaren F1 Team+32.007
514Fernando AlonsoESPAston Martin Aramco Formula 1 Team+35.759
663George RussellGBRMercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team+39.936
738Oliver BearmanGBRScuderia Ferrari+42.679
84Lando NorrisGBRMcLaren F1 Team+45.708
944Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team+47.391
1027Nico HülkenbergGERMoneyGram Haas F1 Team+1:16.996
1123Alexander AlbonTHAWilliams Racing+1:28.354
1220Kevin MagnussenDENMoneyGram Haas F1 Team+1:45.737
1331Esteban OconFRABWT Alpine F1 Team+1 Lap
1422Yuki TsunodaJPNVisa CashApp RB+1 Lap
152Logan SargeantUSAWilliams Racing+1 Lap
163Daniel RicciardoAUSVisa CashApp RB+1 Lap
1777Valtteri BottasFINStake F1 Team Kick Sauber+1 Lap
1824Zhou GuanyuCHNStake F1 Team Kick Sauber+1 Lap
RET18Lance StrollCANAston Martin Aramco Formula 1 TeamRetired
RET10Pierre GaslyFRABWT Alpine F1 TeamRetired
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Long time motorsport fanatic, covering Formula 1 and the occassional other series. Feel free to give him a follow on Twitter at @Paul11MSport.
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