With only one race left of the 2021 Formula 1 season, there is still everything to fight for as the two contenders for the Championship title are currently tied on 369.5 points.
The results of the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix did not reflect quite how dramatic the penultimate race of the season was.
The track is one of the fastest on the calendar and the race was set up to be focused on pace and precision.
Here’s how the dramatics of the first ever Saudi Arabian Grand Prix unfolded.
What happened in qualifying?
Qualifying saw Max Verstappen flying through, putting in lap times that were four tenths quicker than anyone else. However, the Dutchman locked up at the final corner and as he got on to the throttle, he slid into the wall and crashed, causing so much damage he had to stop.
Seven time world Champion Lewis Hamilton was then able to start on pole with his teammate, Valterri Bottas, coming in second.
McLaren’s Lando Norris was also putting in extreme efforts to maximise the potential of his car but unfortunately was unable to convert this to a strong qualifying position as he dropped from a possible fourth to seventh.
In the end, Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen were followed by Charles Lecler, Sergio Perez and Pierre Gasly before Norris came in with Yuki Tsunoda, Esteban Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi making up the first 10.
What happened in Sunday’s race?
Lewis Hamilton had a strong start and all eyes were on the drivers going into the first turn which had been predicted to bring excitement and danger. However, it was not until lap 10 that the first drama of the day happened.
Haas’ Mick Schumacher spun and crashed into the turn 23 barriers bringing out the safety car which soon turned into a red flag.
The red flag gave Verstappen a free stop in the pits, while the Mercedes had stopped under the yellows.
The lap 15 standing start had Hamilton leading but it was not long before the next incident took place. Verstappen went wide and off-track at the first chicane, cut back across Hamilton who then dropped to P3 behind Alpine’s Ocon.
Sergio Perez was caught by Ferrari’s Leclerc while Nikita Mazepin collided with George Russell ending both of their races and another red flag was called just seconds after the restart.
Ocon benefited hugely from the restart as he started upfront with the two title contenders behind him.
Verstappen made a phenomenal move on his new medium tyres as he took the lead with Hamilton finding himself impeded by the Alpine who had missed the Turn 2 apex reminiscent of Verstappen in the first restart.
Between lap 28 and 36, there were three virtual safety cars and Hamilton was soon in DRS range of his rival. The Briton attempted to overtake on lap 36 but the Red Bull driver braked too late, running wide and retaining the lead.
Verstappen was then instructed to give P1 back and the following lap he slowed, catching the Mercedes off guard. Hamilton clipped the rear of the Red Bull car and experienced his own front-wing damage.
Verstappen kept hold of his lead until lap 42 when he was handed a five-second time penalty on the championship leader. Hamilton took back his pole position lead in the following lap and put in several fastest laps to eventually take the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix win with a margin of over 20 seconds.
Esteban Ocon missed out on a podium finish by just a tenth of a second as Bottas fought closely to secure those 15 points.
While the race may have finished, the aftermath of the events will continue as stewards are set to investigate both Hamilton and Verstappen as a result of the lap 42 grapple.
What were the race results?
- Lewis Hamilton
- Max Verstappen
- Valterri Bottas
- Esteban Ocon
- Daniel Ricciardo
- Pierre Gasly
- Charles Leclerc
- Carlos Sainz
- Antonio Giovinazzi
- Lando Norris
- Lance Stroll
- Nicholas Latifi
- Fernando Alonso
- Yuki Tsunoda
- Kimi Raikkonen
Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez, Nikita Mazepin, George Russell and Mick Schumacher did not finish the race.
What are the current drivers’ standings?
- Max Verstappen 369.5
- Lewis Hamilton 369.5
- Valterri Bottas 218
- Sergio Perez 190
- Charles Leclerc 158
- Lando Norris 154
- Carlos Sainz 149.5
- Daniel Ricciardo 115
- Pierre Gasly 100
- Fernando Alonso 77
- Esteban Ocon 72
- Sebastian Vettel 43
- Lance Stroll 34
- Yuki Tsunoda 20
- George Russel 16
- Kimi Raikkonen 10
- Nicholas Latifi 7
- Antonio Giovinazzi 3
- Mick Schumacher 0
- Robert Kubica 0
- Nikita Mazepin 0
When is the next Grand Prix?
The final Grand Prix of the 2021 season will take place in Abu Dhabi next weekend, Friday 10 December - Sunday 12 December.
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