Multiple Crashes, Stops and Starts
THE SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX: SUNDAY 5TH DECEMBER 2021
JEDDAH CORNICE CIRCUIT
- 1. Lewis Hamilton
- 2. Max Verstappen
- 3. Valtteri Bottas
- 4. Esteban Ocon
- 5. Daniel Ricciardo
- 6. Pierre Gasly
- 7. Charles Leclerc
- 8. Carlos Sainz Jr
- 9. Antonio Giovinazzi
- 10. Lando Norris
“It was quite eventful! A lot of things happened, which I don’t fully agree with, but it is what it is.” (Max Verstappen)
Well, that wasn’t short of action…
In a Grand Prix that perfectly reflected the tense battle between Hamilton and Verstappen – drama and chaos ensued. The result was a win for Lewis Hamilton that set up a winner-takes-all finale in Abu Dhabi next weekend.
The race included multiple crashes, was stopped twice and started three times. Fans were delighted by the close fight for first place; Hamilton started in pole, then lost out to Verstappen, then briefly won it back - the race continued in this vein until Verstappen was forced to cede his position after gaining it illegally.
The pivotal moment of the race was when Hamilton was ‘forced off’ the track at Turn 1 with 13 laps remaining and Verstappen – to blame for the incident - was ordered to let him pass.
However, the pass did not happen immediately. The first ‘attempt’ when Verstappen slowed ‘to let Hamilton pass’ caused the Mercedes driver to run into the back of him and damage his front wing.
“I don’t understand why he hit the brakes quite heavily so I ran into the back of him. It was a bit confusing.” (Hamilton)
Six laps later – Verstappen finally let Hamilton passed.
Even die-hard fans of Verstappen were left questioning his conduct. Particularly the dangerous nature of his driving when refusing to concede a corner – in a situation that other drivers would have backed down and admitted defeat to avoid a potentially serious incident.
The chaos began on Lap 10, when Mick Schumacher crashed at Turn 22. In the safety car period that followed Hamilton and Bottas pitted, but Red Bull stayed out. Verstappen was now in the lead.
The race then stopped to repair the barrier – and a red flag period allowed drivers to pit without losing their positions. Verstappen pitted. At the restart Hamilton was faster and looked ahead into the first corner – before Verstappen re-passed him by going off track and forcing Hamilton wide. Ocon then snatched 2nd place between the two rivals.
The race was stopped again when Nikita Mazepin crashed into Russell and Perez collided with Leclerc.
There followed a highly unusual discussion as Red Bull negotiated with race director Michael Masi as to where Verstappen should be placed at the restart. They eventually agreed to 3rd behind Ocon and Hamilton.
At the final restart, with Verstappen on medium tyres and Hamilton on hard – Hamilton was set up to pass Ocon at the first corner, but Verstappen swept down the inside to take the lead from them both. This left Hamilton briefly 3rd, but on the next lap he passed Ocon and then set his sights on catching Verstappen.
At the first corner of Lap 37 Hamilton was marginally ahead and looked set to overtake Verstappen as they turned in – but Verstappen again refused to cede and both drivers went off the track. Red Bull were then ordered by Masi to give the position back to Hamilton.
Verstappen then braked (apparently to let him pass) causing Hamilton to hit the back of him. This incident was investigated after the race – with Verstappen deemed to blame – and he was given a 10 second penalty and 2 penalty points on his licence.
Six laps later, Verstappen let Hamilton pass him for the win.
Even though they are now level on points, Verstappen is currently the Championship leader on win ‘count back’. Hamilton needs to beat him in Abu Dhabi to win the title.
On the run to the final corner, Bottas took 3rd from Ocon – putting him in 4th at the finish. Ricciardo took 5th - another driver to benefit from not pitting at the first safety car – but who knew a red flag would follow almost immediately?
So, Hamilton has managed to draw level – when just a few races ago it looked like the championship was slipping from his grasp. And what a battle it has been.
“Red Bull have some raw pace, it was hard to overtake them, we’ve done an amazing job. Valtteri did a great job for the team, and this is for all the guys and girls back in the factory.” (Hamilton)
I’m not sure we could be more excited about the final showdown! See you in Abu Dhabi!!
It’s impossible to call which way this will go….so we’re not even going to attempt to…