Race Report: Verstappen tops Leclerc in Saudi Arabian GP

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 27: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 27, 2022 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202203270570 // Usage for editorial use only //

The Saudi Arabian GP was a very eventful race from terrorist attacks to massive crashes and a very recalcitrant Mercedes for Lewis Hamilton. In the end, as was the case in Bahrain, it was a battle between Ferrari and Red Bull.

Max Verstappen went to battle in his Red Bull against a very fast Charles Leclerc in his Ferrari and having started down in fourth, Max had a lot of work to do in order to get to the front. 

In what is becoming a bit of a theme, the two played chess with the DRS detection zones to pass each other but this time Max didn’t get caught out like he did in Bahrain and he used the tricky play to take the lead from Leclerc on lap 47 and held on to win. Charles followed closely in second and his teammate, Carlos Sainz, took third on track. 

Win

A big win for Max and Red Bull who entered the race pointless after a fuel pump issue in Bahrain. To come out of the Saudia Arabian GP with a win open his account not he defense of his title. 

A win for Ferrari who managed to secure second and third and Charles hounded Max for the final three laps. This bodes well as the season could see a terrific battle between the two marques that is track-specific. 

A win for George Russell who had a better weekend in his Mercedes than his teammate Lewis Hamilton. To come home in 5th is quite a feat in such a struggling car. Good on Merc for finding some small improvements for George and for George to wrestle the car into the top 5. 

A win for Kevin Magnussen and Haas F1 after a harrowing crash on Saturday for Mick Schumacher. Kevin managed to get his car up into 9th for points in a tough weekend for the team. 

Fail

Through no fault of his own, Sergio Perez couldn’t manage to convert his outstanding pole position into a win due to being hung out to dry during the safety car period. Sergio had just boxed when Latifi hit the wall prompting a safety car and this left him down in 4th at the restart where he finished. 

A fail for Nicholas Latifi who is rapidly becoming crash fodder over a race weekend. Equally unfortunate was Alex Albon clouting Lance Stroll and ending his race. A bad weekend for Williams. 

A fail for Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton who struggled all weekend long and while you have to admire the gamble on a setup direction, it didn’t work for Lewis and he struggle to get a point. 

A fail for Alfa Romeo as Ferrari-powered cars who couldn’t score this weekend. Valtteri Bottas suffered a DNF while Zho Guanyu had two penalties and struggled at the back. To be fair, he did bring it home in 11th thought. 

WTH

Not quite sure what was going on with Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso’s cars as both were having good races, Fernando running up in 7th, as they stopped in the pit entry. The VSC was deployed but I was wondering if the full safety car might not have been better. Perhaps not. 

Still not sure what is happening to the Mercedes-powered teams as they are struggling for shove. Such a reversal of fortunes given their dominance of the sport for eight years. Perhaps having so many people leave their engine program is having an impact? 

Pirelli Tyre Story:

  • Red Bull driver Max Verstappen won the race with a one-stop strategy, going from P Zero Yellow medium C3 to P Zero White hard C2 under a safety car on lap 16 and then passing Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc – who followed an identical strategy – with three laps to go. Polesitter Sergio Perez led for Red Bull in the early stages but made his pit stop the lap before the safety car came out, which cost him the advantage.
  • All the drivers started the race on the Pirelli P Zero Yellow medium, with the exception of Kevin Magnussen (Haas), Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and Nico Hulkenberg (Aston Martin), who began on P Zero White hard. They were also the only ones not to stop for fresh tyres under the safety car, although Magnussen and Hulkenberg were able to make their sole stops under a virtual safety car with 13 laps to go before the pitlane was closed. Hamilton stopped three laps later under green flag conditions and finished 10th: one place behind Magnussen.
  • Tyre degradation was contained throughout the race for both compounds with some long runs close to 40 laps on the hard compound in particular, which was used by nearly all the drivers for the final stint.
  • The race got underway at 8pm local time with quite consistent temperatures of 26 degrees ambient and 34 degrees on track, which dropped only by a couple of degrees during the race.

Saudi Arabian GP results:

PosNameCarLapsLaps LedTotal TimeFastest LapPitstopsPts
1Max VerstappenRed Bull5061h24m19.293s1m31.772s125
2Charles LeclercFerrari5030+0.549s1m31.634s119
3Carlos Sainz Jr.Ferrari500+8.097s1m31.905s115
4Sergio PérezRed Bull5014+10.8s1m32.042s112
5George RussellMercedes500+32.732s1m32.821s110
6Esteban OconAlpine-Renault500+56.017s1m33.103s18
7Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes500+56.124s1m32.753s16
8Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Red Bull500+1m02.946s1m33.468s14
9Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari500+1m04.308s1m32.779s12
10Lewis HamiltonMercedes500+1m13.948s1m32.997s11
11Guanyu ZhouAlfa Romeo-Ferrari500+1m22.215s1m33.924s20
12Nico HülkenbergAston Martin-Mercedes500+1m31.742s1m33.651s10
13Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes490+1 lap1m34.446s10
Alex AlbonWilliams-Mercedes470DNF1m34.368s10
Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-Ferrari350DNF1m33.979s30
Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault350DNF1m33.831s10
Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes350DNF1m34.487s10
Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes140DNF1m37.53s00
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Fred

“the full safety car might not have been better. Perhaps not. ” Ask Hamilton, I’m sure he has a strong opinion.

Juan

I hope Hamilton is enjoying the large piece of humble pie that was served to him.

Peter

two issues here… first is that it was not a terrorist attack but as Yemen and Saudi Arabia are at war (regardless of “bad guys” we get to name automatically as terrorists), perhaps the drone attack was predictable for the F1 organizers. Second, luck always plays a part in racing, we all accept that, but Perez’s 1 lap early pit stop changed everything and then later the second safety car allowed Max to get close enough to Leclerc to, oh, sure, bravo with DRS and a faster car you managed to pass, win. Frankly, the ridiculous rules with “free pitstops… Read more »

Peter

Hey, one important thing I heard on the BC radio show: The gasoline has changed and wrong-footed MB engines? Is that true?

Peter

I agree, but why did F1 change the fuel? That’s odd.

MIE

The fuel was changed to meet environmental targets. To bring it in line with that commercially available for road cars.

Peter

Hey, thanks for the update. It was puzzling.