Updated: Nov 22, 2022
Last weekend saw the first Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, with the Jeddah track providing all the drama and excitement for the penultimate race of the season. This weekend every team in the paddock took time to commemorate a legend of Formula 1, Frank Williams, who sadly passed away last week. All 20 cars had Frank Williams stickers on them as a mark of respect, and a way to celebrate all that Frank gave to the sport.
Q1 ended with an unwanted result for Aston Martin, as both Lance Stroll and Sebastien Vettel failed to get through to Q2, also out in the first session were both Haas’s and Nicholas Latifi. This new circuit is arguably the fastest street circuit in F1, with 27 corners so even the smallest mistake can be costly. Carlos Sainz found this out the hard way spinning off the track and damaging his rear wing on the barriers, causing him to be eliminated in Q2.
The last session saw some extremely quick lap times and a great comeback for Charles Leclerc, who after crashing into the wall during FP2 maintained good times throughout qualifying to get himself P4 for the race start. Max Verstappen was flying around the track on his last lap of the day, beating leader Lewis Hamilton’s times on both sector one and sector two. Unfortunately for Verstappen he lost out on pole hitting the wall in turn 27 and handing the front row over to Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, whose fastest time was a mere three hundredths of a second faster than Verstappen who started Sundays race in P3.
Sunday was potentially the most dramatic race of the season with two red flags, multiple penalties. There were no changes to the grid line up in the first lap, and the drama started on lap 10 with Mick Schumacher spinning off the track and into the wall on the way into turn 22, the same place where Leclerc crashed in FP2 on Friday. Under the yellow flag both Mercedes cars took the opportunity to pit and change tyres leaving Verstappen at the front of the pack. The strategy to pit later worked out in Red Bull’s favour in the end, with the yellow flag changing to a red flag.
The red flag was given so the barrier could be repaired, this allowed time while the race was stopped for Verstappen to change tyres without losing grid places. The restart saw Verstappen managing to stay ahead of Hamilton after being side-by-side for the first two corners. In the lead up to turn 3 Esteban Ocon battled his way to 2nd place, overtaking Hamilton on the outside. Further down the pack there was quite the disruption as Sergio Perez was squeezed and tanked from behind, while Nikita Mazepin went into the back of George Russell’s Williams, and all three drivers retired from the race. This lead to the races second red flag and another restart.
Meanwhile Verstappen was told to drop back behind Hamilton for the restart due to an incident between turn 1 and 2. For the second restart Ocon was on pole with Hamilton and Verstappen behind. Verstappen managed to get out wide and overtake both cars in front of him as Ocon and Hamilton touched, forcing the Frenchmen off the track, using the curbs to avoid hitting the wall.
At the beginning of lap 36 Hamilton had DRS and was gaining on Verstappen, they were wheel-to-wheel as Verstappen moved of the track and over the curbs to avoid a collision. The result of this move by Verstappen was that he was made to give the 1st place position back to Hamilton after going off the main track and cutting a corner to gain an advantage. There was clearly some miscommunication between the teams, as the FIA told Red Bull that Verstappen had to give up his place, so he slowed. However, Hamilton said he was never told that Verstappen was giving the place up so when Verstappen slowed Hamilton touched the back of the Red Bull. Lap 42 brought Verstappen a 5 second time penalty for leaving the track to gain an advantage. One lap later and Hamilton was right on Verstappen’s tail, managing to overtake him at turn 27.
The drama continued in the race for third, and a place on the podium between Ocon and Bottas. Right at the line after coming out of turn 27 Bottas managed to just get in front of the Alpine, securing the podium finish by a tenth of a second. You do have to feel for Ocon a bit here as he drove so brilliantly and was challenging for that third-place finish for the whole race.
The race finished with Hamilton not only taking home the chequered flag, but also the fastest lap, leaving him and Verstappen level on points. This is a championship going right to the wire and I cannot wait for Abu Dhabi.