Formula 1

Pace, Missile, and Chaos – Saudi Arabia GP over the years

Chetan Anand

April 5 2023
Saudi Arabia GP

Jeddah is the fastest street circuit in the Formula 1 calendar

After the opening show in Bahrain, Formula 1 explores the Gulf further to the Jeddah Street Circuit for the prestigious Saudi Arabia GP. This is only the third time that F1 has visited Jeddah. Both times, the eventual champion emerged victorious.

  • 2022: Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  • 2021: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

In 2021, a week before the race, Williams co-founder and former owner Sir Frank Williams passed away at the age of 79. Teams sported tributes and a minute’s silence was observed an hour before the race. Former Williams driver and champion Damon Hill took a lap of honour with the constructor’s first-ever championship-winning car, FW07.

Saudi Arabia GP: Story so far

Formula 1Max Verstappen is the defending champion of Saudi Arabia GP.

Going into the Saudi Arabia GP 2021 race, the gap between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen was only 8 points. Mercedes secured 1-2 in the qualifying with Hamilton on the pole. Within the first ten laps, he pulled a three-second gap to his teammate. A massive Mick Schumacher crash brought the red flag. Since both the Mercedes had pitted under the Safety Car, Verstappen led the standing start order. He ‘unfairly’ got ahead of his rival at the second turn and when the second standing start happened, he was placed behind Ocon and Hamilton respectively. However, he took the lead coming out of the first chicane.

In Lap 37, Verstappen cut the chicane, and as a result of which, he was instructed to give up the place to Hamilton. To do so, he nearly ‘brake-checked’ which resulted in a collision. After around six laps of discussion, the stewards awarded Verstappen a five-second time penalty. However, he got overtaken by Hamilton and it stayed that way till the chequered flag. The result equalled the contenders before the final Grand Prix of the season. As expected, words were exchanged between all sides.

Behind them, a podium battle between Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Ocon was brewing which concluded at the finish line as the Finn peeped the French by a tenth of a second.

The 2022 Saudi Arabia GP took place amidst lives at risk. Not far away from the track, a missile strike took place. It was an Aramco oil refinery getting attacked by the Yemen rebels. An immediate emergency meeting was called on before FP2 after black smoke was seen during FP1. The event went ahead as scheduled.

On the track, this race is fondly remembered for the intriguing DRS battle between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen. Sergio Perez started the race from pole but the poor timing of Nicholas Latifi’s incident cost him the entire podium place as he had just pitted. The three behind him (his teammate and two Ferraris) boxed under the safety car, handing them the advantage.

Just like in Bahrain the previous race, Leclerc was outfoxing Verstappen. He was letting him overtake in the first DRS straight so that he could come back at him in the next DRS straight. However, in Lap 46, Verstappen hung around the Monagasque’s back and got ahead of him in the following straight. “Has patience finally found its way into Max Verstappen’s vocabulary,” Crofty remarked. “Will it pay off?” Sure it did. The eventual champion got his first victory of the year – the first of many.

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