Max Verstappen (Red Bull) has defeated Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) in an exciting final battle to claim his first victory of the season at the Saudi Arabia GP 2022. The F1-75 driven by Carlos Sainz crossed the finish line eights seconds behind the two gladiators. The Spaniard, for whom this is the second consecutive podium this season, third since Abu Dhabi 2021, was not able to keep up with the two giants.
Checo Pérez (Red Bull), who started from pole, finished in a disappointing fourth place. The Mexican driver went from comfortably dominating the race to falling fourth after a virtual safety car, a position from which he was never able to come back.
George Russell, for his part, gave an outstanding drive to fifth position, five places better than his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. The seven-time champion managed to come back from the fifteenth to tenth place.
After the Jeddah battle, Bahrain GP winner Leclerc remains points leader with 45, ahead of his fellow Sainz (33) & Verstappen (25).
Pérez makes a great start from pole
Both Perez and Leclerc held on to their respective first and second places when the traffic lights went out at the Saudi Arabia GP. Sainz, on the other hand, was swallowed up by Verstappen’s great momentum (turn 2).
The race stabilized after eleven laps. Pérez commanded with a 2.4 second lead over Leclerc. The latter, in turn, kept 2.4 seconds ahead of Max, who was also running at around the same distance from Sainz behind. The top four positions were pretty tight and, momentarily, there was peace at the track.
An untimely safety car spoils Pérez’s bid for glory
Five laps later, the action resumed. Pérez, pursued by Leclerc, went through pits but his Ferrari rival remained on track with an opposite strategy in mind. Then, an accident involving Williams’ Nicholas Latifi triggered a virtual safety car on the 16th lap, followed by a real safety car on the 17th. Of course, Leclerc, and the rest of the grid, took the opportunity to change their compounds. With the safety car on the track, the operation was a lot more time-efficient.
The battle for the Saudi Arabian GP 2022 resumed on lap 20 but positions had shuffled. Leclerc went on to dominate the race, ahead of Max, Pérez, and Sainz, fourth. On re-entering the track, the #55 was able to pass the safety car line before the Mexican and although the Latin American driver protected his position, he was obliged to give it up to Leclerc.
At the top, Leclerc held the group back right up to the curve before the finish-line straight, preventing Verstappen from taking his slipstream and attempting a pass. On lap 25, the halfway point of the Saudi Arabian GP 2022, the young Monegasque was running less than a second ahead of the Dutchman.
Spectacular combat between Leclerc and Verstappen
A second virtual safety car was declared in turn 38, and moments later, the pit lane was closed, a circumstance delayed by the crash of Alex Albon (Williams). The reason for this was the breakdown and abandonment of Alonso near the entrance to boxes. The assistance crew managed to retire Alonso’s Alpine as well as the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo, also Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) retired and the race resumed four laps later.
After that, it was madness. Leclerc was running a second ahead until Max overtook him in the following start-finish straight. The Monegasque, however, soon regained his position. Bahrain reissued. A clever move from Leclerc, who had left the door open for the Dutchman by braking before the straight, so that he then could pass him again there.
On lap 43, on the curve before the finish line straight, Leclerc attempted to lure the Dutchman again but the latter began a brutal chase and with three laps to go, he was finally ahead. Turned into the pursuer, Leclerc was not giving up. Verstappen, however, made use of his experience to conquer his 21st win.
Images of Saudi Arabian GP 2022: Red Bull Racing.