Max Verstappen secured his first win of the season at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in dramatic fashion after an intense race-long battle with the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.
The reigning F1 champion went wheel to wheel with LeClerc for much of the race before finally moving past the Monégasque driver with just four laps remaining to claim a vital victory.
Oracle Red Bull Racing teammate Sergio Pérez had started in pole position and was leading comfortably before pitting on Lap 14, which was immediately followed by a Nicholas Latifi crash and early safety car. This allowed Leclerc, Verstappen and Carlos Sainz to pit and overtake him, with the Mexican driver eventually finishing in fourth place.
Scuderia AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly produced a superb drive to secure his first points of the season as he finished in eighth, while teammate Yuki Tsunoda – who finished eighth in Bahrain last week – was unable to start the race due to engine problems on the way to the grid.
For Ferrari the fight between Charles and Max Verstappen was extremely close all the way to the chequered flag: the Monegasque finished second, just 549 thousandths of a second behind the Dutchman and, but for a yellow flag at turn 1 on the penultimate lap, he might have had an answer for the reigning world champion, who had made the most of the Virtual Safety Car four laps earlier to get ahead of the Ferrari.
As for Carlos, he delivered a solid performance. He got ahead of Sergio Perez to take third place following a perfectly executed double pit stop from the Scuderia crew – an exceptional 2”6 seconds for Charles and 2”7 for Carlos – and although the Mexican was always right behind, he never posed a real threat.
Meanwhile George Russell in the Mercedes managed to finish in 5th position while former world champion Lewis Hamilton couldn’t do much more than P10 for the weekend. After the race Hamilton reflected on the race and the poor performance of the Mercedes car as being the reason for his position “Balance-wise the car felt good, but just not fast enough. Yesterday made the weekend so harder (referring to his issues with qualifying and handling of the car) and I take that on my shoulders.”