Ihe reigning world champion, Dutchman Max Verstappen (Red Bull) won the Saudi Arabian Formula 1 Grand Prix, second round of the season on Sunday March 27, ahead of Monegasque Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), winner of the inaugural test. Spaniard Carlos Sainz Jr (Ferrari) completes the podium. Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 15th on the grid after poor qualifying, just entered the points, in 10th place.
Attack, counter-attack and so on… the duo, who emerge as favorites in 2022, put on a great show battling for victory in the last 8 laps, like during the Bahrain GP last week. Poleman Sergio Pérez only finished 4th on the Jeddah circuit. Leading the race, the Mexican from Red Bull was unlucky when he stopped to change tires just before an accident for Canadian Nicholas Latifi (Williams) which caused the safety car to exit.
His pursuers took advantage of the “free” pit stop offered by this “safety car” to overtake him. The second Mercedes of Briton George Russell finally closes the Top 5, ahead of the French Esteban Ocon (Alpine) 6th and Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) 8th, only separated by Englishman Lando Norris (McLaren) 7th.
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Several controversies around security
Already controversial due to the dangerousness of the track, with in particular Mick Schumacher’s accident in qualifying, and above all human rights violations in the country, the Saudi Arabian GP, added to the F1 calendar in 2021, is now also in question for security reasons. This weekend’s event was indeed maintained despite the attack on an oil depot located a dozen kilometers from the circuit by Houthi rebels from neighboring Yemen on Friday.
Worried for the safety of the participants, the pilots debated this decision for more than four hours in the night from Friday to Saturday, before lining up behind the position of the organizers and their team bosses. “We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think it was fair,” Russell said later on behalf of the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA). Obviously, there will be things to clarify after this weekend about what we are going to do next, but, from what I understand, everything was under control in this specific region”.
“Of course, there are tensions, things to improve. We don’t want to be political about it, but I think we play a very important role in the modernization of this country. We’re making sure that’s on the agenda on our side,” F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali responded to criticism.