Max Verstappen held off Charles Leclerc to win in Saudi Arabia
In a race that burst into life after a late virtual safety car period that narrowed Leclerc's leading margin, Verstappen, with the aid of DRS, slip-streamed his way past the Ferrari on the main straight with just four laps to go. Leclerc applied a lot of pressure in the closing stages, but never found himself close enough to make a move.
Sergio Perez got off to a great start from pole and was extending his margin over Leclerc, but as the pit-window opened on lap 15, Ferrari appeared to be readying for a stop for the Monegasque driver. Red Bull responded and pit Perez from the lead, but Leclerc stayed out. Half a lap later, the safety car was deployed after Nicholas Latifi crashed at the hairpin.
Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Hamilton relying on 'great' Mercedes to improve car after disappointing Saudi GP
This cost the Mexican time, but crucially moved Verstappen up to second as the race resumed.
Leclerc escaped up the road and soon broke the one-second DRS window. Red Bull told Verstappen to "let Leclerc use up all his tyres" as they planned an assault later in the Grand Prix.
With the lead extending ever so gradually, it seemed Leclerc would grab his second win of the season. However, when Fernando Alonso and first, Daniel Ricciardo's cars ground to a halt on the pit-lane entry, the virtual safety car was deployed. This allowed the Dutchman an opportunity to use his slightly lesser worn tyres to attack the Ferrari driver as the race once again resumed.
Just like the pair did seven days ago in Bahrain, they put on a brilliant show.
Verstappen was the first to make a move, sailing past Leclerc on the run into the turn 27 hairpin before the Ferrari driver used his DRS on the main straight to move back past the Dutchman.
- Verstappen 'really happy' with Saudi GP win, Leclerc gives 'respect' to champion
- Hamilton relying on 'great' Mercedes to improve car after disappointing Saudi GP
- Verstappen and Leclerc threaten to consign Hamilton to obscurity
With neither wanting to give the other that advantage, they both locked up in the same place on the next lap with the Ferrari holding the advantage.
After spending some time to think about his next move, Verstappen opened his DRS on the main straight and grabbed the race lead before parking it on the apex of turn one to prevent any sort of fight-back from Leclerc.
With that move happening on lap 47 of the race, there wasn't much time left for Leclerc to respond. The Red Bull driver kept his cool to come through and claim his first win of the season - a very important one for the world champion considering what happened late-on in Bahrain. Carlos Sainz held-off Perez to finish third whilst Russell finished fifth.
Esteban Ocon held off Lando Norris to finish sixth after an almighty battle with his Alpine team-mate, Alonso early on in the Grand Prix.
Pierre Gasly came home in eighth whilst Kevin Magnussen came a respectable ninth on a weekend that proved to test the HAAS team.
Lewis Hamilton responded from a late set-back after he couldn't pit under the virtual safety car, because the pit-lane entry was closed to finish 10th. It could have been a lot better for the Brit, but in a similar fashion to the way Perez lost the lead, it was just bad timing.
DRIVER OF THE DAY: CHARLES LECLERC
A clever mind-game allowed Leclerc to take the lead of the race at a crucial stage as the safety car came out to help aid the recovery of Latifi's stricken Williams. He kept his cool at the restart and broke the DRS of Verstappen, extending his advantage ever so slightly lap-by-lap. If it wasn't for a late virtual safety car that allowed Verstappen the opportunity to attack, he could have been celebrating his second win of the season. Despite that, it's 19 more points to his championship tally with the extra point being awarded to him for setting the fastest lap of the race that could prove to be crucial come the end of the season.
Verstappen-Leclerc battle, GP Saudi Arabia 2022
Image credit: Getty Images
WHERE THE RACE WAS WON
LAP 15/50 - PEREZ PITS! From the lead of the race, Perez pit after it appeared Ferrari were also going to pit Leclerc, who stayed out and grabbed the lead of the race. With the safety car coming out just half a lap later, it not only put Leclerc but also Verstappen into race-winning contention.
LAP 38/50 - VIRTUAL SAFETY CAR! The virtual safety car allowed Verstappen the opportunity to mount an attack on the race leader that he may not have had the chance to do otherwise.
LAP 47/50 - VERSTAPPEN LEADS! After another titanic battle that lasted four laps, Verstappen finally made the move for the lead of the race stick in a place that prevented any sort of quick-fire response from the Ferrari of Leclerc. From here, Verstappen would go on to win the race.
PIT EXCHANGE OF THE DAY
Verstappen was beginning to get very frustrated in the closing stages as Leclerc seemingly had an answer for all of his moves. On lap 43, just after the pair locked up going into the hairpin, Verstappen came over the radio, complaining that "Leclerc had crossed the white line." Knowing the race was still there to be won, his race engineer snapped back: "Focus on your job Max, and we'll do ours!" As it turns out, it probably wasn't the worst bit of advice given to the Dutchman.
OVERTAKE OF THE DAY
Without the aid of DRS like most of the other moves, Norris went around the outside of Gasly at turn one, which lined him up perfectly for the ideal inside line at turn two. It may not have been a move that won the race, but to have the trust to go around the outside of someone on just the second lap of a Grand Prix shows serious commitment and trust. The fact he did it with no DRS as well shows promising signs for the future that we may not actually need it.
Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Verstappen and Leclerc threaten to consign Hamilton to obscurity
Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Verstappen 'really happy' with Saudi GP win, Leclerc gives 'respect' to champion
Share this article