A controversial F1 Saudi Arabian GP ended with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton winning from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas.

It was a clean start to F1 Saudi Arabian GP as opposed to the F2 event as Mercedes pair led the way cleanly with Lewis Hamilton heading Valtteri Bottas from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Teammate Sergio Perez almost ran into him but had to brake hard.

He was ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc for a moment but the flat spot pushed him behind and drop back. McLaren’s Lando Norris was sixth from Alpine’s Esteban Ocon with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in eighth, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo ninth and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi 10th.

Replays showed a touch between AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Ocon at the start which dropped the Japanese outside the Top 10. There was also a moment between Williams’ George Russell and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll where the latter went off at Turn 4.

Both the incidents were noted but no investigation was necessary but Russell was not happy with the decision. The battles got a bit intense in the mid-pack as Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and Giovinazzi went wheel-to-wheel for couple of laps.

The Spaniard initially passed Giovinazzi but he got back on him to retake 10th. Just ahead of them, Ricciardo cleared Gasly for eighth with the Frenchman having brake issues. Teammate Tsunoda continued to lose places outside the Top 10.

The gains were made by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz who eventually got back into the points after passing Giovinazzi just before the safety car period for a heavy crash for Haas’ Mick Schumacher at Turn 22. He slid off in a similar way to Leclerc in practice.

The safety car period got Hamilton, Bottas, Norris, Leclerc and Perez to pit but crucially Verstappen stayed out with track position. The Dutchman did complain of the Finn backing up for a double-stack from Mercedes, but there was no investigation initiated then.

But with the barrier damaged heavy, the FIA red-flagged the race, thereby Verstappen having a free tyre change in the lead from Hamilton and Bottas. It was a win for Ocon in fourth along with Ricciardo in fifth ahead of Leclerc.

The Top 10 had Gasly, Perez, Sainz and Giovinazzi, with Norris being the biggest to lose due to the red flag in 14th from sixth. Even Alonso dropped to 15th after he elected to stop whereby he ended up further behind from the points position.

Post red-flag:

The formation lap was a slow one from Hamilton which hurt most behind and the re-start worked well for the Brit who had a good lead with Verstappen coming back at Turn 1 and going over the kerbs to take the lead with Ocon in second from the Mercedes driver.

Behind, Perez and Leclerc were on again with the Monegasque having nowhere to go and spinning the Mexican out. This slowed the field and also Russell who was then clouted heavy from Haas’ Nikita Mazepin, who was caught out in the corner.

The race was red-flagged again with Perez trying to get the car back to re-start, but it was too late for him. Under the red flag, there were discussions among FIA-Red Bull-Mercedes about the starting position in regards to the Turn 1 incident.

It was eventually decided that Ocon will start the F1 Saudi Arabian GP on pole from Hamilton and Verstappen, with Ricciardo, Bottas, Gasly, Leclerc, Giovianzzi, Sainz and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel rounding out the Top 10 to start post re-start.

Second red-flag start:

The re-start in F1 Saudi Arabian GP worked superb for Verstappen from third as he went on the inside and took the lead after Ocon and Hamilton touched at Turn 1 with the Frenchman going off. He still had third from Ricciardo and Bottas behind.

Gasly was sixth from Giovinazzi as Vettel was up to eighth as Tsunoda had a solid start to be ninth from Leclerc in the Top 10, with Sainz in 11th. The Japanese driver got the German for eighth but the latter came back on him at Turn 1.

Tsunoda went off and returned to the track when Vettel tried to pass him and they made contact. The Japanese driver had his front wing off as he backed off and got going to pit. The incident was put under investigation with the Virtual Safety Car was deployed.

Just behind them, Leclerc defended from Sainz going into Turn 1 and went off himself. He gave the place to the Spaniard under VSC. The re-start was smooth but not for long as Alonso had a spin on his own to lose couple of places.

At the same time, Vettel and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen had a contact after the Finn tried to stay with the German and pass him in the Turn 2-3-4 sequence. Both dropped off as Stroll moved up to 10th from Norris and Williams’ Nicholas Latifi.

Despite a green flag, the race soon had another VSC period due to debris all over the circuit. Alonso, meanwhile, pushed on for a full safety car to clear the debris. At the same time, Tsunoda was handed a 5s penalty for causing a collision.

There was another long VSC to clear the debris but they needed a fourth to clear more. That fourth one made the matters more interesting. Hamilton was closer than ever and made the move at Turn 1 as the two made contact again with Verstappen going off.

The Dutchman maintained the lead but it got out of hands from then on. There was whole lot of commotion as Verstappen tried to give the place back on the straight which caught Hamilton out and the two touched with the Brit complaining of brake-testing.

Verstappen gave the place again but smartly retook the lead of F1 Saudi Arabian GP. The stewards handed him a 5s penalty to the Dutchman when Hamilton took the lead of the race and went into the distance from the Red Bull driver with no tyres left.

Hamilton shot into the distance with the fastest lap to win F1 Saudi Arabian GP from Verstappen to level with him going into the final race of the season. It was a fighting end with Bottas and Ocon going on for third until the last lap on the flag.

Bottas took it on the line by 0.102s with Ocon in fourth from Ricciardo, Gasly, Leclerc, Sainz, Giovinazzi and Norris in the Top 10. The Monegasque re-passed the Spaniard towards the end but it was not clear if they used team orders.

Also, Norris managed to get in points after late pass on Stroll with Latifi 12th from Alonso, Tsunoda and Raikkonen as Vettel decided to retire. The last three drivers finished a lap down on the front-runners.

DNF: Vettel, Perez, Mazepin, Russell, Schumacher.

UPDATE: The stewards cleared Perez for his incident with Leclerc which caused the second red flag period, while also explained the penalty to Verstappen for his Turn 1 off where he was also handed one point on his license.

“The Stewards reviewed the video evidence and determined that VER left the track at
Turn 1 and rejoined gaining a lasting advantage,” it said regarding Verstappen, while for Perez, it noted: The Stewards heard from the driver of Car 16 (Charles Leclerc), the driver of car 11 (Sergio Perez), team representatives, reviewed the video evidence and determined that neither driver was predominantly to blame.”

Here’s penalty for Verstappen for erratic braking