Max Verstappen managed to get back on Charles Leclerc to win F1 Saudi Arabian GP, with Carlos Sainz in third.

Even before the start of F1 Saudi Arabian GP, the grid was down to 18 cars after AlphaTauri faced a drivetrain issue with Yuki Tsunoda. Already Haas’ Mick Schumacher was ruled out after his Q2 incident on Saturday but he was in the paddock for media duties.

There was also a scare for Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, where the team had to fix a loom wiring issue. At the start, though, he lost out to Red Bull’as Max Verstappen with his teammate Sergio Perez having a clean start from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon retained sixth from Mercedes’ George Russell, with the other Alpine of Fernando Alonso in seventh ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas. Choosing the hard tyres, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen got ninth from AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly.

The Frenchman lost 10th to McLaren’s Lando Norris but got it back later on. While the Top 4 steadied on, Russell got fifth from Ocon who had to defend hard from Alonso. The two Alpine drivers exchanged places for multiple laps in a feisty battle.

It went on and on with some scary moments for both Alonso and Ocon, with both close to the wall in the Turn 1-2-3-4 sequence. The Frenchman had to give the place back once after clearing him at Turn 1 run-off but he came back on the Spaniard.

After few laps of going at each other, Alpine told Ocon to hold position. Their fight allowed Alfa Romeo’s Bottas to close in on them. The Finn eventually cleared the Frenchman for seventh with Magnussen and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in the Top 10.

The British racer cleared Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, Norris and Gasly to get up to 10th. Up ahead, Red Bull called Perez to pit with Ferrari’s Leclerc staying out. It turned out to be a good call with a VSC-turned-SC period for a crash for Williams’ Nicholas Latifi.

It was a strange hit to the wall for the Canadian which ended a wretched weekend for him. There was more drama with Perez passing Sainz at pit exit under safety car when the Spaniard came out of the pits. The Ferrari was marginally ahead in replays.

The order, meanwhile, was Leclerc leading Verstappen, Perez, Sainz, Russell, Magnussen, Hamilton, Alonso, Aston Martin’s Nico Hulkenberg and Bottas in the Top 10. Alfa Romeo’s Guanyu Zhou was give a 5s time penalty for gaining an advantage at Turn 1.

There was problems in his pits too which dropped him to the back. Meanwhile, the re-start saw Leclerc lead Verstappen cleanly as Perez gave up third to Sainz with Russell retaining fifth from Magnussen and Hamilton, who had Alonso on his tail.

Behind Hulkenberg started to loses places as both Bottas and Ocon moved into the Top 10. Zhou, meanwhile, was handed a drive-through penalty for his 5s time penalty not served. There was a mix-up in the pits with the front jackman which contributed to it.

The Saudi Arabian GP up front started to get spicy, with Verstappen pushing Leclerc, while Sainz steadied in third from Perez. Behind, Hamilton was up to sixth after clearing Magnussen in a good battle – with both not having stopped for tyres.

The Dane came under pressure from Alonso soon and the Spaniard made it stick. But it soon came undone when the Alpine started to slow down with engine issue. Moments later, Ricciardo slowed down as well with an engine issue as well.

The Australian limped towards the pit entry along with Alonso, as Magnussen and Hulkenberg pitted straight up. Hamilton went passed the pit entry by the time he could have pitted. He dropped to 12th eventually behind the Dane after his stop post VSC period.

Up front, Leclerc came under pressure from Verstappen for the F1 Saudi Arabian GP lead, with Sainz a bit far off in third from Perez. Russell was fifth from Ocon with Norris seventh, Gasly eighth, Stroll ninth and Magnussen 10th from Hamilton.

It started to get tasty at the front with Verstappen on the back of Leclerc. The Dutchman got past the Monegasque on the back straight but the Ferrari driver came back on him to retake the lead at Turn 1. The Red Bull driver went for a different strategy the next time.

Verstappen was faster on the back straight but slowed down to let Leclerc through, but in doing so his tyres were overcooked and this put the Dutchman drop back. It took him few laps to recover from it and worked smartly the next time they got together.

Verstappen didn’t overtake him in the final corner but stayed with him through the main straight. He eventually made the move to lead the F1 Saudi Arabian GP at Turn 1 where Leclerc went off in the run-off but stayed behind the Dutchman.

There was late yellow flag after a Turn 1 incident between Stroll and Williams’ Alexander Albon with the two coming together. But it didn’t deter Verstappen and Leclerc, with the Dutchman prevailing by 0.549s to win F1 Saudi Arabian GP in a fine way.

Leclerc and Sainz made it Ferrari 2-3, with Perez fourth as Red Bull kicked-off their 2022 F1 season. There was a late note from the FIA which put Sainz, Magnussen and Perez under investigation for failing to slow under double yellows.

But they then put Laps 49 and 50 under investigation which likely would be all the drivers. As for the provisional results, Perez ended up fourth from Russell with Ocon fending off late charge from Norris to retain sixth. The Frenchman lost it initially but regained it.

They were fighting until the chequered flag with the two separated by a mere 0.107s over the line. Gasly was eighth from Magnussen, with Hamilton rounding the Top 10. Zhou ended up 11th from Hulkenberg with Stroll and Albon classified 13th and 14th.

DNF: Bottas, Alonso, Ricciardo, Latifi. DNS: Tsunoda.

UPDATE: Following the investigations into the yellow flag incident for Laps 49 and 50, the stewards looked at the footage and cleared everyone involved. “The Stewards investigated whether each driver slowed down for the single yellow flag waved in Lap 49 and the double yellow flag in Lap 50. After reviewing the data we determined that no further investigation or action was required,” said the FIA statement.

Meanwhile, on a separate investigation into the incident between Albon and Stroll, the Thai racer was handed a 3-place grid drop for Australian GP as he was adjudged as solely responsible for the incident with the Canadian driver. He also got 2 penalty points.

“The Stewards heard from the driver of Car 23 (Alexander Albon), the driver of car 18 (Lance Stroll), team representatives and examined video evidence in relation to the collision. Car 23 was attempting to overtake Car 18 on the inside by braking late. In executing the overtaking manoeuvre, Car 23 locked up and collided with Car 18 at the apex of the corner. We determined that Car 23 was wholly or predominantly to blame for the collision,” stated the FIA.

Along with the above, the FIA stewards explained what happened with Zhou regarding the disqualification. He could have been disqualified if the jacking up had resulted in the team working on the car. Since the team didn’t work, the stewards gave him a drive-through just for the jack-man lifting the car.

“The Stewards reviewed the video evidence and determined that Car 24 came into the pit lane and stopped. But thereafter, it was jacked up by the team. Article 54.4(c) requires that “whilst a car is stationary in the pit lane as a result of a penalty in accordance with Articles 54.3(a)…it may not be worked on until the car has been stationary for the duration of the penalty”.

“Although the team did not work on the car for 5 seconds after jacking the car up, the jacking up of the car itself would be “working” on the car, which is prohibited by 54.4(c). Article 54.4(e) gives the Stewards the discretion to disqualify a car for failure to comply with Article 54.4(c). However, given that no work was done while the car was jacked up, we considered that disqualification would be too harsh and outcome. We therefore imposed a drive through penalty,” said the FIA.