Wed | Jan 26, 2022

Hamilton wins controversy-filled Saudi GP

Published:Monday | December 6, 2021 | 12:08 AM
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain leads at the restart of the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after a red flag to the race, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia yesterday.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain leads at the restart of the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after a red flag to the race, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia yesterday.

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP):

Lewis Hamilton passed Max Verstappen with six laps remaining yesterday to win the chaotic inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix (GP) and pull even on points with his rival as Formula One’s (F1) thrilling championship race heads into the title-deciding finale.

The race on the street circuit under the lights on the 30-kilometre coastal resort area in Jeddah will be one of the more memorable events of the season – if not the last several years. The event was marred by three standing starts, a pair of restarts, multiple safety cars and an intense back-and-forth between the title contenders.

Red Bull was allowed to negotiate a penalty for Verstappen, Mercedes head Toto Wolff slammed his headset in rage, and Hamilton drove into the back of his title rival before ultimately passing Verstappen for the win.

Verstappen was dejected after finishing second and incredulous over the bizarre debut race in Saudi Arabia.

“What happened today is unbelievable,” he said. “I’m just trying to race. This sport is more about penalties than racing. So, for me, this is not Formula One but at least the fans enjoyed it.”

The Mercedes camp, even with the victory, was just as baffled.

“Lewis, that has got to be the craziest race I can remember,” Hamilton’s engineer radioed after he crossed the finish line.

Hamilton needed a few moments to recover after climbing from his car.

“I’ve been racing a long time but that was incredibly tough,” Hamilton said. “I tried to be as sensible and as tough as I could be. With all my race experience over the years, just keeping the car on the track and staying clean, that was difficult. We persevered as a team.”

Verstappen was penalised for going off course on the second restart, was later told to yield position to Hamilton, but Hamilton ran into the back of his Red Bull to damage the front wing on his Mercedes. The two differed on what happened, and Verstappen was summoned before the stewards post-race.

“I didn’t understand why all of a sudden he hit the brakes quite heavily then I moved into the back of him,” said Hamilton, who wasn’t told by Mercedes that Verstappen was going to let him by for the lead.

Verstappen said it was Hamilton’s own fault.

“I slowed down, I wanted to let him by. He didn’t want to overtake and then we touched,” Verstappen said. “I don’t really understand what happened there.”

Once the seven-time world champion passed Verstappen for good, Hamilton controlled the finish and won for the third consecutive race. The British driver has eight wins on the season and has now pulled into a tie on points with Verstappen in the standings. Verstappen still leads the championship on most wins, 9-8.

The championship will be decided next Sunday in the finale in Abu Dhabi.

Hamilton is the four-time defending F1 champion and seeking an eighth title to break the all-time record he shares with Michael Schumacher. The 24-year-old Verstappen is seeking his first championship and had dominated the season for Red Bull until this late three-race charge by Mercedes and Hamilton.

“I don’t think this is yet done. The result at the end, winning the race, I think he deserved it,” said Wolff. “We could have been out a few times with a broken front wing. I don’t want to have dirty laundry out here, but that was spectacular, but not a very good race.”

F1 Constructor Championship standings:

1. Mercedes 587.5

2. Red Bull 559.5

3. Ferrari 307.5

4. McLaren 269

5. Alpine 149

6. AlphaTauri 120

7. Aston Martin 77

8. Williams 23

9. Alfa Romeo 13

10. Haas 0

Saudi Arabia Grand Prix results:

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 26

2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 18

3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 15

4. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) 12

5. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) 10

6. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) 8

7. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 6

8. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 4

9. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) 2

10. Lando Norris (McLaren) 1

F1 Driver Championship standings:

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 369.5

2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 369.5

3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 218

4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 190

5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 158

6. Landon Norris (McLaren) 154

7. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 149.5

8. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) 115

9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) 100

10. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) 77