Verstappen Takes Comfortable Saudi Arabian Victory

Verstappen

Max Verstappen celebrates his Saudi Arabian Grand Prix victory. (Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images for Red Bull Racing photo)

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia – Another Saturday yielded another Formula One victory for three-time defending champion Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing.

After starting from the pole in the STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Verstappen was never truly challenged en route to his 56th F-1 victory and second consecutive to open the season.

Though Lando Norris led laps eight through 12, due to an alternate pit strategy forced by the lone Safety Car period of the race, Verstappen regained control at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit and never looked back.

The flying Dutchman ultimately took the checkered flag 13.643 seconds clear of teammate Sergio Perez for his ninth straight victory dating back to last season.

It also marked the 115th win for Red Bull Racing as a constructor, breaking a tie with Williams Racing for fourth all time in F-1 history.

“Overall, of course a fantastic weekend for the whole team but also for myself,” Verstappen said. “I felt really good in the car. The last stint was a bit longer than we would have liked, but with the Safety Car you had to go for [the strategy].

“The last few laps, with backmarkers on older tires, was a bit slippery … but we had good pace all around and we could manage it quite well with the gap also. Overall, I’m very, very pleased.”

Perez was able to hold onto second place despite a five-second time penalty for an unsafe pit release.

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Verstappen took the lead comfortably off the start from the Ferrari of fellow front-row starter Charles Leclerc, opening up a gap of more than a second in less than two laps.

But it was the hard shunt by Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, when he went nose-first into the barriers at turn 22 on lap seven, that brought the Safety Car onto the circuit and reduced the race pace as a result.

Verstappen, Perez, and Leclerc led many of the frontrunners onto pit lane, while Norris and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton stayed out on their medium-compound Pirelli tires in an effort to maximize their potential to battle back late in the race.

Racing resumed at full speed on lap 10 of 50, with Norris briefly gapping Verstappen in clean air by just over a second, but the sheer pace of the RB20 quickly overwhelmed the papaya colored MCL38.

Verstappen

Max Verstappen en route to victory in Saudi Arabia. (Clive Mason/Getty Images for Red Bull Racing photo)

With a sweeping move into turn one, with the assistance of a DRS draft down the main straightaway, Verstappen easily passed Norris to take the race lead for good.

From there, the only real drama came in the form of Norris and Hamilton’s late pit stops inside the final 20 laps, as both took on Pirelli’s soft-compound tires in an effort to make up lap time in the closing stages. Unfortunately, neither were able to do so after rejoining in eighth and ninth, respectively.

That left the Red Bull pair unchallenged up front, with Leclerc completing the podium and earning a bonus point for setting the race’s fastest lap – 1:31.632 – on the final circuit of the 50-lap contest.

McLaren’s Oscar Piastri crossed fourth ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso and Mercedes’ George Russell, with 18-year-old Brit Ollie Bearman finishing seventh for Ferrari in the drive of the day.

After being called into action from his reserve driver role just before Friday’s lone practice session, due to a bout of appendicitis for Carlos Sainz, Bearman was stellar all race after starting 11th on the grid.

He steadily advanced into ninth by the lap-20 benchmark, then gained two more places as both Norris and Hamilton pitted ahead of him down the stretch run of the grand prix.

Despite older tires in the final laps, Bearman was able to maintain a three-second gap over Norris at the finish, with Hamilton close behind Norris in the battle for eighth place.

Haas F1 Team’s Nico Hulkenberg collected the final point in 10th, aided by his teammate Kevin Magnussen, who held many of the top-10 challengers at bay behind him through the middle of the race.

Unfortunately for Magnussen, a cumulative 20 seconds of time penalties – for causing a collision and leaving the track to gain an advantage – dropped him to 12th in the finishing order, last on the lead lap.

Stroll was credited with 19th, while Visa CashApp RB’s Pierre Gasly was last and failed to complete a lap after a gearbox issue on the start forced him to be the first retirement of the F-1 season.

Formula One continues its championship chase March 24 with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.