Hamilton wins a crazy race in Jeddah with Verstappen finishing 2nd and Bottas in P3. There were some controversial moments between the two and the track will come under some scrutiny. But its all square going into the season finale.
After a crash from Verstappen at the end of Q3 yesterday Hamilton appeared to have the advantage going into the race. However, no gear box change for Verstappen so he started P3 with only Bottas between him and his championship rival. All eyes were on turn 1…
Lights out and Hamilton had a clear get away from Bottas and Verstappen. Perez makes a lighting start nearly through to P4 but locked up in turn 1, having to give way to Leclerc into turns 2 and 3. Gasly had a terrible start losing out to Norris. After a disappointing qualifying Sainz made up 2 places with Russell falling back to P17 by the end of lap 2.
It was settled by lap 8 at the front but further back the DRS was helping the action. Daniel Ricciardo finally making it past the Alpha Tauri of Gasly while Alonso was losing places to Giovinazzi and Sainz. However, just as we thought we were settling in for the night, Mick Schumacher had a heavy crash running into the barriers at turn 22 after losing control the back end of the car on lap 10.
Many leapt into the pits, including Mercedes who double stacked the cars onto hard tyres. RedBull decided to stay out and gain track position and have fresher tyres later in the race. With another safety car were hoping to get another chance for a ‘cheap’ pitstop. Once the car was removed the FIA needed to make sure the barrier was safe and therefore the red flag came out. RedBull were able to change Verstappen’s tyres, ready for a standing start.
Restart lights out and Hamilton got a much better start than Verstappen, leading into turn 1 but Verstappen was later on the brakes. Hamilton shut the door on the corner, but Verstappen came back over the curb forcing Hamilton out of the move leaving a gap for Ocon to take P2. Bottas locked up going into turn 1 nearly taking out Verstappen put losing a place to Ricciardo.
Turn 3 and the drama happened. Perez was pinched between Gasly and Leclerc meaning Leclerc hit the back wheel of Perez who then spun into the wall. He was out and with the cars slowing around the incident all but 1 made it safely through. Mazepin, not knowing the cars around him were slowing, ploughed straight into the back of George Russell, both were then out of the race. Another standing start and after some negotiations Verstappen gave the place back to Hamilton but also Ocon, so Ocon started in P1 with Hamilton P2 and Verstappen P3.
3Rd time lucky and both Hamilton and Verstappen had a good start but with Verstappen on the medium tyres he had better grip and in the second phase he gained on Hamilton. Turn 1 and Hamilton was pinched between Ocon and Verstappen but all 3 made it fairly through the corner with Verstappen coming out on top. He then sped away leaving Hamilton to overtake Ocon the following lap. Thankfully all the cars made through the lap and we were racing again.
Lap 20 and Verstappen reported lack of power which was just the battery topping up. This did allow Hamilton to catch up to within the DRS zone. It appeared that in the corners Verstappen was the faster car putting in purple sectors, but in a straight line the Mercedes had the upper hand. The battle was truly on.
Just 3 laps later and Tsunoda went deep into turn 1, Vettel thought he could take advantage, but he was tagged by Tsunoda trying to make the apex of turn 2. This only brought out the virtual safety car meaning everyone could maintain the gap. Tsunoda got the car going again and the VSC ended when he got to the pits. Tsunoda got a 5 second time penalty for the move while Vettel’s car suffered small damage. Green flag and the gap was still nearly 1 second between the championship rivals.
Raikkonen was battling the already suffering Aston Martin but going into turn 10 the two collided adding to the damage. At this point there seemed to be debris all over the track. This ended up with 3 VSCs in succession causing Alonso to come on the radio calling for a full safety car which never came. On track this was keeping a close gap between Hamilton and Verstappen but did squash some of the excitement.
Lap 36 and with the VSCs ending the gap began to come down again between the front runners. Hamilton would gain by 6 tenths and then Verstappen would open the gap again in sector 1. Within DRS on lap 37 Hamilton went alongside and into turn 1 both of them ended up off the track. Halfway round the lap Verstappen was told by his engineers to give the place back. Slowing down Hamilton didn’t know what was happening and ended up hitting the back of the RedBull.
After conversations on the pit wall between the FIA and both teams the incident would end up being investigated after the race. However, the turn 1 incident was investigated, and Verstappen given a 5 second time penalty. This didn’t matter though, lap 43 and Hamilton got past Verstappen. It looked like Verstappen may have let him past so that he could nurse his tyres home because he lost a second every lap to Hamilton after that.
The battle was on for P3 though between Ocon and Bottas. Swapping places for the last few laps but on the final lap, Bottas had DRS and right on the line Bottas took P3 which was really importantly for the constructor’s championship. He joins his teammate on the podium in P1 and Verstappen in P2.
The championship goes down to Abu Dhabi with them on level points after Hamilton got fastest lap. Whoever finishes ahead will win the championship. 2021 has really delivered this year, 1 race to go next week.