The inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix served up a thrilling battle between Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen and Mercedes title rival Lewis Hamilton on Sunday. Here is how the race, which saw two red-flag stoppages, panned out:
Race Start – Hamilton keeps the lead ahead of Valtteri Bottas in a Mercedes one-two, Verstappen slots into third.
Lap 10 – Mick Schumacher crashes heavily in his Haas at Turn 23, safety car deployed. Hamilton and Bottas are among the drivers to pit under the safety car. Verstappen stays out, and inherits the race lead.
L14 – Red flag is thrown out to halt the race so repairs can be carried out to the Turn 23 barriers. This plays into Verstappen’s hands as the rules allow a driver to change tyres under a red flag.
“Why is there a red flag? The tyre wall looks fine! Find out what the reason is,” Hamilton says to his team on the radio.
“It is a risk we knew we had because we knew they could throw the red flag, I ll come talk to you,” responds Mercedes strategist James Vowles.
L15 – Race restarts after an 18-minute stoppage. The cars line up on the grid for a standing start, Verstappen at the front, Hamilton alongside in second.
Hamilton gets a better start and jumps into the lead off the line, Verstappen cuts the corner and takes back the lead. Verstappen’s move leaves Hamilton wrong-footed, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon passes him and pushes him down to third.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc tags Sergio Perez and sends the Red Bull into a spin. The Mexican is out on the spot. As cars slow down to avoid him, Haas driver Nikita Mazepin crashes into the back of George Russell’s Williams.
Race halted again.
L16 – Race restarts again. Race director Michael Masi orders Verstappen to line up behind Hamilton, effectively giving back the place he gained from the Briton by going off track at the previous restart.
As a result, Ocon lines up first, Hamilton second, Verstappen third.
Hamilton gets a good start but Verstappen passes him on the inside into the first corner. The Dutchman passes Ocon for the lead on the following straight. Hamilton makes light contact with Ocon going into the first corner and escapes unscathed.
Hamilton passes Ocon at the end of the lap. He moves up to second and sets about chasing Verstappen as the two begin trading fastest laps.
L23 – Virtual Safety Car deployed. Yuki Tsunoda crashes into the barriers, breaking his front wing. He is able to get back to the pits under his own power.
L24 – Virtual Safety Car Ends.
L28 – Virtual Safety Car deployed again briefly.
L29 – Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen collide, leaving debris on the track. Virtual Safety Car deployed for the third time.
L33 – Virtual Safety Car ends. Verstappen is 1.6 seconds clear of Hamilton.
L36 – Virtual Safety Car deployed again.
L37 – Hamilton gets a nice exit out of the last corner and, with the DRS open, gets a good run on the Red Bull. He pulls up alongside and attempts to pass him on the outside. Both run wide. Verstappen is asked to give the position to Hamilton.
Verstappen slows down ahead of Hamilton. Hamilton, appearing not to have got the message, runs into the Red Bull and damages his own front wing.
L38 – Hamilton radio: “He just brake-tested me! I’ve just hit him, man, my wing’s broken.
Race engineer responds: It looks okay, he’s been told to give you the position.
Hamilton: “That was dangerous driving dude.”
Mercedes sporting director Ron Meadows radios race director Masi saying Mercedes did not know Verstappen was going to let Hamilton past at that part of the track. Masi says he has informed him already that Verstappen is going to give the place back. Meadows responds that he was still in the process of telling Hamilton s race engineer to pass the message on to the Briton.
L42 – Verstappen gives Hamilton the lead but takes it back immediately.
L43 – Stewards give Verstappen a five-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.
Verstappen lets Hamilton through into the lead. “We didn’t need to do that, Max,” his engineer tells him as Verstappen has already been given a time penalty.
Stewards say they will investigate the collision between Hamilton and Verstappen after the race.
L46 – “Just be careful on the kerbs,” Hamilton, setting fastest laps despite nursing a damaged front wing, is told over the radio. Masi also tells Mercedes to warn Hamilton that his swerve toward Verstappen while going past was “borderline.”
L50 – Hamilton wins, Bottas snatches third from Ocon at the very end, out-dragging him across the line with his DRS overtaking aid wide open. “Get in there Lewis!” Hamilton s race engineer says on the radio. “That has got to be the craziest race I can remember, the cool heads won that out.”
“It is what it is, mate, I tried at least,” Verstappen says on the radio.
“I don t know why he went into the back of you like that,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner responds.
Race finish – Hamilton wins and scores fastest lap. He now heads into the Abu Dhabi finale next weekend level on points with Verstappen. Verstappen leads as he as won more races. Verstappen is also voted driver of the day by fans.