The F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix made the rest of the 2021 season seem dull.
It all comes down to a winner-take-all race at Abu Dhabi.by Josh Conturo, on LISTEN 03:55
The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday, December 5, 2021, was fraught with penalties and confusion and produced an incredibly exciting result that means this season has one of the tensest endings of any Formula 1 season.
So, what happened exactly?
It all began before the race even started, when Max Verstappen spun in qualifying and consequently started in 3rd on the grid. Later on lap 14, Mick Schumacher spun and plowed into the crash barriers on turn 23, which caused a red flag so that those barriers could be re-built.
This changed the course of the race as it gave effectively gave Verstappen a free pitstop as the drivers are allowed to fit new tires under a red flag. As opposed to Mercedes’ strategy of stopping a few laps before under a yellow flag.
Speaking of which, Valteri Bottas came under fire for purposefully driving slow to try to keep Verstappen in 3rd while creating a gap between himself and Hamilton that was large enough for Mercedes to pit both drivers on the same lap. You are not technically allowed to do this, but no penalties were given as a result.
Anyway, the race re-started on lap 15, which saw Lewis Hamilton drop to 3rd after being cut off by Verstappen and Estaban Ocon. However, there was yet another red flag due to a collision between Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc and a separate wreck involving Nikita Mazepin (as usual) and George Russell.
The race re-started yet again on lap 17 with Ocon in 1st, Hamilton 2nd, and Verstappen 3rd.
On the first corner, Verstappen cut across the inside to take 1st and Hamilton was cut off by Ocon, who the Brit then overtook on lap 18 to take 2nd. The race carried on as usual except for two virtual safety cars, one for an incident involving Yuki Tsunoda and Sebastian Vettel and another involving Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel. Until lap 37, that is.
With the aid of DRS, Hamilton tried to make a move on Verstappen on the main straight and into turn 1. However, the Dutchman braked quite late and ran wide off track but managed to retain the lead, he was soon ordered to give 1st to Hamilton.
Verstappen slowed on the back straight later that lap, only for Hamilton to get caught off guard and take damage to his front wing by clipping the back of Verstappen, at which point Verstappen sped away, leaving Hamilton to claim over the radio that Verstappen brake checked him.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolfe was seen in the pits absolutely losing it, slamming his headphones on the monitor.
On lap 42, Hamilton was back in overtaking position and went for it. But, of course, Verstappen did not give an inch and kept the lead. This time though, the stewards stepped in and awarded Verstappen a 5-second penalty. On lap 44, Hamilton finally got past the Dutchman. At this time, Verstappen seemed to be completely done with this race and lost to Hamilton by 11.8 seconds.
What does this mean for the last race in Abu Dhabi?
Well, it is going to be one hell of a race, that is for sure, as now both Hamilton and Verstappen are tied for the lead with 369.5 points each. Expect them to be trading the lead back and forth and for it to be wildly close all race. Or, one of them could crack under the pressure and spin-off into a wall.
However, if they both crash and total each other’s cars, Verstappen will technically score the title as he has more wins this season than Hamilton.
At this point though, it would not be surprising to see them both crash on the last corner and go full Talledega Knights with a 100m sprint to the finish line.