After the chaos, the needle, the misunderstanding and absolutely uncompromising races it took a cool head to win and Lewis Hamilton duly delivered, with his Saudi Arabian Grand Prix victory ensuring that he did there is now nothing in the final of the Formula 1 season.
Beating title rival Max Verstappen in second place, he is now level on points after a complex and confusing race that perhaps equates to an unforeseen season. The two protagonists suffered a cranky run and both left with different points of view, with Hamilton accusing his rival of being dangerous and Verstappen aggrieved. What is clear is that neither will leave anything on the table next week in Abu Dhabi.
Investigations and debriefings will continue long into the night after this jerky affair interrupted by red flags, safety cars and the two leaders who clash several times on the track but ultimately and especially for his title, hopes that it is is an exhausted Hamilton who emerged victorious.
He entered the race behind Verstappen by eight points. They are now level. The lead changed hands five times during this exciting season, which has fluctuated between them, but of course Hamilton has experienced tense confrontations, won his first title in the last race of 2007 and then the sealed in a fierce confrontation. in Brazil a year later.
Verstappen is in his first title fight but has shown no indication of being intimidated, instead he is eagerly grabbing his chance to finally compete and he still has everything to play for despite his clear disappointment with the result. on the Jeddah circuit.
Hamilton admitted how difficult the race was. “I’ve been racing for a long time and it was incredibly difficult,” he said. “I’ve tried to be as reasonable and tough as possible and with all my experience to keep the car on the track and to keep it clean. It was hard. We were thrown all kinds of things.
Hamilton racing engineer Peter Bonnington attributed to his man the way he had handled it, noting: “It was the cool head that won out. It was a necessary skill beyond that of wrestling this delicate, high-speed circuit, given the incidents that defined the race as it swayed between the two rivals.
Hamilton maintained his lead from pole, but an early red flag from an accident left Verstappen ahead as Red Bull opted not to stop under a safety car. So far at least, it was pretty straightforward.
When the race resumed from a standing start Hamilton, gone like a ball, had the lead in the first corner, but Verstappen went wide and cut the corner of the two to emerge in front. Esteban Ocon took the opportunity to slip into second only to bring the race to a halt again immediately after several cars crashed in the middle of the peloton.
With the race stopped, FIA race director Michael Masi offered Red Bull the opportunity to drop Verstappen to third place behind Hamilton due to the incident, rather than involving the stewards. In scenes of unprecedented negotiations with Masi, Red Bull accepted the offer, conceding that Verstappen had to give way, with now in control Ocon, Hamilton.
Verstappen started brilliantly on the restart, dove inside to take the lead, while Hamilton quickly passed Ocon a lap later to move up to second place.
The first two immediately pulled away with Hamilton glued to Verstappen’s tail, fiercely quick as they matched each other’s times. Repeated periods of the virtual safety car ensued to deal with the debris littering the track and, when the race resumed on lap 37, Hamilton attempted to overtake and was slightly ahead in the first corner as both were leaving, but Verstappen held the lead, turning on the tactile paper for the flash point.
Verstappen was asked by his team to give back the place to Hamilton, but when he apparently slowed down while seeking to do so, Hamilton struck the rear of the Red Bull, damaging his front wing. Mercedes said they had no idea Verstappen was going to slow down and the team had not informed Hamilton, who did not know what Verstappen was doing. Hamilton was furious, accusing Verstappen of testing him on the brakes. The incident was investigated by flight attendants. They ruled that Verstappen’s braking had been erratic and imposed a penalty of 10 seconds. Fortunately not enough to give it a place.
Verstappen then let Hamilton pass but immediately recovered to regain the lead, but in doing so he went off the track. He then received a five-second penalty for going off the track and taking the lead and a lap later Verstappen let his rival pass again, fearing he hadn’t done enough on the previous lap. After all the chaos, Hamilton finally led and Verstappen’s tires were wearing out, unable to catch up with the leader who scored a remarkable victory.
This was too much for Verstappen who left the podium ceremony immediately after the end of the hymns. “This sport is more about penalties than racing and for me it’s not F1,” he said. “A lot of things have happened that I don’t fully agree with. “
The two teams had differing views on the incidents, but the two must now look to the future. After 21 hotly contested races, including the latest feverish and unpredictable drama, the season will be played out in a single penalty shoot-out where the two drivers have undoubtedly won their place but just when respect between them appears at its lowest. level.