What a chaotic race that was! Lewis Hamilton managed to overcome adversity, dirty tactics and multiple stoppages to clinch a third consecutive race win in Saudi Arabia. Subsequently, sending the world title fight into the final race.
Red Flag Chaos
There were two red flags during the race, and the first one was a nightmare for Mercedes after Mick Schumacher crashed. Thankfully Schumacher was able to walk away.
The Black Arrows made the perfect start, maintaining P1 and P2 with ease. Then under a safety car they dived into the pits, as expected for the free stop. Max Verstappen stayed out to take track position. Then the red flag was waved allowing Verstappen to keep track position and change his tyres.
The restart saw Hamilton take the lead before Verstappen took the place back off track illegally. When re-joining, Verstappen almost made contact with Hamilton who took avoiding action, allowing Esteban Ocon through to P2.
However, Sergio Perez, Nikita Mazepin and George Russell all crashed out on the restart, forcing us into another red flag.
A dagger into Red Bull hearts as Mercedes now hold a 28 point advantage over them heading into the final race. It would take a disaster for Mercedes to lose the Constructor’s Championship from here.
Deal or No Deal
Michael Masi then took the role of the Banker from Deal or No Deal, offering deals to Red Bull about the second restart. The offer was give Hamilton the position back he took illegally, but effectively be P3 as Ocon started from pole. A deal they accepted as they knew the overtake was never going to stand.
Lights Out: Chapter Three
Under the second red flag, Red Bull gambled and gave Verstappen medium tyres. Add that to his driving ability he took Hamilton and Ocon on the restart and waltzed into the lead. A huge gamble from the Red Bull mechanics, but not a bad one considering the chances of safety cars and virtual safety cars to preserve tyre life.
Hamilton Hunting in the World Title Fight
The defending champion looked to hunt down the race lead and was looking quicker than his rival. Off the back of a VSC, Hamilton made the dive round the outside of turn one. Verstappen missed the corner and ran wide and was rightly instructed to give the position up. Ultimately gaining him a five second penalty for gaining an advantage.
On lap 37, Verstappen slowed to allow Hamilton through, but the pair made contact! Hamilton hit the back of Verstappen who appeared to brake check him. Even if Max didn’t and was genuinely trying to let Hamilton through, why do it on the racing line? When has anyone stayed on the racing line to let anyone through?
The Dutch driver has been summoned to the stewards with Hamilton for the collision and we’ll wait for that outcome. Sky Sports commentators said that Verstappen needs to look at his ‘driving standards’ because this weekend was ‘too much.’ Now that’s not good when the commentators have to say that in the best title fight of a generation.
Hamilton was then let by later on and powered on from there. Despite visible front wing damage, he still fired in purple sectors to take a bonus point for fastest lap, ensuring he took the maximum 26 points heading into the final race.
Heartbreak for Esteban Ocon
On the final corner of the final lap, the young Frenchman had his podium stolen from him as Valtteri Bottas took the final podium spot on the wire.
Although it’ll hurt him, he can take the positives after another top race this season for him in the Alpine.
Lewis Hamilton had to use all his experience during the race: “I’ve been racing a long time, but that was incredibly tough! I tried to be as tough and as sensible as I could out there, with all my experience over the years… It was difficult, but we persevered as a team.”
Max Verstappen slammed the stewards and Hamilton: “It was eventful, a lot of things happened that I don’t fully agree with but it is what it is. I slowed down, I wanted to let him by, I was on the right but he didn’t want to overtake and we touched. I don’t really understand what happened there.”
Valtteri Bottas never gave up during the race: “It was not an easy day with all the red flags. It wasn’t easy to overtake but I just kept pushing and it was great to take the podium place right at the end there.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 5, 2021
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