In Free Practice prior to qualifying Charles Leclerc was the first victim of the new Jeddah track – While drivers were reported as praising the fast nature of the circuit as a driving experience – they also criticised the safety aspect, including a series of blind corners that led to plenty of near-misses.
It’s the second fastest track on the Grand Prix Circuit, pipped only by Monza. Drivers are at full throttle much of the time and there’s little run-off if there’s an incident.
With just minutes of Friday’s Free Practice left at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc had a red-flag incident after hitting the wall at Turn 23. following a 170 mph spin.
Up to then he had recorded the 10th-fastest time in FP2, then lost control of the Ferrari with five minutes of the session left , before hitting the barriers hard.
It was a big crash – and fans gave a sigh of relief as the Monegasque driver hopped out of the cockpit and walked away. He then went to the medical centre for precautionary checks but was fine.
That left his team with a huge challenge to get Charles’ badly damaged Ferrari in shape for Qualifying.
An Excellent Qualifying Result
And Charles also nearly lost control of the car on his final lap in qualifying but he managed to catch the Ferrari just in time. The result – a stellar fourth on the grid. Team-mate Carlos Sainz was however lamenting a spin that cost him a place in the first 10.
Leclerc admitted he was taking things carefully in the qualifying runs after that heavy crash in second practice. But that didn’t stop him finally throwing everything at his final lap in Q3 to give him P4 on the race grid.
A Race Hampered by Red Flags
Ferrari’s Monegasque, Charles Leclerc, was disappointed though when he could not maintain P4 during the race, and ended P7. Hampered by the red flags and the standing restarts, Leclerc had difficulty warming up the hard tyres and lost several positions during the first and the second restarts of the race.
Putting on hard tyres for the restart, with the struggle to warm them up had cost him in the end three positions.
But not all was lost as the team-work of Charles and Carlos paid off with more important points toward the third place in the constructors’ championship.
Leclerc even managed to overtake his team-mate in the last two laps of the race in a good battle between them. However, both would have wanted more out of this particular Grand Prix in Jeddah.
Hamilton and Verstappen Jockey to the Limit for the Win
Hamilton is giving his all for a record eighth drivers’ title. He headed into the Jeddah Corniche Circuit eight points behind leader Verstappen. However he had a psychological edge having won the previous two races.
It was a “wild” race which was twice halted by red flags. Hamilton on pole for Mercedes continually tangled with the Red Bull of Verstappen.
The thrills accumulated as Mick Schumacher crashed his Haas into the barriers at turn 22.
An 18-minute delay for the barrier to be fixed then led to a standing start with a second red flag thrown following a collision in the midfield.
There was plenty of antics at the front of the field, Hamilton passing Verstappen who then shaved turn one to keep the lead.
The FIA and Red Bull were then left negotiating over a penalty for Verstappen. It was arranged he would drop behind Hamilton for the second restart.
A fine run inside at the second restart saw Verstappen again steal the lead but Hamilton soon was catching up. Virtual safety cars for debris on the track paused Hamilton’s goal to take back the lead. When the track was clear he was again squeezed by the Dutchman who was again instructed to give the place back by his Red Bull team.
In doing so, Verstappen braked hard and, as Hamilton turned to overtake, he ran into the rear of the Red Bull:
Despite wing damage, Hamilton still overtook Verstappen.
From then on, Hamilton accelerated to the chequered flag. He took the victory with the fastest lap.
So Hamilton has pulled off a stunning victory in this action-packed first Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Just one more exciting weekend to go to decide the Drivers Championship in Abu Dhabi.
The win, as well as the fastest lap, means Hamilton and Verstappen are neck and neck on 369.5 points. Abu Dhabi next week is assured to be a thriller.