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Hamilton wins highly controversial Saudi Arabian race

Hamilton wins highly controversial Saudi Arabian race

05-12-2021 19:41 Last update: 20:32
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GPblog.com

Lewis Hamilton will go into the final round of the season lvel with Max Verstappen after an extremely controversial Sau Arabian Grand Prix, with Verstappen finishing second.

Hamilton got a phenomenal get-away, with teammate Valtteri Bottas getting clear of Verstappen going into Turn One, as Verstappen's teammate Sergio Perez did well to avoid creaming the back of the Dutchman, before being bested by Charles Leclerc for fourth.

Yuki Tsunoda then very nearly fed Esteban Ocon into the wall, with the Frenchman narrowly escaping an early exit from the race.

Carlos Sainz, following his nightmare qualifying yesterday, dove past Kimi Raikkonen for P13 at the end of lap one in a race that Ferrari aimed to seal third in the Constructors' standings. Lance Stroll and George Russell, meanwhile, were involved in contact through Turn seven on lap one, prompting the stewards to note their incident.

Mercedes continued to increase their advantage over Red Bull, with Verstappen falling 2.5 seconds clear by lap four, with Verstappen's gearbox seemingly unphased by his heartbreaking qualifying mistake. Sainz's recovery continued with a routine pass on the Alpha Tauri of Tsunoda. Bottas set the fastest lap right before his teammate did the same, which is also crucial for Mercedes' Constructors' battle with Red Bull.

Fernando Alonso then went extremely deep into Turn one and ran wide while under pressure for the final points-paying position from Antonio Giovinazzi, as Sainz began to converge on their battle for tenth. No interference was needed from the stewards though, as Giovinazzi managed to clear the Spaniard one lap later with a stupendous move around the outside at Turn One.

High Drama 

Verstappen then began to close on Bottas, as Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz made moves on Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso respectively. Starting on the Hard tyres, it was a tremendous start by Sainz in the opening stint.

The safety car was then deployed on lap 10 as Mick Schumacher suffered a crash similar to that of Charles Leclerc on Friday, smashing into the wall at Turn 22, prompting stops onto the Hards for Hamilton and Bottas, with Verstappen opting to remain on track. An interesting strategic battle was developing in Saudi Arabia.

Even more fascinating was Bottas' decision to back up Verstappen so as to allow himself to stack behind Hamilton, leading Verstappen to fume on the radio; it is an incident that has caught Mercedes out in the past.

The race was then turned on its head. Red Bull's decision to stay out was vindicated when the Red Flag was deployed to repair the barrier, allowing Red Bull to change tyres in a free stop for Verstappen, putting the Dutchman into the legitimate race lead. Hamilton aired his anger over team radio, stating from his perspective that the barrier "looks fine."

Mercedes chose not to switch tyres over the suspended periods, with Verstappen bolting on a set of Hard Tyres to attempt to get to the end of the race.

Off the second standing start, Hamilton got comfortably in front, but Verstappen ventured off the circuit, rejoining into Hamilton which allowed Ocon into an unbelievable second place having taken advantage of Bottas locking up and running wide. Perez made contact with Leclerc, causing George Russell to near-enough stop on the track, and the unfortunate Nikita Mazepin careered into the back of the Williams, taking them both out.

Verstappen was then told to allow Hamilton through for the restart, placing Ocon into the lead for the second restart, and making for a fascinating prospect ith Verstappen now on the Medium Tyres. Verstappen got a remarkable start and cleared both Hamilton and Ocon through the first four corners, with Hamilton being closed out by the Frenchman, and all of a sudden it was advantage Verstappen once again.

A lap later, Hamilton flew past Ocon into Turn One and set off after his title rival in what had turned into a sizzler of a Grand Prix, as Yuki Tsunoda battled Sebastian Vettel for eighth.

Yuki Tsunoda then made close acquaintance with the barrier after smashing into Sebastian Vettel at Turn One, prompting a Virtual Safety Car, but he just about managed to get going again after avoiding his stricken front wing.

Fernando Alonso then span through Turn Four, and very nearly wiped out Nicholas Latifi when rejoining, just avoiding the Williams. Tsunoda earned himself a 5-second penalty for his actions, as Vettel made more contact after Raikkonen tried to send a move on him at Turn 3 - the German wanting to stop in what had turned into another tough evening for Aston Martin. The team kept him out though, as plenty of debris began to litter the circuit, causing another Virtual Safety Car.

Verstappen restarted much better than Hamilton, with Raikkonen not really helping the seven-time champion by parking the Alfa Romeo at Turn 13 and holding him up by a few tenths.

Shortly thereafter, more debris appeared on the track as the 6.1 Kilometre Corniche circuit became a Formula One scrap yard. The Virtual Safety Car was once again introduced. The timing of the ending helped Hamilton, and once again Verstappen ran off the track and rejoined ahead of Hamilton having pushed him wide.

Unbelievable

The unbelievable then happened. Verstappen slowed to give Hamilton the position, and the champion went straight into the Dutchman, damaging his front wing and leading to an investigation from the stewards.

Mercedes' sporting director Ron Meadows then demanded that Red Bull give Mercedes the position, with Red Bull seemingly content that they had already tried to give the place back with Hamilton failing to do so. Verstappen did then eventually let Hamilton go, before immediately diving back down the inside.

However, just as he did this, the FIA gave Verstappen a 5-second penalty for the earlier incident - yet more controversy ensued. Hamilton, though, got down the inside into Turn 27, and had the lead from his rival in what had turned into a real mess.

Hamilton crossed the line nearly 10 seconds clear of Verstappen, with Bottas denying Ocon Alpine's third podium of the season on the finish line, brilliantly fending off Bottas, as Ricciardo took fifth. Gasly, Leclerc, Sainz, Giovinazzi and Lando Norris rounded out the points. McLaren as a result kept themselves in the fight for third in a highly contentious race.

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