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This is how Verstappen won the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix last year

This is how Verstappen won the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix last year

14-03-2023 19:31
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GPblog.com

Max Verstappen did not start from pole position in Saudi Arabia last year but did manage to win the race at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in 2022 after a thrilling battle with Charles Leclerc. He was just faster in 2022, will he be much faster in 2023?

Bad Saturday turned into good start for Verstappen

Verstappen was not on pole when it apparently would have been in the RB18. Sergio Perez grabbed his first-ever pole position in his F1 career at the 2022 Jeddah Corniche Circuit. Verstappen only grabbed P4 and had to start behind Carlos Sainz. On P2 was Leclerc, the Ferrari driver he would struggle hard with this race.

Perez was well away at the start on Sunday and dived wide into the first corner. The advancing Ferraris behind him therefore had to give way to get through the corner cleanly. Verstappen managed to take advantage of this and by turn one the Dutchman had caught his former Toro Rosso teammate.

The top four remained the same in the early stages. Perez held up well in the free air and stayed about two seconds ahead of Leclerc until lap 15. Verstappen was back on Leclerc's heels, but the trio did create a small gap to number four, Sainz. Leclerc fooled Red Bull Racing and after a fake call to change tyres from Ferrari, Perez still came in first of the frontrunners.

Bad luck for Perez was starter Verstappen

Verstappen moved up to P2 behind Leclerc and that was the soft start to a long fight for victory in Saudi Arabia. Indeed, Perez was very unlucky that just after his pit stop there was a safety car. Nicholas Latifi had put his car into the wall. Under the safety car, Verstappen and the Ferraris came in.

From lap 21 to 50, it became a big fight between Leclerc and the Red Bull driver. Verstappen was on the Monegasque's heels for more than 20 laps. The two drivers drove a gap of almost nine seconds to the number three on the track. On lap 42, the jousting between the two began which continued until lap 50.

Striking situation in battle Leclerc and Verstappen

With DRS, Verstappen placed his RB18 next to Leclerc's F1-75 in the final hairpin of the circuit. Having just passed Leclerc on the DRS detection line, Leclerc had the DRS on the straight across start/finish. The Ferrari driver therefore caught Verstappen back at Turn 1. On the following lap, Verstappen was ahead of the DRS and braked to avoid overtaking Leclerc yet. Leclerc did the same, creating a very striking situation on the track that we had not seen before.

Verstappen failed to overtake Leclerc the first time after this with DRS. On lap 46, the Dutchman did it a bit more carefully, so on the straight for lap 47 he did pass the Ferrari driver with DRS. On the last lap and corner, Leclerc had his last chance. With DRS, he crept closer, but it was not enough. Verstappen won the race by half a second.