Lewis Hamilton wins controversial and chaotic Saudi Arabia Grand Prix
6 December, 2021, 11:10 am
Lewis Hamilton passed Max Verstappen with six laps remaining Sunday to win the chaotic inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and pull even on points with his rival as Formula One’s thrilling championship race heads into the title-deciding finale.
The race on the street circuit under the lights on the 30-kilometre coastal resort area in Jeddah was marred by three standing starts, a pair of restarts, multiple safety cars and an intense back-and-forth between the title contenders.
Red Bull was allowed to negotiate a penalty for Verstappen, Mercedes head Toto Wolff slammed his headset in rage, and Hamilton drove into the back of his title rival before ultimately passing Verstappen for the win with six laps remaining.
“Lewis, that has got to be the craziest race I can remember,” Hamilton’s engineer radioed after he crossed the finish line.
“Great job, guys, great job!” Hamilton replied. “That’s more like it, let’s keep pushing!”
A dejected Verstappen, who has seen his hold on the title race evaporate over the last three races, was dejected.
“It is what it is,” the Dutchman said.
“I tried, at least.”
Verstappen was penalised for going off course on the second restart, was later told to yield position to Hamilton, but Hamilton ran into the back of his Red Bull to damage the front wing on his Mercedes. The two then went back and forth over the closing sequence.
But once the seven-time world champion passed Verstappen for good, Hamilton controlled the finish and won for the third consecutive race.
The British driver has eight wins on the season and has now pulled into a tie with Verstappen in the standings.
The championship will be decided next Sunday in the finale in Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton is the four-time defending F1 champion and seeking an eighth title to break the all-time record he shares with Michael Schumacher. The 24-year-old Verstappen is seeking his first championship and had dominated the season for Red Bull until this late three-race charge by Mercedes and Hamilton.
“It was quite eventful … a lot of things happened which I don’t fully agree with … I tried on track to give it all … just lacking a bit of rubber I think towards the end, but still second,” Verstappen said afterwards.
“It will be decided in Abu Dhabi, hopefully we’ll have a good weekend there.”
Verstappen was ordered to meet the stewards after the race. As for Hamilton, he felt it was an epic battle.
“I’ve been racing a long time and that was incredibly tough,” he said.
“I tried to be as sensible and as tough as I could be out there … [I used] all my racing experience just keeping the car on track and staying clean … we’ve had all sorts of things thrown at us in the second half of the season.”
As for the contact with Verstappen, Hamilton said he didn’t know why his rival hit the brakes in front of him.
“I didn’t understand why he hit the brakes quite heavily,” he said.
“Then I ran into the back of him … then he moved on … I got a message afterwards [that he was giving a place back], it was a bit confusing.
“They’ve [Red Bull] got some raw pace, they have been so quick, it was very hard to overtake them today.
“This is for all the guys and girls back in the factory … the people have been lovely [in Saudi Arabia] and the track is phenomenal to drive. Very difficult physically and mentally but you wouldn’t want it any other way.”