The Verstappen vs. Hamilton battle in 2021 put every Formula 1 fan at the edge of their seats. We witnessed one of motor racing’s greatest moments throughout the season. There was plenty of tension between Mercedes and Red Bull, and Hamilton added to it after expressing his concerns with Verstappen’s aggressive style of racing last season and often engaged in risky wheel-to-wheel racing.
However, the beginning of 2022 looks promising as Verstappen finds a worthy contender in Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. Both have plenty of youth in them that welcomes hardline competition, which is what the 2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix showcased.
Top 3 Takeaways from 2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Verstappen grabs first win of the season
Verstappen held off Charles Celclerc to win the 2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Red Bull bounced back and ended the race on a positive note despite Sergio Perez falling to P4 by the end of the race. On the other hand, Verstappen made a late move on Leclerc which added more drama. Leclerc fended off the attacks for a few laps but eventually fell short when the DRS games started to take a toll on his Ferrari. The RB18 was clearly dominant in this department.
The Belgian-Dutch driver was triumphant in the end. And for the second consecutive year, F1 features two of the most talented drivers on the grid in comparable machinery.
When both crossed the checkered flag, Leclerc commented, “Well done to Max. That was nice,” over team radio as both drivers drove side by side and congratulated each other. The mutual respect between the two drivers makes everyone excited for more heart-stopping action.
Sergio Perez’s lead gets disrupted by the Safety Car
The Mexican racing driver did well in qualifying and secured the first pole position of his career, ahead of both Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. His teammate, Max Verstappen, was in the second row at P4.
Verstappen lacked pace in Q3 for the second week in a row, and Perez stepped up to give Red Bull its first P1 of the season. The 32-year-old outpaced his teammate and Leclerc in Jeddah, putting on a display of impressive precision driving at the fast and technical Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
Perez led the earlier phase of the race with his robust RB18. But, the Safety Car sent out for Nicholas Latifi’s crash at the final corner after Perez pitted from the lead and snatched the lead he made. More than that, the Mexican lost a shot at a podium finish after losing a dispute over P3 with Carlos Sainz.
The Mercedes struggle persists
A P5 finish for Russell and a P10 finish for seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton start to magnify the struggles that hold Mercedes back. The introduction of the new generation of cars was a major hurdle for the manufacturers. The Silver Arrows showed a lack of pace in qualifying as Hamilton failed to get past Q1, while Russell managed to a P6 in qualifying.
Without a competitive car to compete at the front Mercedes now have the courage to take more risks at the start of the season, and after George Russell’s tire strategy gamble backfired in Bahrain it was Hamilton’s turn this week following underwhelming results in Saudi Arabia.
Luck played a role in Hamilton finishing P10 in Saudi Arabia. He could’ve ended the race with a better position, but the closure of the pit lane following the retirement of Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso held him back from better recovery.
Ultimately, Russell’s run to P5 was encouraging for the team, but the fact that he was over 30 seconds behind Verstappen at a track where Hamilton dominated less than four months ago tells us how much Mercedes have receded.