Verstappen Wins in Saudia Arabia!

Verstappen Wins in Saudia Arabia!.jpg

This weekend looked like it was going to be a Red Bull weekend. However, Max Verstappen started fourth on the grid with his teammate, Sergio Perez (Checo), on pole for the first time in his career. Checo kicked the race off well by blasting ahead away from the grid and holding a two second lead on Charles Leclerc for the first fifteen laps of the race. Ferrari was knocked off their game plan during Perez’s launch into lap one, as he pushed Leclerc wide right, Carlos Sainz was also pushed wide right allowing Verstappen to undercut Sainz on the left and gaining third position. At lap 15 Red Bull made the unlucky decision to pit Sergio Perez. Under normal circumstances this was the right strategy. No one could have predicted that Nicholas Latifi would crash his Williams car into the wall during lap 16. This untimely crash allowed the rest of the field to pit under yellow leaving Checo in third place. Checo never recovered his pole position in the race.

Mercedes is still struggling to find the pace. They are relying on the skill of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell to keep them in striking distance of podium finishes. Hamilton started in 15th. Despite that, Hamilton methodically climbed the field, passing car after car. Halfway thru the race Hamilton had climbed from 15th to sixth place.

With 14 laps to go, Fernando Alonso’s Alpine overheated, causing him to limp to pit lane. As Alonso slowly made his way around the track, Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren completely lost power forcing a yellow flag. Both cars had to be helped to the garage. Kevin Magnussen pitted under the yellow flag and Valtteri Bottas was forced to retire his Alpha Romeo. Racing finally resumed at lap 41 and Hamilton missed his window to pit his Mercedes. He was forced to pit once racing resumed dropping him from 6th place all the way to 12th. Still, Hamilton was able to finish in the points at 10th place.

Once racing resumed, the front runners began to battle. Leclerc and Verstappen traded positions twice during lap 42 leaving Leclerc in front. During lap 43, both drivers locked their cars up heading into turn 27, but Leclerc took the initiative and skittered around Verstappen coming out of the turn in first. It seemed that Leclerc had the edge on Verstappen. His precise driving on the corners along with his careful tactics of using DRS to power past Verstappen on the straights were echo’s of last week’s battle in Bahrain. Finally, Verstappen decided enough was enough. During lap 46, he waited until the long straight after turn 27 to make his move. While in position to activate his DRS, Verstappen finally passed Leclerc for the last time of the race. At the end of lap 49, Leclerc came close to passing Verstappen on the same long straight but a yellow flag waved slowing the whole grid down and preventing Leclerc from overtaking Verstappen going into lap 50.

Red Bull showed last week that they had the pace. This week they showed that they can finish a race. Early in the season the top two teams are Ferrari and Red Bull. Once again both Ferrari drivers achieve podium finishes. Kevin Magnussen also drove his Haas into the points for the second week in a row. Haas has greatly improved in the offseason. But for Mick Schumacher’s shunt during qualification, both Haas’s would have started in the top ten of the grid on Sunday. Both Mercedes drivers finished in the points and Lando Norris also steered his McLaren into the top ten as well. It’s unfortunate that there were so many retirements this weekend, but that is racing. On to Australia in two weeks!

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