If both drivers drop out next weekend, the Dutchman will become world champion based on the fact that he has booked more victories in 2021.
At the start, the Dutchman from Red Bull had a good start, but so were Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, leaving the original top 3 intact. Remarkably little happened in the first part of the race. All drivers were still competing and overtaking actions were hard to find on the lightning-fast track. But that would soon change.
Early Sinterklaas gift
However, on lap 10 Mick Schumacher rammed his Haas into the wall: safety car. Hamilton immediately decided to go in, Verstappen didn’t, putting him in the lead.
The Dutchman was then considerably held up there by Bottas, before the Finn headed for the pits. “They should not allow that,” said the Red Bull driver. There was too much damage at Schumacher’s Haas and so a red flag. And that meant: Verstappen was allowed to change tires ‘for free’ and that was not bad for him. An early Sinterklaas gift?
At the restart – with Verstappen actually on pole – Hamilton had a super start from P2. But Verstappen did not let himself know and threw his Red Bull for the Mercedes. He did leave the track for a while and Hamilton was not happy about that. “I sat in front of him!” Esteban Ocon took advantage of that heated fight and slipped into P2 between the two ruffs.
Just behind that, Sergio Perez crashed after a tap from Charles Leclerc and Nikita Mazepin clapped on George Russell.
Perez, Mazepin and Russell out of the race and another red flag. Bad news for Red Bull in the battle for the constructors’ title. The FIA offered Red Bull to let Verstappen start from P3 as a ‘penalty’ – for leaving the track and taking advantage of it – but behind Ocon (P1) and Hamilton (P2). A remarkable scene, this openness about the board radio.
From round 16 it was again game on: Ocon from P1. And again it was Verstappen who showed what he can do with icy calm in stressful situations. The Dutchman braked last before the first corner and shot past Hamilton and Ocon in an unprecedentedly exciting image: the three of us next to each other, Hamilton being lightly touched by the Frenchman. The Brit remained behind Ocon, at least for a while.
Hamilton claps at Verstappen
The fight went on again, Hamilton on the hard tires came closer and closer with DRS, but the Dutchman threw him in front. A few laps later, Verstappen received the message over the board radio from race engineer Lambiase to return his position and kept – in the middle of the track – towards the last corner, after which Hamilton clapped behind him. “He brake tested me,” said Hamilton. The Briton already called Verstappen a “crazy guy.”
The images, just say it:
In lap 42, Verstappen gave P1 back to Hamilton, to continue immediately with DRS over it. However, the Dutchman was given a five-second penalty for an earlier incident in the game. Hamilton went by after that and it was done in Jeddah. Hamilton drove to victory and because Ocon went too fast behind Verstappen, the Dutchman was unable to enter the pit for a possible fastest lap. Bottas passed Ocon in the last corner for a podium place. An unprecedented heated battle in Jeddah it was again. Next weekend in Abu Dhabi will be no different.