Top 10 moments from the 2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
The 2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix started with controversy, as a four-hour driver meeting convened to discuss whether the race should go ahead after a missile attack near the track. After receiving assurances from the organisers, the race indeed went ahead, and boy were we entertained! Let’s go back and take a look at the 10 best moments from the race!
Lewis Hamilton has a race to forget
After a peculiarly poor qualifying session in which the seven-time world champion was knocked out in Q1, only qualifying P15, everyone was hoping for a charge through the order from Lewis Hamilton, as he had done at Brazil last year. However, this was not to be, as Hamilton lacked pure pace in his first stint on the hard tyres, and was then blocked from making a late pitstop when the pitlane was closed during a safety car period. His actual pitstop came after the safety car period ended, and that ruined his race. However, with other cars retiring, the winner of 103 races managed to salvage a solitary point as he finished P10, the first time he has finished in that position since 2012.
Perez gets his chances scuppered by the Safety Car
Sergio Perez dazzled fans with a scintillating pole lap, beating the two Ferraris in qualifying. In the early part of the race, the Mexican driver held a strong lead which looked like it would grow as he made an early pitstop and maintained pace. However, a safety car that was deployed immediately after his pitstop gave his rivals the chance to get free pitstops and jump ahead of him. This ruined his chances in the race and the driver could only manage a fourth-place finish, a poor reward for a very good drive from Perez, one which could have been a victory.
Verstappen and Leclerc play chess at 300kmph
Max Verstappen vs Charles Leclerc is the great battle of the next generation that we have been itching to see for so many seasons now, and when it came, it came in droves. After an unfinished battle in Bahrain, the pair was up there yet again in Jeddah as they played mind games with each other to gain an advantage. The final corner of the track is a hairpin with a DRS detection zone, and as Verstappen closed in on him, Leclerc took advantage of this, slowing down enough to let Verstappen be ahead at that point, and then zoomed past down the main straight with the full advantage of the DRS assisting him. This happened again, as the drivers slowed down so much to gain the advantage that both locked up into the final corner, with Leclerc again emerging ahead.
The Pink Panthers battle each other
The two Alpines of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon provided entertainment for a long time as they sparred with each other for high points-paying positions in the early parts of the race. On lap five, as Alonso tried a move on Ocon down the main straight, the French driver pushed his teammate right up to the wall, forcing him to back out of the corner. Alonso came back again the next lap but was too far back to attempt a move into the first corner. He got ahead at the last corner hairpin but was almost thwarted yet again by an aggressive Ocon, who seems to bring out his best in pink cars. The teammates were told to hold station by the team afterwards, and the thrilling battle came to an end.
Nicholas Latifi influences a race again
Nicholas Latifi was part of the most controversial moment of last year, as it was his car that crashed and prompted the safety car that allowed Verstappen to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the 2021 World Championship. In Jeddah, it was yet another Latifi crash that decided who would, or rather wouldn’t, win the race. The Williams driver crashed out on lap 16, a lap after race leader Sergio Perez became the first of the front runners to make a pitstop. The safety car was deployed to recover his car, and drivers like Leclerc, Sainz and Verstappen made cheap pitstops to take advantage of the situation. Perez lost both his lead and the eventual race win on a day that could have been so much more.
Battles in the midfield
There were enough battles in the midfield to provide plenty of entertainment throughout the running order. Aside from the Alpines battling each other, the Haas of Kevin Magnussen and the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas were also making their way up, battling both Alpines, George Russell in the Mercedes and Pierre Gasly in the Alpha Tauri. Both made some stupendous passes which proved beyond doubt that the new generation of F1 cars indeed do allow the cars to follow each other much better, making it possible for battles to carry on for laps on end.
Multiple retirements in the dying stages
It was a curious occurrence in the last stages of the race, as Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas all retired almost at the same time on lap 38. Alonso and Ricciardo parked their cars on the pitlane entry, which forced the race directors to close the entry and effectively ruined Hamilton’s race, who had been going long on a single set of hard tyres and had been hoping to make a pitstop during a safety car period. Only 13 cars finished the race as Latifi also collided with Lance Stroll near the end, with Stroll able to carry on while Albon’s car was too damaged.
Two cars did not start the race
Final lap drama
Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc came together on track again when the safety car was called in after Latifi’s crash. With Leclerc leading and Verstappen just behind, and just nine laps to go, an almighty showdown was set up. It proved to be better than we imagined, as the mind games continued. However, the Red Bulls were able to heat up their tyres better than the Ferraris in the safety car period, and Verstappen was able to rapidly close down on Leclerc before attempting an overtake. He tried three times and was thwarted by Leclerc. However, on lap 47, the pressure would prove to be too much for the Ferrari’s tyres, with the car getting visibly squirrely, and Verstappen was able to overtake Leclerc down the main straight with DRS. Leclerc however, came back and closed in enough by the final corner on the final lap to make it a drag race to the finish. The Red Bull proved faster on the straight, and Verstappen won the race by a scant margin of 0.549 seconds, the closest margin of victory since the 2020 Italian Grand Prix.
Russell drives a quiet race to finish P5
While Lewis Hamilton’s struggles were well documented, it was George Russell who led the charge for Mercedes. Taking advantage of some good strategy calls by his team, the British driver drove a clean race to finish in P5, securing good points and saving Mercedes from embarrassment in a tough race. Russell ran a lonely race, with few battles save for a scrap with Kevin Magnussen’s Haas on differing strategies. This finish should prove to be a confidence booster in what is turning out to be the most difficult campaign Mercedes has embarked upon in the hybrid era.