Race: Hamilton wins Jeddah classic, draws level with Max

Henry Valantine
Lewis Hamilton waves at the crowd. Saudi Arabian GP December 2021.

Lewis Hamilton salutes the crowd in Jeddah after taking pole position. Saudi Arabia December 2021.

Lewis Hamilton took victory in what was an enthralling Saudi Arabian GP on Sunday, and now goes level with Max Verstappen in the title race with one round remaining.

The race had two standing restarts, another collision between the World Championship rivals, and Hamilton and Verstappen will go to Abu Dhabi even on points.

Valtteri Bottas stole third place in a drag race with Esteban Ocon to the line on the final lap, but the action at the front dominated what was a thrilling Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Anticipation was high for the race under the lights in Jeddah, given how much there is at stake in the race for the World Championship, and it certainly delivered.

And it was the perfect start for Mercedes, with Hamilton and Bottas keeping Verstappen at bay off the line and keeping the top two places.

There was a hairy moment behind for Sergio Perez, however, after he locked up at Turn 1 and almost went straight into the back of his Red Bull team-mate. Disaster was avoided, however, and the early jostling was negotiated mostly safely throughout the field.

Hamilton quickly opened up a one-second gap on his team-mate and Verstappen tucked in another second behind, as the drivers settled into the race.

After a safe start, however, the Safety Car was brought out after Mick Schumacher crashed at Turn 22, with his Haas getting a snap of oversteer on entry and colliding with the barriers. He reported he was okay, but this triggered a mixture of strategies playing out in the pit lane.

Hamilton and Bottas both pitted – but Bottas’ apparent slow pace in front of Verstappen was much to his and Red Bull’s dismay. But the Dutchman opted to stay out, and Hamilton tucked in behind his title rival in P2, with hard tyres on his car with the potential to get to the end of the race.

However, the red flag was waved a few laps later. This allowed Verstappen to change his tyres for the restart, giving him the net lead of the race and leading Hamilton to question what the stoppage was for – leaving him understandably furious with how he managed to lose the lead.

A standing restart would follow, however, giving everyone a second chance to gain track position on the start of Lap 15. But the red flag was soon out again in different circumstances.

At the restart, Hamilton got ahead of Verstappen heading into Turn 1, but the Red Bull driver cut across the run-off and regained position, compromising the Mercedes driver’s exit.

This allowed Esteban Ocon, who was another beneficiary of the first red flag, to get past Hamilton and into P2 in the race, leaving a decision to be made regarding the two World Championship contenders.

But the red flag was brought out after a major collision saw Sergio Perez spun around at Turn 3, with Nikita Mazepin piling into the back of George Russell at speed – leaving all three drivers out of the race.

Race director Michael Masi was then heard liaising with both Mercedes and Red Bull, with an ‘offer’ being made to Red Bull to allow Verstappen to start behind Hamilton on the grid for the next standing restart, with Ocon starting P1.

This was accepted by Red Bull, in the knowledge that the situation would have been referred to the stewards had they not complied, which could well have meant a harsher penalty for Verstappen.

The race was only 16 laps old and a third start from the grid then took place. But even though the Red Bull driver was penalised, he was soon back in the lead of the race, jumping towards the inside of Ocon and Hamilton.

Hamilton was left squeezed between the two cars heading into Turn 1, briefly dropping to P3 before getting past the Alpine at the end of the lap – leaving the two title contenders running in the top two positions.

Hamilton did make contact with the left-hand side of Ocon’s car at the restart, however, with possible front wing damage for the Mercedes driver.

The Virtual Safety Car was deployed a few laps later as Yuki Tsunoda tangled with Sebastian Vettel further down the field, but the AlphaTauri driver was eventually able to get going – albeit without his front wing, and he was given a five-second time penalty for his troubles.

The VSC was on and off for the next 10 laps afterwards, with debris strewn across the track after Vettel then collided with former Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.

Verstappen held an approximate 1.5-second lead over Hamilton, with 18 laps to go when the cars were finally able to go full speed again.

The pair did get closer, though, and Hamilton tried to pass his title rival heading down to Turn 1. He drew alongside on the outside, Verstappen went deep and they went off together.

The Red Bull driver was then instructed to give the place to Hamilton, but the Mercedes driver then collided with Verstappen again as he slowed down heading towards the final corner, an incident which saw Verstappen hit with a 10-second time penalty post race.

“This guy is f****** crazy, man” came the message over team radio from Hamilton, and Mercedes sporting director Ron Meadows was incandescent with rage while on FIA radio with Masi – with seemingly no clarity about the move being relayed to the Mercedes pit wall.

But even more drama was still to come. Verstappen then appeared to let Hamilton through at Turn 27, but then took the place back straight away as he went back into the lead.

Seconds later, however, news emerged of a five-second penalty for the Dutchman after forcing Hamilton off at the restart. But after that, he let the Briton through for the lead once again, and he started to scamper away from his title rival, who was losing grip from his medium tyres.



Verstappen did not have enough of a gap behind him to Esteban Ocon to be able to pit and get out in front to go for the fastest lap, meaning he had to nurse his tyres home.

Hamilton kept the fastest lap point for himself, meaning the title race will go down to the final round of this all-time classic Formula 1 season. Verstappen officially leads the World Championship on countback, leaving us with the title showdown we all wanted.

Race classification

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 2:06:15.118 3 stops
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 11.825s 2 stops
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 27.531s 3 stops
4 Esteban Ocon Alpine 27.633s 2 stops
5 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 40.121s 2 stops
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 41.613s 2 stops
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 44.475s 3 stops
8 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 46.606s 2 stops
9 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 58.505s 2 stops
10 Lando Norris McLaren 61.358s 3 stops
11 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 77.212s 3 stops
12 Nicholas Latifi Williams 83.249s 3 stops
13 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1 LAP 4 stops
14 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1 LAP 3 stops
15 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 1 LAP 3 stops
R Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin
R Sergio Perez Red Bull
R George Russell Williams
R Nikita Mazepin Haas
R Mick Schumacher Haas