Lewis Hamilton wins dramatic and controversy-filled Saudi Arabia GP to set up title decider

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Lewis Hamilton wins dramatic and controversy-filled Saudi Arabia GP to set up title decider
© Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda and Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 collide during the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on December 05, 2021 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

  • Hamilton leads Verstappen home after controversy-filled race
  • Verstappen and Hamilton involved in numerous incidents
  • Pair go into the final round level on points

So we head to the final race in Abu Dhabi with Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen level on points. The most thrilling championship in living memory to be decided by a straightforward shootout in the Emirati desert. First past the post. At least, we think it is.

On Sunday night, the sport was still awaiting the outcome of an investigation into a collision between the two title contenders on lap 37 of one of the craziest, most confusing and most controversial races in Formula 1 history. 

To be honest, it was all a little too much. We knew this race in Saudi Arabia had the potential to be controversial from the moment it was announced, with plenty questioning whether Formula 1 should be racing in the country given the Kingdom’s human rights record. 

And as the grand prix approached, we knew there was the potential for drama. Two drivers and teams going all-out for the win on a brand-new street circuit – the self-proclaimed ‘fastest street circuit in the world’ – which gave no margin for error. 

But this was another level of bonkers. It was undeniably dramatic, but it did not reflect all that well on the sport. It was out of control.

Ironically it all began rather sedately. Despite the predictions of chaos, with Verstappen starting from third following his last-gasp crash in qualifying and looking to get past the two Mercedes cars ahead of him, everyone got off to a clean start.

For 10 laps, it stayed that way, Hamilton managing the pace to his team mate Valtteri Bottas behind him, and Verstappen never quite within striking range of the Finn. 

That all changed on lap 10 when an almighty shunt saw Mick Schumacher slam into the Tecpro on the outside of Turn 22, bringing out the safety car. While some took the opportunity to pit for fresh tyres – Hamilton and Bottas included – others did not. Red Bull appeared to take a huge gamble by keeping Verstappen out there, meaning he inherited the race lead from Hamilton but without having stopped yet. 

Lewis Hamilton wins dramatic and controversy-filled Saudi Arabia GP to set up title decider
© Provided by The Telegraph Mick Schumacher’s crash led to the first red flag of the race – GETTY IMAGES

That gamble paid off spectacularly, though, when the red flags came out on lap 13 with the marshals deciding they needed more time to mend the damaged barriers. It was a controversial call as it effectively meant Verstappen had a free pit stop. 

Hamilton was clearly nonplussed: “Why is there a red flag? The tyre wall looks fine,” he remarked, before adding suspiciously: “I know the reason for the red flag.”

The ‘second race start’ was not as clean as the first. Hamilton squeezed past Verstappen, and held the racing line into turn two, but the Red Bull driver refused to yield, eventually cutting the corner entirely when he ran out of road, meaning he not only took the race lead illegally but also allowed the Alpine of Esteban Ocon to nip past Hamilton as well. 

As the respective teams prepared to put their arguments to the stewards, behind them chaos reigned. Red Bull’s Sergio Perez hit a wall. Williams’ George Russell, slowing to avoid a collision, was rear-ended by Haas’ Nikita Mazepin. Out came the red flag again.

This time the break in play saw some bizarre, and, frankly, farcical negotiating between race director Michael Masi and Mercedes and Red Bull, over whether Verstappen should have to give his place back, and whether that would drop him one or two places, what with Ocon now behind the Dutchman rather than Hamilton. 

‘That was spectacular – but not a good race’

In the end, Red Bull ‘accepted’ Masi’s offer for Verstappen to start behind Hamilton, so long as Ocon restarted from pole. It was bizarre.

Even stranger was to follow. On the third race start it was Verstappen who got off to a flier with Hamilton setting off in hot pursuit, having also managed to pass Ocon in quick order. It soon became obvious that Hamilton had the greater speed and on lap 37 he was ready to strike, diving down the outside of Verstappen into the first corner. 

Again Verstappen refused to cede the corner and both cars went off track, echoing their controversial incident in Brazil last month, with Hamilton shouting over his radio: “This guy is f—— crazy, man!”

Unlike in Brazil, this time Verstappen was handed a five-second penalty and ordered to give the place back to Hamilton. But as he slowed later in the lap, on the racing line, Hamilton collided with the back of him, damaging his front wing in the process. Confusion reigned.

Hamilton eventually got his man on lap 43, winning to draw level with his young rival heading to Abu Dhabi. But the stewards may yet have their say. 

It was incredible drama but Mercedes team principal Wolff perhaps summed it up best when he said: “That was spectacular but not a good race.”

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08:39 PM

Okay, that’s it from me today

I need to have a long lie down. Maybe until the next practice session at Abu Dhabi on Friday. Thanks for joining me today and stay tuned for all the follow-up reaction, analysis and comment from the F1 season that keeps on giving. 

08:29 PM

Christian Horner speaks to Sky Sports F1

That was a race that was very difficult to manage. I think race control struggled with it [with the debris, VSC, restarts]. I think we feel hard done by with the five-second penalty. Max was trying to give the place up… he’d lifted off. I think Lewis has lifted off, I don’t know whether he’s [thinking of] the DRS line. 

Lewis is slowing down behind him.. it’s like he didn’t want to pass him there because of the DRS. We were trying to give the place up, then Lewis drives up the back of Max’s car… we’ve picked up a bit of damage there. Very frustrating. 

08:19 PM

Toto Wolff speaks to Sky Sports F1

“I don’t think this is yet done. I think the result at the end I think he deserved it. That was spectacular but not a good race. The telemetry shows that he’s slowing down… then accelerating again and then slowing down.” 

Did Hamilton know that Verstappen was letting him past?

“No he didn’t know. I think that was the wrong sequence of messages that came through there. I don’t think that was even on Lewis’s mind. I need to look at it. “

This is going to rumble on and on and on. This incident is being investigated by the stewards, by the way. Who knows what will happen.  

08:13 PM

Toto Wolff pretty happy about that

“A rollercoaster of emotions,” as they say…

After 50 intense laps of battling, the emotions come pouring out for @MercedesAMGF1

#SaudiArabianGP 🇸🇦 #F1 pic.twitter.com/JMXkWwKPyq

— Formula 1 (@F1) December 5, 2021

08:08 PM

Updated constructor standings

All but Mercedes’ now. 

08:03 PM

Was that ruthlessness or recklessness from Verstappen today?

Recklessness squared, I’d say. 

Lewis Hamilton wins dramatic and controversy-filled Saudi Arabia GP to set up title decider
© REUTERS Formula One F1- Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – December 5, 2021 Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in action with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton  – REUTERS 

 Sometimes you just have to know when you’re beaten and go into the next round with your head and car in one piece. 

07:59 PM

A few images of the biggest controversy of the day…

When Verstappen slowed down (to let Hamilton pass?) and then Hamilton crashed into the back of the Red Bull. 

Lewis Hamilton wins dramatic and controversy-filled Saudi Arabia GP to set up title decider
© Lars Baron/Getty Images Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda and Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 collide during the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on December 05, 2021 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – Lars Baron/Getty Images
Lewis Hamilton wins dramatic and controversy-filled Saudi Arabia GP to set up title decider
© Provided by The Telegraph Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda and Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 collide during the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on December 05, 2021 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – Lars Baron/Getty Images

07:55 PM

Verstappen on the incident where Hamilton ran into the back of him

“I slowed down, I wanted to let him by, I was on the right but he didn’t want to overtake and we touched. I don’t really understand what happened there”

He complains that it’s become all about penalties and not about racing after being informed he was driver of the day. 

“This isn’t Formula One”, he says.

07:52 PM

Hamilton reacts to his third victory in a row

And his 103rd in total. 

That was incredibly tough. We tried to be as sensible and as tough as I could be out there. Just keeping the car on track and staying clean. We’ve had all sorts of things thrown at us in the second half of the season. 

I didn’t quite understand why all of a sudden he hit the brakes heavily. I ran into the back of him… and then he moved on. It was a bit confusing. 

They’ve got some raw pace. They’ve been so quick. We’ve done an amazing job with what we have. Valtteri did a great job to get the team points today as well. 

07:50 PM

Verstappen reacts to his second place

It was quite eventful. A lot of things happened which I don’t fully agree with. I tried on track to give it all. Still second. 

07:46 PM

Verstappen ends up second

But he could have been in the same position with a far more sensible performance. He risked it all several times. Yes, he could have taken a big step to winning the championship if he won this weekend but he can still win it with victory in the final round. 

07:44 PM

SAUDI ARABIAN GP: CLASSIFICATION

  1. HAM
  2. VER
  3. BOT
  4. OCO
  5. RIC
  6. GAS
  7. LEC
  8. SAO
  9. GIO
  10. NOR
  11. STR
  12. LAT
  13. ALO
  14. TSU
  15. RAI

OUT: VET, PER, MAZ, RUS, MSC

07:42 PM

LEWIS HAMILTON WINS THE 2021 SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX!

A superb drive from a superb driver. I think that much is certain. 

Verstappen second, will it be Bottas or Ocon in third? It’s mightily close but Bottas nips it at the close with DRS assistance. It would be heartbreak for Ocon, but he’s already won a race this year. So, you know. 

Bottas gets Ocon for third ON THE LINE! 🤯#SaudiArabianGP 🇸🇦 #F1 pic.twitter.com/308x8PD3Lj

— Formula 1 (@F1) December 5, 2021

07:40 PM

FINAL LAP

Hamilton is going to romp home here. One of his strangest victories. He will surely claim the fastest lap point and that means they will be level on points heading into the final race. So much bad blood today. So much controversy. Hamilton might consider himself fortunate to still have a front wing but he has had the pace today. A lot of question marks over Verstappen’s conduct here. 

07:38 PM

Lap 49 of 50 – So many incidents in this race

Struggling to remember them all chronologically right now. Many of them controversial, a few of them absolutely strange. Hamilton, right now, is ahead and is going to win this race. 

Verstappen is now a distant second as he has lost pace on his medium tyres. 

07:37 PM

Lap 48 of 50 – Hamilton sets another fastest lap

Bottas is harrying Ocon in third. 

As it stands they would be level on points going into the final race. 

07:36 PM

Lap 47 of 50 –  Debris coming off Hamilton’s front wing

Just a few bits from the endplate, though, so should be fine to continue. Verstappen now trails by a net 11 seconds. 

07:35 PM

Lap 46 of 50 – Top 10

  1. HAM
  2. VER
  3. OCO
  4. BOT
  5. RIC
  6. GAS
  7. SAI
  8. LEC
  9. GIO
  10. NOR

07:34 PM

Lap 45 of 50 – Verstappen says his rear tyres are going away

But he’s told they can’t change tyres as he’s vulnerable to Ocon behind and would lose even more points. 

Hamilton now leads by 4.5s so surely has the race in the bag barring disaster. 

07:33 PM

Lap 44 of 50 – Can Verstappen take the fastest lap point?

Hamilton currently holds it. The five seconds with the pit stop for fresh tyres might put him behind Ocon and in third. There are going to be numerous appeals here. 

This race has been one of the strangest I have ever seen. And it isn’t over…

Hamilton has been given a warning (an informal one) for forcing Verstappen off the track. Somewhere. I can’t even remember where it was. It has been one of those days. 

07:32 PM

Lap 43 of 50 – Verstappen now has a five second penalty…

…for leaving the track and gaining an advantage. Was that for the incident at turn one that kicked it all off? I think so. Must be. But then he gave the place back, so why?

At turn 27 Hamilton retakes the lead!

Was that Red Bull giving the place back again? Hamilton has the lead and Verstappen has a five-second penalty so this race is surely Hamilton’s?

07:29 PM

Lap 42 of 50 – Why didn’t Hamilton just go past him?

Did Verstappen move over on him at the last minute? He could have just gone past. Regardless of what his team told him… 

Verstappen lets Hamilton through… but then retakes the lead by getting DRS into the pit straight. 

07:27 PM

Lap 41 of 50 – There was a brilliant slow motion replay of Toto Wolff…

…he threw his headset to the ground in pure rage as that happened. Mercedes querying the communication channels between the teams and the FIA here. It didn’t seem to be the case that Hamilton knew what was going on, otherwise he’d have given the spot back.

Hamilton sets a new fastest lap. 

07:26 PM

Lap 40 of 50 – Verstappen leads Hamilton by 2.2s

The big thing here is that Red Bull still did not give the place back. Michael Masi seems to want that to happen. I think. 

Ron Meadows is furious on the radio to Masi. 

07:24 PM

Lap 39 of 50 – This is going to take a lot of working out

It’s like Hamilton didn’t know what was going on. Verstappen slowed right down and then just went into the back of him. But did Verstappen do it unpredictably?

Verstappen now leads Hamilton by 1.8s. Hamilton still has good pace, broken wing or not. 

07:23 PM

Lap 38 of 50 – Hamilton has a broken front wing

Both cars are still going, though. It’s not too badly damaged but is beyond its best.  

LAP 38/50

MAX AND LEWIS COLLIDE!

Verstappen is instructed to give the place to Hamilton, but they make contact 😱#SaudiArabianGP 🇸🇦 #F1 pic.twitter.com/QnRaWoaYzP

— Formula 1 (@F1) December 5, 2021

Verstappen is leading. That was strange. The incident is under investigation.

Verstappen was told by his  to give Hamilton the place back after the turn one incident. He backed right off, Hamilton seemingly didn’t know he had been told to do it… but did Verstappen brake too hard. If he gave the place back why did he slow down so much? So strange. 

07:21 PM

Lap 37 of 50 – Verstappen keeps the lead!

Did they touch again! Hamilton went down the outside, Verstappen did not want to give up the place. They both went off the track.

Hamilton is not happy…

“This guy is f—— crazy, man!” he says on the radio. Verstappen was later on the brakes there. 

Verstappen is told to give the position back… he slows down and they TOUCH! Hamilton runs into the back of the Red Bull. This is crazy! It’s happened again!

07:19 PM

Lap 36 of 50 – VSC called again

This has been the order of the day. I think it’s a bit of debris from the Aston Martin. In the middle of the track. Hamilton had closed to as close as he has been all day and now the VSC is ending..

Will Hamilton get DRS and a run at the first corner? Yes…

This could be the moment. Has Verstappen saved any battery power?

07:17 PM

Lap 35 of 50 – Hamilton with the fastest lap

Wasn’t a great deal quicker than Verstappen, though. This is gripping. The whole season has been like this, really. 16 laps to go. Hamilton desperately needs to find a way through. Somehow. 

What’s this? A big bit of debris on the track in the middle sector. That has to be at least a VSC if not a full one…

Nothing yet…

Hamilton sets another fastest lap…

07:15 PM

Lap 34 of 50 – Hamilton closes the gap to 1.2s

I feel there’s life left in this race here. Hamilton again loses time in the first sector. Four tenths or so. He usually gets to within a second or so by the line and then the Red Bull looks mighty in the twistier section. 

07:14 PM

Lap 33 of 50 – VSC ends…

Verstappen gets past Raikkonen at an opportune moment and puts a bit more space between himself and Hamilton. I don’t think it’s all that crucial, Hamilton will get that back soon enough but every little helps. Those laps under the VSC will have helped Verstappen’s tyres, no doubt. 

07:13 PM

Lap 32 of 50 – Ocon looking decent for a second podium here

Running 3.8s ahead of Ricciardo. 

When will the VSC end? Soon I hope. 

07:12 PM

Lap 31 of 50 – VSC still ‘out’

Verstappen is approaching the backmarker Raikkonen which has allowed Hamilton to close up under the VSC, which seems a bit odd. This is not what Verstappen needs. Everyone has a certain time that they have to keep to, shown on their dashboards, but it’s not automated. The gap grows again. Reckon Hamilton was just playing mind games there. Maybe. 

07:10 PM

Lap 30 of 50 – Verstappen has a pit stop on Ocon

We are still under VSC conditions. Doesn’t look like we’re going to a full safety car, then. It would have been called by now, surely. This is helping keep life in Verstappen’s medium tyres. Might Mercedes try something a bit different here? Pit for mediums and come back? I’m not sure if that’s his best option right now. He has the pace, but can he get by in the next 19 laps? 

07:07 PM

Lap 29 of 50 – Alonso complains about debris in turn six and 10

He’s right. But the pack has strung itself out now and I don’t know if a VSC will be enough…

They bring out another VSC to get rid of that debris, then. 

So, quick championship update: As it stands, Verstappen would lead Hamilton by 14 points going into the final round. Third would then be enough to secure the championship, regardless of what Hamilton does. 

Alonso wants a full SC. 

07:04 PM

Lap 28 of 50 – VSC ending

And Verstappen leads Hamilton by the customary 1.4s. This is gripping. I’m not sure which way this is going to go. Both cars look okay. Would say the Mercedes looks better but Verstappen has track position. 

07:04 PM

Lap 27 of 50 – Hamilton can’t get close enough in the first sector

But then makes most of it up again in the final two sectors. Some Aston Martin debris out there on the banked corner, not too far off the racing line. 

Actually, it was a clash with Raikkonen that caused the damage to his car. A bit aggressive from the Finn, there. 

LAP VIRTUAL SAFETY CAR (LAP 30/50)

Raikkonen collides with his former team mate Vettel, and the VSC is called to retrieve the debris#SaudiArabianGP 🇸🇦 #F1 pic.twitter.com/G4CusdZzFX

— Formula 1 (@F1) December 5, 2021

Now we have a VSC, presumably because of the debris on the track.

07:02 PM

Lap 26 of 50 – Hamilton pumping in the fastest laps

He hasn’t yet got use of DRS on the pit straight, though. Tsunoda has been given a five-second time penalty for tagging Vettel, who seems to be dropping carbon fibre off his car throughout the lap. 

07:00 PM

Lap 25 of 50 – Top 10 and gaps

  1. VER
  2. HAM +1.209
  3. OCO +10.713
  4. RIC +12.478
  5. BOT +13.130
  6. GAS +18.896
  7. GIO +19.248
  8. SAI +28.932
  9. LEC +29.669
  10. STR +31.890

06:59 PM

Lap 24 of 50 – The race should probably have been finishing about now…

With no incidents. But that’s F1, isn’t it? VSC ends and Verstappen leads Hamilton by about 1.5s. 

Hamilton looks the more likely man at the moment. But Verstappen isn’t going to go home without a fight. We know that. 

06:57 PM

Lap 23 of 50 – Yellow flags

Yuki Tsunoda is in the barriers. His front wing is partially dislodged… he dislodges it reversing but runs over it again… and can’t get free. His brakes are on fire and he has left the front wing behind… it’s a VSC. Tsunoda collided with Vettel there. 

VIRTUAL SAFETY CAR (LAP 23/50)

Tsunoda brings out the VSC after colliding with Vettel

He pits for repairs a the end of the lap#SaudiArabianGP 🇸🇦 #F1 pic.twitter.com/9wrUAquHLN

— Formula 1 (@F1) December 5, 2021

Verstappen doesn’t take the opportunity to pit here under the VSC and nor does Hamilton. It wouldn’t save them a great deal of time so that’s fair enough. It’s not like a full safety car. 

06:55 PM

Lap 22 of 50 – DRS enabled

Hamilton has dropped back a bit with a poor first sector. Didn’t see what happened but that will be a relief for Verstappen. 

Lewis Hamilton wins dramatic and controversy-filled Saudi Arabia GP to set up title decider
© Lars Baron/Getty Images Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda during the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on December 05, 2021 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia –  Lars Baron/Getty Images

06:54 PM

Lap 21 of 50 – Verstappen leads Hamilton by 1.3s

How does this pan out for Red Bull… can they get to the end on these mediums? I am not sure. Running at this pace with Hamilton close behind is going to take life out of them. 

Hamilton gets the fastest lap but does not get DRS this time. When he does you think it’ll be an easy job on the pit straight. Well, nothing’s ever that easy with Verstappen…

06:52 PM

Lap 20 of 50 – “Lack of power,” Verstappen says

We get this from time to time and it rarely means the engine cutting out. It could be anything, deployment, battery issues or whatever. 

LAP 20/50

Max. Lewis. Game on. ⚔️#SaudiArabianGP 🇸🇦 #F1 pic.twitter.com/nKjsfUPZsi

— Formula 1 (@F1) December 5, 2021

Hamilton now within DRS range of Verstappen, but will he get it at the right point? Hamilton is flying… the Mercedes looks rapido today. 

06:50 PM

Lap 19 of 50 – Verstappen leads Hamilton by 1.3s

Hamilton sets the fastest lap last time around, four tenths quicker nearly that last time around. He’s flying. Verstappen on the medium tyres, Hamilton on the hards. 

Top 10:

  1. VER
  2. HAM +1.495
  3. OCO +4.075
  4. RIC +5.436
  5. BOT +6.648
  6. GAS +8.662
  7. GIO +9.945
  8. VET +11.196
  9. TSU +11.918
  10. LEC +12.660

06:49 PM

Lap 18 of 50 – Hamilton into second now

It was a big pace advantage he had on the pit straight and it was very easy. He looks to have significant pace on these hard tyres. 

It was a really bold move from Verstappen on lap one. He went down a gap on the inside as Hamilton, in the middle, was more concerned with Ocon on the outside. Hamilton’s front right wing sparked as it touched the Alpine. 

Ocon ran off the track to keep the lead and then Verstappen took the lead very easily within mere moments. 

06:47 PM

RACE RESTARTS!

The third standing start of the day… who gets away better?

It’s Verstappen! The medium tyres give him the better start and he gets ahead of Hamilton at the first corner, up the inside… Hamilton has to yield! Did they touch again? 

Ocon is involved there too ahead of Hamilton… but Verstappen takes the lead!

LIGHTS OUT PT. III

Ocon, Hamilton and Verstappen squeeze at Turn 1!

Verstappen gets through and past Ocon, Hamilton drops to third#SaudiArabianGP 🇸🇦 #F1 pic.twitter.com/nEvWarlTno

— Formula 1 (@F1) December 5, 2021

I’m not sure I can take much more of this. 

Verstappen leads Ocon who leads Hamilton, who is very close behind…

06:44 PM

We are nearly ready to go again (again)

Hamilton locks up quite badly on the formation lap. 

Ocon leads Hamilton, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Bottas, Gasly, Leclerc (all race winners) and Giovinazzi. 

Ocon starts on the hard tyres as does Hamilton. Verstappen, Ricciardo and Bottas on the mediums. 

06:42 PM

THE THIRD FORMATION LAP STARTS

They go out behind the SC but will it be a standing or rolling start?

Max Verstappen has changed to new mediums, prioritising track position it seems. Hamilton decides to stay on the hard tyres. The Dutchman lets Hamilton and Ocon through. Hamilton questions why he is on the hard tyres and not mediums

It will be another standing start. Ooof. 

06:41 PM

Of course, this gives the teams an opportunity to change their tyres again!

Will anyone? I have given up trying to work it out. 

06:39 PM

Hard to believe that we still have another 34 laps…

We’ve had not even one racing lap since the first red flag nearly 40 minutes ago. 

06:38 PM

No word on the restart yet

When it is nor whether it will be a standing one (third time’s a charm?) or a rolling one…

06:36 PM

Right, here’s the Top 10 for the restart

  1. OCO
  2. HAM
  3. VER
  4. RIC
  5. BOT
  6. GAS
  7. LEC
  8. GIO
  9. SAI
  10. VET

Lando Norris now down in 16th and last after all that. 

06:34 PM

Red Bull also complain to Masi about Bottas and Hamilton backing off under the SC

So much to sort out here. 

06:33 PM

I am not sure what Red Bull do here

They will cede track position to Hamilton, but surely Verstappen will pick up a penalty? At least if they start one position behind Hamilton there is a chance to take the lead. 

Michael Masi has not yet involved the stewards and is trying to sort it out without getting them involved. Which seems fair enough. 

Red Bull accept the offer of 1. OCO 2. HAM 3. VER

06:31 PM

Michael Masi to Red Bull

“We’re going to give you the opportunity to start from grid position two.” That’s interesting. 

Red Bull say they will think about it. So where does Ocon start?

Red Bull say they will take P2 on the basis that Ocon is on pole. Masi says that, no, actually the offer is not to start P2 but to be dropped back behind Hamilton. So that would be P3, with Ocon leading Hamilton? I guess. 

Who knows?

06:28 PM

Hamilton (rightly) not happy

“I had to avoid a collision there.” – Lewis. 🤷‍♂️

— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) December 5, 2021

Given what happened on that restart, Ted Kravitz talks about whether it might be better to do a rolling start this time. 

06:26 PM

I don’t think there can be any doubt about that incident at the restart

Would that be a five-second penalty? Still no word that it might be referred to the stewards, but it surely will. Hamilton had the corner. 

06:25 PM

Lap 15 of 50 – RED FLAG

It was a terrible start from Verstappen… they nearly collided off the line. Hamilton was clearly ahead into the braking zone but Verstappen drove recklessly t aggressively to try and retake the lead. 

Perez got tagged from behind it seems. From Leclerc. Bottas had locked up at the first turn and moved down to fifth. 

Mazepin’s accident was pretty nasty from onboard. He basically went full throttle into the back of George Russell who had slowed because of the crashes up front. 

06:22 PM

RACE RESTARTS

It’s a lengthy wait for Latifi to take his spot…

Away they go! 

It’s a much better start for Hamilton who takes the lead into the first braking zone on the inside… but Verstappen does not back down or back off and goes over the kerbs at turn two and retakes the lead!

LIGHTS OUT FOR THE RESTART!

Hamilton gets alongside Verstappen into Turn 1

Verstappen rejoins ahead of Hamilton and Ocon, but there’s chaos behind#SaudiArabianGP 🇸🇦 #F1 pic.twitter.com/ttXExzcZRb

— Formula 1 (@F1) December 5, 2021

They touch on exit and Ocon takes second place from Hamilton. That will need to be looked at! Same as we’ve seen before….

But there’s chaos at the back… Perez has spun and Mazepin is in the wall. Russell is out too!

IT’S ANOTHER RED FLAG!

06:19 PM

Here we go (again)

Max Verstappen leads the drivers out of pits

It’ll be a standings start as we return to racing#SaudiArabianGP 🇸🇦 #F1 pic.twitter.com/X1pN6utH0c

— Formula 1 (@F1) December 5, 2021

 Hamilton backing off on the formation lap. Verstappen trying to get heat into his tyres but that’s not what Hamilton wants. He wants to make him wait. Verstappen not happy. 

“Mate, it’s still more than 10 cars [lengths]. This is not allowed,” he says. 

06:17 PM

Looks like they will do a full formation lap behind the SC

And then take the grid for a standing start. 

A reminder of the top 10 order as we approach the restart. 

  1. VER
  2. HAM
  3. BOT
  4. OCO
  5. RIC
  6. LEC
  7. GAS
  8. PER
  9. SAI
  10. GIO

That has worked out well for Ocon, too. Perez has now switched to a new set of mediums. He previously had hard tyres on. 

Hamilton is complaining that Verstappen did a practice start from the pit lane, which he says is not allowed. Verstappen complains that the SC is driving slowly… again. 

06:14 PM

Hamilton asks what he needs to do

James Vowles replies:

The main thing is this: everyone is going to go to the end of the race on these tyres now but you had car pace… the main thing now is pressure him… you have car pace. 

He might not need to pressure him… he might get him at the start. That said, he has more used (albeit only under the SC) tyres than Verstappen. 

06:12 PM

We are going to get the race start we would have had…

…had Verstappen not locked up and then stuffed it into the wall. 

06:09 PM

I agree with Marcus Ericsson here

But, again, a red flag worked out very well for Hamilton in Imola. It allowed him to not be lapped by the leaders after he had crashed and he came back to finish second. 

Stupid and unfair rule to be able to change tyres during red flag 🚩… This can decide the championship, not cool 🤯 #F1 #SaudiArabianGP

— Marcus Ericsson (@Ericsson_Marcus) December 5, 2021

06:07 PM

RACE WILL RESUME AT 6.15PM GMT

It will, I believe, be a standing start. So, the potential for more drama. 

Staying out was a gamble from Red Bull as the SC was called. Most others in the top 10 stopped. It meant that they had track position but older, softer and more worn tyres (Verstappen’s looked a little blistered) but with Mercedes right behind them. 

06:06 PM

Mick Schumacher’s Haas in the barriers

Lewis Hamilton wins dramatic and controversy-filled Saudi Arabia GP to set up title decider
© Dan Mullan/Getty Images The car of Mick Schumacher of Germany and Haas F1 is recovered from the track after a crash during the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on December 05, 2021 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia –  Dan Mullan/Getty Images

 Was a fairly big crash but the barrier – as Hamilton says – doesn’t look wrecked…

06:02 PM

Lap 14 of 50 – RED FLAG

The cars have gone back into the pit lane and can change tyres, parts etc as long as they match. Tyre compounds do not have to match, so that means Verstappen can go onto a fresh set of hards to match Mercedes and keep track position. 

Hamilton is not too happy with the decision to red flag this. He says the tyre wall [it’s a TecPro barrier] looks fine but wants his team to find out the reason. 

“That’s unbelievable man. The tyre wall looks fine. James, that was a big gamble they took.”

Hamilton very interested in this on the radio. He’s speaking to James Vowles, chief strategist. Hmmmm. Intrigue etcetera. 

05:59 PM

RED FLAG

Right, that has worked out excellently for Red Bull. That means Verstappen can now change his tyres without penalty. So the answer to my previous question is: no, it will not come back to bite Red Bull.

🚩 RED FLAG (LAP 14/50) 🚩

The race is suspended, as the barrier requires repair#SaudiArabianGP 🇸🇦 #F1 pic.twitter.com/BPqlos0TLg

— Formula 1 (@F1) December 5, 2021

It has worked out brilliantly. Perfectly. There is obviously some issue with the barriers there. Schumacher’s car has been removed but a barrier repair looks likely to be the issue. 

05:56 PM

Lap 13 of 50 – Will this decision not to pit come back to bite Red Bull?

LAP 12/50 (SAFETY CAR)

Plenty of action in the pit lane – but Verstappen doesn’t come in, and he now leads the race ahead of Hamilton and Bottas

Ocon (P4) and Ricciardo (P5) also stay out#SaudiArabianGP 🇸🇦 #F1 pic.twitter.com/8O9pbfa4kl

— Formula 1 (@F1) December 5, 2021

 Verstappen wants the SC to go a bit quicker. 

05:54 PM

Lap 12 of 50 – Full order under the SC

  1. VER
  2. HAM
  3. BOT
  4. OCO
  5. RIC
  6. LEC
  7. GAS
  8. PER
  9. SAI
  10. GIO
  11. TSU
  12. RAI
  13. VER
  14. NOR
  15. ALO
  16. MAZ
  17. RUS
  18. STR
  19. LAT

OUT: MSC

05:53 PM

Lap 11 of 50 – Bottas backed off MASSIVELY under the SC

He dropped so far behind Hamilton to allow them both to pit. You can’t do that… and that may well be a penalty. 

05:52 PM

Lap 10 of 50 – Hamilton pits

Bottas backs off under the SC… possibly because Mercedes want to double stack their drivers? Yep. Verstappen now leads on track as he decided not to pit. Quite a few drivers pit here. 

Mercedes have gone onto the fresh hard tyres – as Perez did. Will they want to go to the end of the race on those? 

There could well be another SC or VSC later on. 

05:50 PM

Lap 10 of 50 – Good lap from Verstappen

A 1:33.573… his best of the race. Puts him within 1.3s of Bottas. 

Hamilton has just set the fastest lap of anyone, though, a 1:33.150…

BIG CRASH, MICK SCHUMACHER INTO THE BARRIERS…

SAFETY CAR. 

SAFETY CAR (LAP 10/50)

Mick Schumacher crashes heavily and the Safety Car comes out

He reports he is okay over the radio 👍#SaudiArabianGP 🇸🇦 #F1 pic.twitter.com/H4mZXyZjMs

— Formula 1 (@F1) December 5, 2021

Will anyone pit?

05:48 PM

Lap 9 of 50 – Hamilton extends his lead to two seconds

Another fastest lap. It’s looking hunky dory for him at the moment. No yellow flags or crashes yet. 

Lewis Hamilton wins dramatic and controversy-filled Saudi Arabia GP to set up title decider
© AFP/ANDREJ ISAKOVIC Mercedes’ British driver Lewis Hamilton (C), Mercedes’ Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas (L) and Red Bull’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen (R) compete in the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Jeddah on December 5, 2021 – AFP/ANDREJ ISAKOVIC 

05:46 PM

Lap 8 of 50 – Hamilton leads Bottas by 1.6s

Verstappen 1.5s behind Bottas. Verstappen finds a bit of pace to post his best lap time. Sainz gets Alonso for 11th at the first corner. It’s all going a bit badly for Alonso at the moment. 

05:45 PM

Lap 7 of 50 – Sainz going well, he’s up to 12th now

Alonso under threat. He loses 10th to Giovinazzi and is under attack from his compatriot. It was a lovely move around the outside at turn one. 

05:44 PM

Lap 6 of 50 – Hamilton responds with a fastest lap of his own

Alonso goes deep into turn one and stays ahead of Giovinazzi and in 10th. Didn’t have the best qualifying session but a fine start to the race. 

Bottas says he could do with a bit more of a gap in front to Hamilton. He’s within two seconds of his team-mate. Verstappen a similar distance behind the Finn. 

05:42 PM

Lap 5 of 50 – Bottas with the new fastest lap

A couple of tenths quicker than Hamilton and less than a tenth quicker than Verstappen. The Finn doing a good job so far. 

05:40 PM

Lap 4 of 50 – Hamilton leads Bottas by 1.4s

Bottas is starting to edge away from Verstappen. A couple of tenths faster per lap so far. A long way to go but a tad worrying. Makes you realise how crucial pole would have been. 

05:39 PM

Lap 3 of 50 – Hamilton with the fastest lap

Comparable to Bottas, though. Ocon was squeezed at the start against the wall a replay shows. A bit of close contact racing in the early stages but nothing too drastic. 

05:37 PM

Lap 2 of 50 – Hamilton leads Bottas by 1.150s

Bit of field spread going on already here…

Verstappen within DRS range of Bottas, though DRS is yet to be activated. Will be interesting to see if Hamilton’s tyres hang on. 

Here’s the top 10:

  1. HAM
  2. BOT
  3. VER
  4. LEC
  5. PER
  6. NOR
  7. OCO
  8. GAS
  9. RIC
  10. ALO

05:36 PM

THE 2021 SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX IS GO!

Hamilton and Bottas both get decent starts and they stay 1-2 with Verstappen third. Perez nearly tagged Verstappen at the first braking zone but narrowly avoided it… the Mexican has now dropped behind Charles Leclerc, who is back to fourth. 

LIGHTS OUT IN JEDDAH!

⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️

⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️#SaudiArabianGP 🇸🇦 #F1 pic.twitter.com/TDGZbEhU6M

— Formula 1 (@F1) December 5, 2021

Couldn’t have gone better for Mercedes. Verstappen needs to clear Bottas here if he want sto win. 

In fairness, it doesn’t really matter if Hamilton wins and he finishes second or third as a win will seal him the championship in Abu Dhabi. 

05:34 PM

They line up on the grid….

Here we go… how will it go? Could it be nervy? A hell of a lot at stake at the moment…

05:31 PM

FORMATION LAP BEGINS

It’ll be a long one. 

05:30 PM

Driver standings and permutations… before we start

Lewis Hamilton wins dramatic and controversy-filled Saudi Arabia GP to set up title decider
© Provided by The Telegraph Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen: driver standings and title permutations

05:28 PM

Just a few minutes to go until lights out

Predictions? Could be a safety car… a red flag. A crash on the first lap could well be a big one. We saw that in the F2. Hopefully we avoid that. 

05:26 PM

Starting tyre types in the top 10

Everyone is on the mediums but Lando Norris, who is on the softs. As mentioned before, different lap amounts on them, with Hamilton’s having done four more than Verstappen’s. Not sure the undercut will be especially powerful today, though. 

05:22 PM

Can Bottas play a part for Hamilton today?

He hasn’t done in previous races… Russia… Mexico. Doesn’t mean he won’t today. Biggest part he has played in this championship is with that crash in Hungary. 

05:14 PM

Damon Hill doing a tribute in the Saudia-sponsored FW07

A certified “nice touch”, that. 

A proper celebration of all things Sir Frank 💙

1996 World Champion @HillF1 takes Alan Jones’ legendary 1980 championship-winning car, the FW07, for a lap around the circuit#SaudiArabianGP 🇸🇦 #F1 @WilliamsRacing pic.twitter.com/oCBEff2AOD

— Formula 1 (@F1) December 5, 2021

05:09 PM

Martin Brundle chats to Christian Horner on his Sky Sports F1 grid walk

He asks him if they are worried about not changing the gearbox and whether they took a risk in not doing so. 

I don’t think so. It’s passed all the test that we normally do. We have to believe in our measurements… in our tools. We’ve got to go for it. Max can still see his main rival just ahead of him. There’s a lot of racing to be done. 

Lewis Hamilton wins dramatic and controversy-filled Saudi Arabia GP to set up title decider
© Mark Thompson/Getty Images  Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner looks on ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on December 05, 2021 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – Mark Thompson/Getty Images

05:05 PM

Verstappen’s team radio

“Is everything ok to the grid, Max?”

“Yep.”

So far, so good. He is further along than Charles Leclerc managed in Monaco earlier this year. 

04:57 PM

Strategy chat from Pirelli

What will be the quickest route to the #SaudiArabiaGP finish line? 🏁 🔮 #F1 #Fit4F1 #Formula1 #Pirelli pic.twitter.com/GkaZMD0nsK

— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) December 5, 2021

Interestingly, Hamilton will start on medium tyres that are four laps older than Verstappen’s. Could that prove critical strategically? Wear seems to be quite low. 

04:52 PM

FINAL STARTING GRID

2. BOT 1. HAM

4. LEC 3. VER

6. GAS 5. PER

8. TSU 7. NOR

10. GIO 9. OCO

12. RAI 11. RIC 

14. RUS 13. ALO

16. LAT 15. SAI

18. STR 17. VET

20. MAZ 19. MSC

Hamilton on the clean side of the grid but Bottas with the inside line. Verstappen right behind Hamilton. 

04:46 PM

Watch: How it all ended for Max Verstappen yesterday

View this post on Instagram

04:39 PM

Current constructor standings

McLaren made a brilliant start to the season but have rather fallen behind Ferrari in recent rounds. Hard to see them clawing it back. 

04:35 PM

No gearbox change for Max Verstappen

But a lot of other things changed on his car after his crash yesterday. Like-for-like, though, as the rules state. 

04:29 PM

Paddock leads tributes to Frank Williams

Ahead of lights out, the whole paddock comes together to celebrate a true legend of Formula 1

Drivers, team members and world champions stand together for a minute of silence for the one and only Sir Frank Williams ❤️#F1 pic.twitter.com/Df6vCCPZm0

— Formula 1 (@F1) December 5, 2021

04:27 PM

Plenty of tributes to Sir Frank Williams this weekend

He passed away last week aged 79. What an extraordinary man he was, who achieved so many things. The drivers and teams just had a minutes’ applause on the grid for him. Many of the current grid have driven for his team but all of them can appreciate what he did for the sport. 

Thinking of you today, Sir Frank. 💙 pic.twitter.com/n3sbtPGXmb

— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) December 5, 2021

04:22 PM

Current driver standings: Top 10

Max Verstappen can win the championship today… but something weird would have to happen to Hamilton for that to be the case. 

04:10 PM

Not sure if there will be a delay to things today

The F2 feature race has only just “finished”, though it never really got going and involved plenty of crashes. 

Both Pourchaire and Fittipaldi were immediately attended to by emergency and medical crews

The drivers were conscious and extricated by the attending medical crews and have been transferred to King Fahad Armed Forces Hospital, Jeddah#SaudiArabianGP 🇸🇦 #F2

— Formula 2 (@Formula2) December 5, 2021

 There shouldn’t be a delay, but they may have cut out some of the other things that were planned. 

04:06 PM

Times after qualifying

  1. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1min 27.511secs
  2. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:27.622
  3. Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:27.653
  4. Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:28.054
  5. Sergio Perez (Mex) Red Bull 1:28.123
  6. Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:28.125
  7. Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:28.180
  8. Yuki Tsunoda (Jpn) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:28.442
  9. Esteban Ocon (Fra) Alpine 1:28.647
  10. Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:28.754
  11. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) McLaren 1:28.668
  12. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:28.885
  13. Fernando Alonso (Spa) Alpine 1:28.920
  14. George Russell (Gbr) Williams 1:29.054
  15. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spa) Ferrari 1:53.652
  16. Nicholas Latifi (Can) Williams 1:29.177
  17. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Aston Martin 1:29.198
  18. Lance Stroll (Can) Aston Martin 1:29.368
  19. Mick Schumacher (Ger) Haas F1 1:29.464
  20. Nikita Mazepin (Raf) Haas F1 1:30.473

02:50 PM

Good afternoon F1 fans

Welcome to our coverage for the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix from the Jeddah Corniche (street) Circuit. It is becoming a bit of a joke and an easy thing to say, but this is the season that just keeps delivering, isn’t it? At every stage. We have just two races, one qualifying and three practice sessions remaining and still there is hardly anything to separate Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. 

Saturday’s qualifying session had a dramatic climax. Tom Cary reports from Jeddah: 

We were promised drama in Saudi Arabia this week, and boy did we get it.

A hugely dramatic day, one which saw yet more controversy in this most breathless of seasons, ended with Mercedes’ seven-time champion claiming pole for Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix while his title rival, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, was forced to trudge back to the pits in despair after slamming his car into the final corner on his final flying lap.

It could prove the costliest error of the young Dutchman’s career.

Red Bull’s championship leader was on a flyer, turning the timesheets purple as he lowered Hamilton’s mark through the first two sectors of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, trying to improve on P3. It was breathtaking stuff, “a mighty, mighty lap” according to Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. 

But he was clearly on the ragged edge, pushing dangerously close to the car’s – and the circuit’s – limits. Verstappen had already nearly lost control a couple of times even before he reached the final corner and locked up, losing the rear end and clipping the outside wall. 

Lewis Hamilton wins dramatic and controversy-filled Saudi Arabia GP to set up title decider
© Bryn Lennon – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images Third place qualifier Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing looks on in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on December 04, 2021 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – Bryn Lennon – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

The good news for Verstappen – at least at the moment – is that the damage to his car from his brush with the wall did not require a gearbox change. That means he avoids a costly grid penalty, so will still start in third place, behind Hamilton and Bottas. 

What does that mean for his hopes in the race? Well, the Mercedes looked mighty on the long run practice on Friday but who knows what they or Red Bull may have been hiding. The nature of this track – high-speed, flowing corners and walls close in – means that there’s a decent chance of a safety car in the race, which could throw a spanner in the works. It’s a long lap, so there is also a high chance of someone being done  over by its timing. Don’t rule out Verstappen making a good start – or Hamilton a bad one – and getting up to the front by the first lap, either. In short, it is all to play for. 

The race begins at 5.30pm GMT under lights and we will be here for all the build-up, live updates and reaction from what could be a crucial race in the championship. 

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Athletic Bilbao - Real Madrid : Ancelotti rend hommage à Modric, fou de joie !

Après la victoire du Real Madrid contre l’Athletic Bilbao (2-1), en finale de la Supercoupe d’Espagne, Florentino Perez, Carlo Ancelotti et Luka Modric ont réagi. © Icon Sport Luka Modric ... Read more »

Prix Auguste de Castelbajac, Gage de Réussite sur l'hippodrome de Pau

© Fournis par Sports.fr Prix Auguste de Castelbajac, Gage de Réussite sur l’hippodrome de Pau PRÉSENTATION DU PRIX AUGUSTE DE CASTELBAJAC En ce lundi 17 janvier 2022, le Tiercé Quarté ... Read more »

Barça : le PSG se retire de la course pour Dembélé, deux géants européens au coude à coude

Deux grands clubs européens sont favoris pour le recrutement d’Ousmane Dembélé. © Icon Sport Ousmane Dembélé Deux grands clubs européens sont favoris pour le recrutement d’Ousmane Dembélé. Alors que Ousmane ... Read more »

Athletic Bilbao - Real Madrid : Benzema bat un record légendaire !

Tout juste vainqueur de la Supercoupe d’Espagne, Karim Benzema a battu un record légendaire. © Icon Sport Karim Benzema Tout juste vainqueur de la Supercoupe d’Espagne, Karim Benzema a battu ... Read more »

L'Inter et l'Atalanta se neutralisent

SOCCER-SERIE-A:L’Inter et l’Atalanta se neutralisent © Reuters/Alberto Lingria L’Inter et l’Atalanta se neutralisent par Robin Joanchicoy (iDalgo) Dans un choc au sommet, opposant deux des formations les plus joueuses d’Italie, ... Read more »
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