Hamilton wins as F1 loses


For those of you familiar with the proverb, 'for the sake of a nail the Kingdom was lost', we cannot help wondering if the 2021 equivalent, in terms of the world championship, that might read, 'for the sake of a needless mistake at Turn 27 the title was lost...'

It is widely estimated that had he not made that error Max Verstappen would have grabbed pole by almost half a second over title rival Lewis Hamilton, but it was not to be.

It was an amazing lap, and even the seven-time world champion was impressed.

As a result, Max starts from third while Mercedes locks-out the front row for the sixth time this season.

Despite this, it is not all over for Verstappen, however his job is made that much more difficult, certainly in terms of wrapping up the title this weekend.

However, perhaps we are getting a little ahead of ourselves for, as we have seen in the support races, anything can, and probably will happen here today.

Sergio Perez says the Jeddah track is "too dangerous without a real reason", and we totally agree.

Indeed, as Anthony Davidson poo-pooed such suggestions yesterday we wondered if he was talking as a driver or a TV pundit eyeing viewing figures.

All focus appears to have been on speed while the reality is something akin to a Hot Wheels track with as much opportunity for overtaking and blind corner after blind corner.

Right at the start of the weekend we described this track as an accident waiting to happen, and without wishing to sound maudlin nothing we've seen thus far has changed our opinion, far from it.

Indeed, this is style over substance, a track almost crafted for the Drive to Survive viewer.

Indeed, as opposed to getting bogged down in the various permutations that could decide one of the titles today, we will be happy to get the race done safely and move on. Never, in all our days, did we anticipate looking forward to Abu Dhabi.

Due to these genuine fears over track safety - and we prepare this intro as the F2 feature race is delayed and subsequently abandoned following three incidents including a horrific start-line clash involving Theo Pourchaire and Enzo Fittipaldi - we are not going to ponder the battle for the title or even that between Ferrari and McLaren or Alpine and AlphaTauri. Indeed, not wishing to 'do a Murray Walker' and tempt fate we're going to see how things play out and hope our fears are unfounded.

Mind you, however things unfold today in terms of red flags, safety cars and VSCs, we do not envisage Michael Masi facing the same issue as his counterpart at Bathurst where the safety car was deployed as a result of an echidna wandering on to the track.

An hour before the race the teams gather on the grid for a tribute to Sir Frank Williams who passed away last weekend. It's a poignant moment as the sport bids farewell to another of the old guard.

In parc ferme, a number of changes have been carried out to various cars, and for that of a certain Dutchman... Front wing/nose assembly, RHS rear trackrod, RHS rear top wishbone, RHS rear lower wishbone, RHS rear upright assembly, LHS front upright gaitor, PAS rack, Rear brake friction material, Parameter changes associated with RHS rear corner replacement and Parameter changes associated with brake friction material replacement... but no new driveshaft, no new gearbox.

That said however, let's not forget Monaco where Ferrari opted not to change the gearbox on Leclerc's car following his Q3 crash... only to see him fail to make it to the grid next day.

Today should be a one-stopper. The fastest one-stopper should be from medium to hard, which the majority of drivers look set to select - as can be seen by nearly all the frontrunners, bar Norris, who chose to get through Q2 on the medium compound.

Starting on the medium gives more options as it leaves the door open to either a one or a two-stopper, and it also enables drivers to run a relatively long first stint, with a wide pit stop window. An alternative is a soft to hard strategy, which is just as quick on paper but might need a little bit more management, depending on the car.

A two-stopper is distinctly slower, but the fastest should be using all the compounds: one stint on the medium, followed by one on the hard and the last on soft.

However, it might not be as straightforward as that. With Jeddah being a brand new circuit, there are still a number of unknown factors to consider: and one of them might be the seemingly high probability of a safety car. If that's the case, then it could make a 'free' pit stop possible.

The pitlane opens and the drivers head out, one of the first being Verstappen. Indeed, the Dutchman gives it 'full welly' in a bid to stretch his gearbox before things get serious.

Ahead of the formation lap the air temperature is 29 degrees C, while the track temperature is 32 degrees. Risk of rain is 0%.

Other than Norris nobody is on the softs, while Raikkonen, Alonso, Russell, Latifi, Stroll, Schumacher and Mazepin join the majority of the leading ten in choosing the mediums, while Ricciardo, Sainz and Vettel go hard.

They head off on the formation lap, all getting away cleanly.

The grid forms, albeit very slowly.

They're away!

The Mercedes pair hold position, Bottas covering Verstappen as he makes a move on the run to Turn 1. Behind, Perez nearly collects his teammate as he locks-up into Turn 1. The Mexican loses ground and is passed by Leclerc

Tsunoda, who has had a poor start, backs off in a battle with Alonso.

At the end of lap 1, it's: Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Leclerc, Perez, Norris, Ocon, Gasly, Ricciardo and Giovinazzi. A nice move sees Sainz nail Raikkonen for 13th.

The stewards have noted an incident involving Stroll and Russell at Turn 7.

After two laps Hamilton leads by 1.5s with Verstappen 1.2s down on Bottas.

Sainz passes Tsunoda for 12th, his next target being Giovinazzi who has been passed by Alonso.

"I could do with a bit more gap in front," says Bottas, who is unhappy running in his teammate's dirty air. However, said teammate is setting a strong pace, posting a string of fastest laps.

Ricciardo passes Alonso and immediately sets about Gasly, as Alonso loses out to Giovinazzi in a great move by the Italian.

Ricciardo passes Gasly on the main straight as Sainz nails countryman Alonso for 11th.

Alonso reports a number of issues with his car, mainly concerning the hybrid features.

Lap 8 sees Hamilton post another fastest lap (33.214) as he builds a 2.565s lead.

The safety car is deployed when Schumacher goes into the barriers at Turn 21 after losing the rear of the car on entry. Asked if he is okay, the youngster sighs: "Yes, I'm OK, sorry about that."

Russell and Stroll are the first to take the opportunity to pit.

"We are going to box, box," Hamilton is told. The Briton duly obliges, as does Bottas. Indeed, as Verstappen stays out, Leclerc, Perez, Norris, Alonso and Latifi all pit.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Jeddah, here.

"Valtteri is running massively off the pace," says Verstappen of Bottas' before heading to the pits.

Sainz has passed Giovinazzi for 9th but it is unclear whether the Spaniard made the move before the safety car lights were shown.

Verstappen and Hamilton both complain about the slow pace of the safety car.

After 11 laps, and behind the safety car, it's: Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Ocon, Ricciardo, Leclerc, Gasly, Perez, Sainz and Giovinazzi.

Raikkonen involved in another friendly exchange with his engineer after being told to pit.

The race is red-flagged as the barrier where Schumacher crashed is repaired, which plays right into Verstappen's hands.

Of that leading ten, Verstappen, Ocon, Ricciardo, Gasly, Sainz and Giovinazzi haven't pitted, now they get a free pit stop.

"Does that mean they can change tyres," asks Hamilton as it dawns on him. "the tyre walls are fine," he continues, "find out what the reason is."

The Briton climbs out of his car in obvious disbelief, as strategist James Vowles explains the situation to him.

At 21:08, race control announces that the race will re-start at 21:15.

"Some big decisions to be made now, with 36 laps to go," says Pirelli. "Do you put on the hard tyre and try to go to the finish? Or something else and bank on another safety car?"

"So gents, what's the scenario, what do we need to do," asks Hamilton as awaits the restart. He is told effectively what Pirelli has said, either go to the end on the hards or take a gamble on another safety car, VSC or stoppage.

Of course, Hamilton's hards have done a couple of laps, while Verstappen's are fresh out of the box.

Clearly agitated, as they head of on the formation lap, Hamilton complains that Verstappen performed a practice start in the pitlane.

Again, Verstappen complains about the pace of the safety car. He also complains that Hamilton is more than ten cars behind meaning the Dutchman will have to wait on the grid longer as it forms.

They're away, and Hamilton leads into Turn 1 but Verstappen runs wide and using the run off gets ahead. As he rejoins the track Hamilton has to back off which allows Ocon through to take second. Further back there is another incident, this one involving Mazepin, Perez and Leclerc.

The race is red flagged again.

Replay shows Leclerc and Perez interlocking wheels, causing the Mexican to spin and the Ferrari to T-bone him. Meanwhile, Mazepin and Russell clash very heavily, the Haas running at high speed into the rear of the slowing Williams which was trying to avoid the Perez/Leclerc clash.

"I was clearly ahead," complains Hamilton. "I had to avoid a collision there," he adds.

As the cars head back to the pitlane, Perez waits on track wondering what is happening.

Meanwhile, the cameras pick up on Toto Wolff who is a man on a mission and appears to be seeking out Michael Masi.

"I'm going to give you the opportunity to start from P2 considering what happened at the start," Masi tells Red Bull, who ask for a minute to consider.

"We will accept P2 on the basis that Ocon's on pole," respond Red Bull.

However, Masi says that Verstappen would start behind Hamilton and again Red Bull asks for time to consider its options.

Basically, Red Bull and Mercedes both feel their driver was forced off track at Turn 1.

Mercedes asks for clarification that Ocon will start P1 ahead of Hamilton and Verstappen. Masi agrees but says this is dependent on Red Bull's response.

Red Bull agrees to Ocon, Hamilton and Verstappen being the order but askes for the earlier episodes involving both Mercedes drivers.

The race will restart at 21:40. Verstappen and Bottas have switched to mediums.

Ocon leads the field on the third formation lap.

"How long is the race," asks Hamilton, and several million fans.

Clearly hoping third time lucky, Masi opts for another standing start.

Verstappen will start the race second but will pull aside to allow Hamilton through. At least that's the plan. Ocon will start from pole.

They're away, and this time no mistakes, Verstappen leads as, despite making way for Hamilton the Briton leaves the door wide open as they head into Turn 1 three abreast. Ocon runs wide but rejoins still ahead of Hamilton having not gained an advantage.

Ricciardo is fourth, ahead of Bottas, Gasly, Giovinazzi, Vettel, Tsunoda, and Leclerc.

Hamilton passes Ocon for second and sets about closing the 1.179s gap to his nemesis.

The stewards announce that the incident at the start of the second restart will be investigated after the race.

Out front, Verstappen posts a new fastest lap (32.712)

"Lack of power, guys," reports Verstappen, but that's not the first time we've heard that particular complain this season.

"Battery is just topping up," he is assured.

Hamilton posts a 32.532, remember, the Briton is on hards and Verstappen on mediums.

Out front it is fast and furious, while the rest of the field appears to have settled down. That said, Bottas is hot on the heels of Ricciardo while Tsunoda is clinging on to the rear of Vettel.

At which point, on lap 22, Tsunoda goes off and clouts the barrier damaging his front wing. Indeed, removing his front wing.

The VSC is deployed.

Replays shows the Japanese clashed with Vettel in Turn 1 while the Ferraris, side-by-side behind, had to take avoiding action. In the ensuing melee, Sainz gets the upper hand.

As Tsunoda arrives back at the pits, the VSC is withdrawn. It's lap 24 (of 50).

A spin for Alonso, who somehow keeps it out of the wall.

Vettel and Tsunoda are under investigation.

As Tsunoda is given a 5s time penalty for causing a collision, Vettel has clearly incurred damage. "Aw, come on guys!" he moans.

Raikkonen pits at the end of lap 26, he takes on a new nose.

However, replay shows Raikkonen damaged his car in a clash with Vettel, and as the debris is cleared the VSC is briefly deployed once again.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Jeddah, here.

"There is a lot of debris on the inside of Turn 6 and 10," warns Alonso.

Again the VBSC is deployed, no doubt to clear the debris that was missed previously.

After 30 laps, it's: Verstappen, Hamilton, Ocon, Ricciardo, Bottas, Gasly, Giovinazzi, Sainz, Leclerc and Stroll.

Alonso remains unhappy about the amount of debris on the track, insisting that the track is in the worst condition its been all weekend.

Replay shows that Raikkonen and Vettel weren't pulling their punches in their little skirmish.

These continuous VSCs play into Verstappen's hands as he is not pushing his mediums.

Under the VSC, Verstappen comes up behind Raikkonen, who is currently running 15th.

"Why is Kimi not speed up?" asks Verstappen as, despite the VSC conditions, Hamilton is able to close the gap.

The VSC is withdrawn on lap 33.

Such is the pace third placed Ocon is 19.8s behind Hamilton.

Yet more debris on the track, and it's a big piece.

The leaders trade fastest sectors, Hamilton posting a 31.199, as the VSC is deployed once again.

No sooner is the VSC deployed than it is withdrawn again.

Hamilton is just 0.700s down on his rival.

At the end of lap 36, Hamilton closes on Verstappen on the pit straight. As he passes the Red Bull, Verstappen takes him all the way into the corner and runs wide. He rejoins still ahead of the Mercedes.

"This guy is crazy man," complains Hamilton.

Verstappen is told by his team to hand the position back to the Briton but as he slows the Mercedes runs into the back of the Red Bull.

"He brake tested me," declares the Briton. Though he is assured that he hasn't incurred damage, the Mercedes clearly does have damage to its front wing.

"That was dangerous driving," says Hamilton as the incident is being investigated.

Elsewhere, Bottas and Ricciardo are fighting. Following a couple of dummies, the Finn eventually passes the Australian for fourth.

Hamilton is told that race control has told Verstappen to give the place back, which is what the Dutchman tried to do before.

Mercedes sporting director, Ron Meadows is in a furious row with Michael Masi over the earlier incident.

After 40 laps Verstappen has yet to give the position back as the 'debate' continues.

Despite his wing damage, Hamilton posts a new fastest lap (31.89).

On lap 42, Verstappen slows, allows Hamilton through and promptly retakes the position.

However, the Dutchman is given a 5s penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage. While the latter incident will be investigated after the race.

On lap 44, Hamilton appears to catch Verstappen on the hop and passes the Red Bull with ease.

"We didn't quite need to do that, Max," Verstappen is told, the Dutchman having handed back that position in error.

With a 24s gap to Ocon, will Red Bull pits Verstappen for softs in order to claim fastest lap. That said, with the 5s penalty, the gap is actually around 19s.

Mercedes is told that when Hamilton left Verstappen nowhere to go it was borderline "black and white" (flag).

"Be careful on the kerbs," Hamilton is told, as Verstappen warns that his rears are going off.

As Vettel retires, Bottas is closing on Ocon who is 0.792s ahead.

A late stop for Alonso promotes Norris into tenth.

6.6s clear of his rival, Hamilton posts a new fastest lap (30.734).

On lap 48, Bottas is all over Ocon.

"Can he get fastest lap?" asks Hamilton of Verstappen. "Negative," comes the reply, "he's trying to get his tyres home."

On the final lap, Bottas passes Ocon but the Frenchman immediately retakes the position, as Leclerc passes his Ferrari teammate for 7th.

Hamilton takes the flag, with Verstappen crossing the line 6.8s later.

Bottas passes Ocon on the pit straight in a desperate race to the flag.

Ricciardo is fifth, ahead of Gasly, Leclerc, Sainz, Giovinazzi and Norris.

Stroll is eleventh, ahead of Latifi, Alonso, Tsunoda and Raikkonen.

Well, where to begin?

In a masterpiece of understatement, Verstappen says it was "eventful".

This one is going to run and run, and for the stakeholders and Netflix its absolutely perfect, what with the two title protagonists going into the final level on points.

However, with both drivers warned about their standards this was not a good look for the sport no matter what they say.

It is still unclear what Verstappen's 5s penalty was for, while there is still one other incident to be investigated.

Whatever the rights and wrongs, this is getting g nasty and personal, which, again, might fit the Drive to Survive narrative but those fans of a certain vintage will remember that this sort of thing often ends in tears.

No disrespect to Michael Masi but there were times tonight when he appeared to lose control, something that would never have happened under Charlie Whiting.

In the moments after the race, Verstappen, Perez and Leclerc are all summoned by the stewards as the inquest continues.

Already, some media outlets are describing it as "thrilling", "crazy" and "sensational" but this was more soap opera, this was F1 for the Netflix generation.

Be it the on-track shenanigans, the on air complaints to Masi or the total sense of confusion that surrounded the race, this was not a good look.

"Not an easy day," says Bottas, "the first red flag being on the hard tyre was a mistake," he adds, a reference to the restart.

"It wasn't easy to overtake but finally on the last lap I got third. It's a big challenge physically and mentally."

"It was quite eventful," adds Verstappen (groan). "A lot of things happened that I don't fully agree with, but I gave it my all.

"It will be decided so hopefully we'll have a good weekend, we'll see."

"That was incredibly tough," admits Hamilton. "I tried to be as sensible as I could be, with all my race experience over the years, just keeping the car on track and staying clean.

"I'm really proud of everyone and grateful for the car this weekend. I didn't quite understand why he hit the brakes so heavily, and then I ran into the back of him, and then he drove off so it was a bit confusing."

Indeed it was.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Jeddah, here.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 05/12/2021
Copyright © Pitpass 2002 - 2024. All rights reserved.