Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia – Race


It’s the penultimate race of the season; VER and HAM fighting all the way; it’s going to be an exciting race.

I’m concerned about the safety of this track though. LEC had a big crash at the end of FP2; VER hit the wall in Qualifying; and today “Formula 2 drivers Theo Pourchaire and Enzo Fittipaldi were both taken to hospital after an accident during a support race for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.” [ESPN]

Air temperature 28°C; track 33°C; 76% humidity
The pit lane is open, so drivers are doing practice starts and then an installation lap, returning to the pits or finding their spot on the grid.
Grid: HAM, BOT, VER, LEC, PER, GAS, NOR, TSU, OCO, GIO, RIC, RAI, ALO, RUS, SAI, LAT, VET, STR, SCH, MAZ

Red Bull have rebuilt VER’s car without needing to replace the gearbox, so they avoided any penalty
As VER does a practice start, he’s told “minimise clutch usage”
Adrian Newey: “Forces went into the gearbox it wasn’t designed for, but as far as we can see everything is okay.”

The grid is really noisy, and a large part of that is Damon Hill revving Alan Jones’ 1980 championship-winning car FW07 [tweet]

RUS: “Definitely excited, hopefully lots of action. You can’t make any errors. I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news but I don’t think it will be easy to [overtake].”
Toto Wolff: “This is why we go racing”; “We’re so privileged to be part of this fight and feel the butterflies, I love it.”

That’s weird – they’ve turned off the lights on the grid!
Oh, it’s for a light show – even LEC stopped to watch for a moment before getting ready to get into his car

HAM leads everyone away on the formation lap
It’s BOT’s 100th start for Mercedes
The top 10 are all on medium compound tyres except NOR on softs
Pirelli’s data suggest a 1-stop strategy is faster than 2-stopping
The grid forms up: HAM, BOT, VER, LEC, PER, GAS, NOR, TSU, OCO, GIO, RIC, RAI, ALO, RUS, SAI, LAT, VET, STR, SCH, MAZ
Lights come on…

01/50: HAM leads into Turn 1, followed by BOT and VER
TSU has dropped a couple of places
SAI inside RAI to steal P13

02: HAM, BOT, VER, LEC, PER, NOR, OCO, GAS, RIC, ALO, GIO, TSU, SAI, RAI, VET, STR, RUS, SCH, LAT, MAZ

03: HAM fastest lap 1:34.020
Incident involving STR and RUS noted
Replay of the start: PER got close to rear-ending his teammate

04: HAM f/lap 1:33.782
Replay of the start: TSU squeezed OCO but OCO was against the wall
Incident involving STR and RUS – no investigation needed

05/50: HAM, BOT, VER, LEC, PER, NOR, OCO, GAS, RIC, ALO, GIO, SAI, TSU, RAI, VET, STR, RUS, SCH, LAT, MAZ
BOT f/lap 1:33.585

06: HAM f/lap 1:33.397
Start incident between TSU and OCO noted
ALO had to use the runoff at Turn 1

07: HAM f/lap 1:33.260
Radio from BOT, “I could do with a bit more gap in front”
GIO nicely past ALO for P10

08: SAI closing on ALO
RIC past GAS for P8
SAI takes P11 from ALO

09: HAM f/lap 1:33.214 – he’s ~5sec clear of BOT

10/50: HAM, BOT, VER, LEC, PER, NOR, OCO, RIC, GAS, SAI
Yellow flags.. Safety Car deployed
SCH has wiped out his Haas in the TechPro at Turn 23
STR and RUS pit; RUS comes out ahead
SCH is out of his car and seems ok

11[SC]: HAM and BOT pit but VER stays out
Radio from VER complaining that BOT is holding him up
HAM and BOT put on hard tyres, so they could go to the end
So many people pitted, so HAM has rejoined P2
Replay of SCH’s accident – looked a lot like LEC’s FP2 incident

12[SC]: VER, HAM, BOT, OCO, RIC, LEC, GAS, PER, SAI, GIO, TSU, RAI, VET, NOR, ALO, MAZ, RUS, STR, LAT; out: SCH
Radio from VER asking if the SC can go faster, “We’re doing 100”
Radio from HAM also complaining the SC is too slow

13[SC]: Red flag – race stopped
That means VER can change tyres before the restart, so he’ll be P1 without needing to stop 🙁
Cars return to the pits
HAM’s out of the car and he looks pretty frustrated

The rules allow teams to change tyres (and even replace parts with identical parts) before the restart
I don’t like the rule, but it is the rule and HAM benefitted from it a few races ago
The main beneficiaries (those who didn’t pit under the SC) are VER, OCO, RIC and GAS

Radio from HAM, “What’s the plan?” James Vowles: “Everyone has to go on these tyres until the end. Pressure him, you have car pace.”
VER leads everyone out of the pit lane; they’ll form up on the grid
14[SC]: VER, HAM, BOT, OCO, RIC, LEC, GAS, PER, SAI, GIO, TSU, RAI, VET, NOR, ALO, MAZ, RUS, STR, LAT; out: SCH
Everyone now on hard tyres except RIC, PER, SAI, VET and LAT
HAM on radio complaining about VER; VER on the radio complaining about HAM
The grid forms up ready for the restart; it’s taking a while for the tail end to take their place

15/50: HAM takes the lead into Turn 1
VER cuts the corner, pushes HAM wide and takes P1
PER spins, hits the wall
Yellow flag – surely there’s so much debris they’ve got to red flag it?
Red flags
Replay of the restart – VER cut the corner to reclaim P1, so he ought to restart behind HAM

16[SC]: Everyone back in the pit lane, except PER who’s trying to get the recovery team to take his car to the pits in they hope they can fix it for the restart
It would be interesting to see the drivers’ pulse rates!
Toto’s walking down the pit lane – I assume he’s off to try to talk to the stewards
The order as they sit in the pit lane: VER, OCO, HAM, RIC, BOT, GAS, LEC, GIO, SAI, VET, RAI, TSU, ALO, STR, LAT, NOR; out: RUS, PER, MAZ, SCH

Michael Masi on the radio to Red Bull: “I’m going to give you the opportunity to start from grid position 2.” (Implying if Red Bull say no, then the stewards will review Turn 1)
Red Bull want to check who’ll be P1; they’re told VER will be behind HAM
Michael Masi to Mercedes: order will be OCO, HAM, VER
Red Bull: Ok, but then they push for the stewards to review HAM and BOT

The radio discussions between the Race Director and the teams is really interesting!
“I’m going to give you the opportunity…” – I guess that’s because the team would normally have a short time to tell their driver to give the position back, and the red flag removed that

Replay of the start: HAM gets a great start; VER looks to go around the outside but runs out of road – the problem is the VER gained an advantage by rejoining across HAM’s nose
Replay of Turn 1: someone tagged PER, spinning him, then RUS backed off and MAZ ploughed into his rear

OK, so the order for the 2nd restart will be OCO, HAM, VER, RIC, BOT, GAS, LEC, GIO, SAI, VET, RAI, TSU, ALO, STR, LAT, NOR
16[SC]: They head out to form up the grid
VER is now on medium tyres – Pirelli say they’ll last ~30 laps
Radio from HAM asking “What’s the reason we didn’t put on new mediums?”; Bono: “We have 35 laps, this is the correct tyre.”
SC heads for the pit lane, so OCO leads everyone (well, the remaining 16 cars) onto the grid

17: HAM alongside OCO; VER alongside HAM; VER leads into Turn 1
OCO cuts T1, but he rejoins ahead of HAM
HAM easily passes OCO for P2

18: VER, HAM, OCO, RIC, BOT, GAS, GIO, VET, TSU, LEC, SAI, STR, RAI, ALO, NOR, LAT

19: HAM f/lap 1:33.056
LEC looking for a way around TSU

20/50: VER, HAM, OCO, RIC, BOT, GAS, GIO, VET, TSU, LEC
VER f/lap 1:32.712
Radio from VER, “Lack of power” but is that just psychological?
VER’s told it was just the battery topping up

21: HAM f/lap 1:32.532 – he’s already got a 5sec gap over OCO

22: HAM f/lap 1:32.130 – he’s just over 1sec behind VER
DRS now enabled

23: Yellow flag – TSU has hit the wall
TSU has lost his front wing but seems to be running
VSC deployed
Replay shows TSU clipped VET, spinning the Aston Martin

24[VSC]: SAI and LEC were battling over P8; SAI is ahead as VSC kicked in
VSC ending; DRS will be available again
TSU has made it back to the pits

25/50: VER, HAM, OCO, RIC, BOT, GAS, GIO, SAI, LEC, STR, VET, RAI, ALO, NOR, TSU

26: HAM f/lap 1:31.502 – not quite close enough for DRS
Incident involving TSU and VET under investigation
ALO loses the rear of his Alpine; keeps it out of the wall and rejoins P15
VET is losing pace

27: 5-sec penalty for TSU
RAI pits; new nose
Replay shows RAI made contact with VET

28: VSC deployed, presumably to clear debris that fell off VET’s car
Marshal sprints across the track, grabs some green bodywork and rushes back behind the fence
VSC ending
Radio from ALO reporting there’s still debris on track

29: VSC deployed again! All these VSCs are a benefit to those on medium tyres, e.g. VER
Another marshal picks up more debris
Radio from ALO saying there should be a red flag because there’s so much debris

30/50[VSC]: VER, HAM, OCO, RIC, BOT, GAS, GIO, SAI, LEC, STR, NOR, LAT, VET, ALO, RAI, TSU
HAM could safely pit for new medium tyres, but he stays out

31[VSC]: I’m not seeing anything happening e.g. clearing debris, so I wonder why the VSC is still deployed

32[VSC]: VER has caught RAI (P15) but isn’t allowed to pass him, so HAM has closed the gap

33[VSC]: VSC ending
VER laps RAI but then RAI re-takes the racing line so HAM might have been impeded

34: VER’s lead is 1.1sec

35/50: VER, HAM, OCO, RIC, BOT, GAS, GIO, SAI, LEC, STR, NOR, LAT, ALO, VET, RAI, TSU; out: RUS, PER, MAZ, SCH
HAM f/lap 1:31.411
Oh no – more debris on the track!

36: HAM f/lap 1:31.199 – he now has DRS
VSC deployed
VSC ending, so HAM has DRS again

37: VER is weaving on the straight again 🙁
HAM has DRS and the tow; he’s almost alongside into Turn 1 but VER cuts across
Incident involving HAM and VER noted
Radio for VER telling him to give P1 to HAM
VER slows, but he’s in the middle of the track – HAM hits him

38: HAM: “He just brake tested me. I just hit him, man, the wing is broken.”
Bono: “He was told to give you the position.”
HAM: “He brake tested me. I didn’t know what was going on. That was just dangerous driving.”
Incident involving VER and HAM under investigation

39: Radio for HAM: “Race control have told VER to give the place back”

40/50: VER, HAM, OCO, BOT, RIC, GAS, SAI, LEC, GIO, NOR, STR, LAT, ALO, VET, RAI, TSU
Radio from Mercedes to Michael Masi saying they didn’t know VER was told to give the place back

41: HAM f/lap 1:31.089
But VER is still P1 – when will he let HAM pass?

42: 5-sec penalty for VER for leaving the track and gaining an advantage
Incident involving VER and HAM will be investigated after the race

43: VER lets HAM take P1 on the main straight, but then immediately passes HAM into Turn 1 – that can’t count as giving HAM the position!

44: VER lets HAM take P1

45/50: HAM, VER*, OCO, BOT, RIC, GAS, SAI, LEC, GIO, NOR, STR, LAT – *VER has 5-sec penalty to be applied
Radio between Mercedes and Michael Masi – HAM is borderline getting black & white flag – WHAT????

46: HAM f/lap 1:30.854
VET pits, retires

47: Radio for VER telling him they can’t pit at the moment as OCO would take P2
Radio for BOT telling him the gap to OCO; “Push!”
Radio for HAM warning him to be careful on the kerbs

48: HAM f/lap 1:30.734 – he’s over 5sec clear of VER (before adding his penalty)
BOT right on OCO’s rear wing

49: VER falling further back from HAM – over 8sec gap now

50 = final lap: BOT takes P3 but OCO fights back and reclaims it

HAM takes the chequered flag and fastest lap
VER P2* (5-sec penalty to be applied)
BOT just pips OCO to the line for P3

The Mercedes garage seem almost more excited at BOT stealing P3 than HAM taking P1
But for HAM that’s 103 pole positions & 103 race wins

HAM weighs in, wiping his eyes; he goes behind a screen and sits down; BOT joins him, catching their breath

Provisional result: HAM*, VER**, BOT, OCO, RIC, GAS, LEC, SAI, GIO, NOR; STR, LAT, ALO, TSU, RAI
DNF: VET, PER, MAZ, RUS, SCH
*Fastest lap: HAM
**VER has 5-sec penalty but he’ll still be P2

Outstanding incidents:
Lap 38 (I think) incident involving VER and HAM will be investigated after the race [video]
Also PER/LEC for the incident at the 1st restart (lap 15)

Even when telling VER he won Driver of the Day they get in a dig at the stewards and Mercedes

Meanwhile ex-F1 driver Jolyon Palmer says: “Verstappen is happy to crash and it’s very hard to race someone that is happy to crash. If they do crash in Abu Dhabi, and you could see it easily happen, it’s Max Verstappen’s title.”

The top 3 all look pretty tired on the podium
Mercedes celebrate but VER walks off – what a petulant child

Interviews:
HAM: “That was incredibly tough. 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.”
BOT: “Not an easy day, the first red flag being on the hard tyre [for the restart] was a mistake. It wasn’t easy to overtake but finally on the last lap I got third. It’s a big challenge physically and mentally.”
VER: “Yeah, it was quite eventful. A lot of things happened that I don’t fully agree with, but I gave it my all. It will be decided [in Abu Dhabi] so hopefully we’ll have a good weekend, we’ll see.”

Toto Wolff: “The result at the end, winning the race, I think he deserved it. I don’t want to now have dirty laundry here but what the telemetry shows is that [Verstappen] is slowing down and speeds off again. Hamilton didn’t know [he was being given the place].” “Credit to Race Control, it’s difficult to manage. I need to reserve judgement, I need to see the race more before I say anything that maybe isn’t right. It’s really the driving that needs to be assessed and looked at. It’s hard, really hard, maybe too hard. We just want the best man to win and if it’s Max at the end so be it.”

So it all comes down to Abu Dhabi next weekend, with HAM and VER on equal points (although VER has more wins, so VER is actually leading the Championship).

[2021 calendar] [2021 line-up] [Points standings]