Max Verstappen opened his 2022 championship account by winning the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Verstappen started the race from 4th and eventually found himself in second, behind the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc. Pole sitter Perez surrendered the lead to Leclerc after Ferrari lured Red Bull into the pits with a faux stop. He later got caught out again by an unfavorable safety car period. It seems Perez would have eventually been overrun by Leclerc and Verstappen who were in a race of their own. The Red Bull closely pursued the Ferrari, the Ferrari and Red Bull set a relentless pace the others could not match.
The race came down to the last five laps as Verstappen mounted a charge for victory. Verstappen had the better straight-line speed and was able to pressure the Ferrari for the lead. Leclerc initially seemed to have the pace to fend off the Red Bull. But Verstappen was in the hunt and and in no mood to back down. He soon assumed the lead with a series of clean overtakes.
Leclerc cleverly allowed Verstappen to take the lead, only to get a better run out of the next corner and retake the lead. Eventually, Verstappen’s Red Bull had a narrow advantage and he used it to assume the lead with two laps to go. Leclerc wasn’t ready to give up, but the Ferrari lacked top-line speed. Eventually, Verstappen crossed the line to win the race with a 0.549 second margin over Leclerc.
It was unusually clean driving from Verstappen, a driver who often races like a bull in a China shop. How long that will last is anyone’s guess.
And it will be anyone’s guess if Mercedes will get their act together. Hamilton missed out on a safety car period which could have elevated him to 6th, but reality set in as he finished 10th. The Mercedes is off the pace with a good setup or not. The current plight of Mercedes will not concern Verstappen, for he has the 2022 world championship on his radar.
2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix: Race Results
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0.549s
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 8.097s
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull 10.800s
5 George Russell Mercedes 32.732s
6 Esteban Ocon Alpine 56.017s
7 Lando Norris McLaren 56.124s
8 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 62.946s
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas 64.308s
10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 73.948s
11 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Racing 82.215s
12 Nico Hulkenberg Aston Martin 91.742s
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1 lap
Did not finish
Alex Albon – Williams – crash
Valtteri Bottas – Alfa Romeo –
Daniel Ricciardo – McLaren – engine
Fernando Alonso – Alpine – cooling
Nicholas Latifi – Williams – crash