Hamilton wins after heated battle with Verstappen

Title rivals level on points in the drivers' standings with one race to go

2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Sunday - LAT Images

Lewis Hamilton is level on points with Max Verstappen in the drivers championship after coming out on top in a bad tempered battle with the Dutchman at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Valtteri Bottas joined the pair on the podium after beating Esteban Ocon on the line, with the Alpine driver having been in the top three for much of the race.

Despite the narrow track and little run off area, it was a clean start to the race, with little change in grid position over the first few laps.

However, the safety car was deployed on the 10th lap of the race when Mick Schumacher lost control of his Haas, colliding with the barrier at turn 22 and destroying the rear end of his car.

The safety car triggered a round of pitstops, with Mercedes bringing both of their drivers in, but Red Bull kept Max Verstappen out, handing the Dutchman the race lead, but leaving him on older tyres than the cars behind.

Despite Verstappen’s fresher tyres, it was Hamilton who go the better start, moving ahead of his title rival going into the first corner, but Verstappen kept his foot down and regained the lead, with Hamilton having to take evasive action.

Hamilton’s move allowed Esteban Ocon to climb up to second after a strong restart from the Frenchman, but the race was soon red flagged again as Charles Leclerc clipped Sergio Perez, spinning the Mexican’s Red Bull around and into the barrier.

There was a separate incident as George Russell slowed to pass the stricken Red Bull, only to be hit from behind by Nikita Mazepin.

Verstappen was made to take the restart from third, behind Hamilton and Ocon, who started at the head of the pack, but the Dutchman saw a gap between the two drivers ahead, and powered through to retake the lead. Ocon held off Hamilton for a few corners, but the reigning champion soon got close enough to move up to second.

A virtual safety car was needed when Yuki Tsunoda tried to find a way past Sebastian Vettel, but had to use the runoff area after locking up. But, as he rejoined the track, he collided with Vettel, spinning the German around, before Tsunoda came to rest in the barrier, shattering his front wing. The Japanese driver managed to nurse his car back to the pits, but the incident dropped him to the back of the field, and earned him a five-second time penalty.

Another VSC was needed when Vettel has another coming together, this time with Kimi Raikkonen, leaving the Aston Martin dropping pieces of carbon fibre on the track, while the Finn had to come in for a new front wing. Vettel continued to shed bodywork though, leaving debris around the track and resulting in another VSC just a couple of laps later.

Hamilton was close to the rear of Verstappen on the restart, and the Dutchman again had to use the runoff area, leaving race control instructing him to give the place back.

As the Red Bull driver slowed seemingly to let Hamilton through, the Mercedes driver collided with the rear of Verstappen’s car, with Mercedes claiming they hadn’t been given adequate warning from race control that Verstappen would be slowing.

Verstappen eventually did let Hamilton by, but quickly retook the lead, before Hamilton again moved ahead, as the stewards handed Verstappen a five-second time penalty.

The damage Vettel sustained earlier in the race meant he had to retire four laps from the end.

Bottas began to close the gap to Ocon late on as he pushed for the final podium place, and the pair crossed the line side by side, with the Finnish racer just finishing ahead.

Hamilton secured the bonus point for fastest lap, leaving him with the same number of points as his title rival, with Verstappen remaining at the top of the standings due to having won more races.

Provisional classification:

1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)

4. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)

5. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)

6. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)

7. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

8. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)

9. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)

10. Lando Norris (McLaren)

11. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)

12. Nicholas Latifi (Williams)

13. Fernando Alonso (Alpine)

14. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)

15. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)


Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)

Sergio Perez (Red Bull)

George Russell (Williams)

Nikita Mazepin (Haas)

Mick Schumacher (Haas)

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