Max Verstappen has won the second race of the 2022 Formula 1 season after winning a late wheel to wheel battle with Charles Leclerc at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
The pair were joined on the podium by Leclerc’s teammate, Carlos Sainz, while pole-sitter Sergio Perez had to settle for fourth after missing out during a safety car period.
The grid was a couple of drivers short with Haas not fielding Mick Schumacher following his huge crash in qualifying, while Yuki Tsunoda’s car lost power on the way to the grid.
Guanyu Zhou dropped to the back of the field after a slow start and a tangle with Daniel Ricciardo, while there was an early skirmish between the Alpine drivers, with Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso almost colliding as the latter looked for a way past the Frenchman.
The pair swapped places a couple of times, allowing Valtteri Bottas and Kevin Magnussen to catch the two cars. Eventually, Alpine instructed their drivers not to race each other, allowing Bottas to move ahead of Ocon.
Lewis Hamilton had a disappointing qualifying, dropping out in Q1, but quickly made his way up the order, and was running in the top 10 after just 14 laps.
At the front of the field, Leclerc looked set to be the first of the frontrunners to stop, with Ferrari telling the Monegasque driver to come in, but Red Bull brought Perez in at the same time, forcing Ferrari to leave their driver out a lap.
It paid off for Ferrari though as Leclerc was able to make his pitstop under the safety car, which came out when Nicholas Latifi ran wide and into the wall, leaving debris across the track.
Perez’s earlier pitstop meant he dropped down the third, behind Leclerc and Max Verstappen, but he just kept ahead of Carlos Sainz, although the Spaniard believed Perez forced him wide to keep the position, resulting in Perez giving him the position after the restart.
Zhou’s difficulties continued as he was given a five-second time penalty for gaining an advantage off track, but difficulties with the front jack during his pitstop meant the stewards judged him not to have served his penalty, and gave him a drive through penalty as well.
Reliability issues hit with just over 10 laps remaining as Fernando Alonso started to go slowly, with his dashboard showing a warning message to cool the car. He tried to limp his Alpine back to the pits, but it ground to a halt just short.
At the same time, Daniel Ricciardo lost power in his McLaren, also stopping just before the pitlane entry, while Alfa Romeo had to retire Valtteri Bottas’s car due to a technical issue.
The pitlane had to be closed while Ricciardo and Alonso’s cars were moved, which was a disappointment for Hamilton who was the only driver yet to pit. He had to wait until the scene had been cleared, dropping him back out of the points positions once he’d made his stop.
After a virtual safety car, Vertsappen seemed to be closer to Leclerc, briefly putting the Dutchman in a position to move in front of the Ferrari, but Leclerc had DRS after the next corner to move back ahead. The pair tussled for several laps before Verstappen eventually made the move stick, taking the lead with just three laps remaining.
Alex Albon and Lance Stroll came together on the penultimate lap, forcing the Williams to park up. The incident brought out yellow flags, and Leclerc seemed to close in on Verstappen again, resulting in the Red Bull driver questioning whether his rival had slowed enough during the flagged section, but the reigning champion had enough pace to keep Leclerc behind.
1 Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
3. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
5. George Russell (Mercedes)
6. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
7. Lando Norris (McLaren)
8. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
9. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
10. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
11. Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo)
12. Nico Hulkenberg (Aston Martin)
13. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
Alex Albon (Williams)
Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)
Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
Nicholas Latifi (Williams)
Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
Mick Schumacher (Haas)