Lewis Hamilton sat exhausted on a folding chair with a towel in front of his face. Max Verstappen had to endure a few whistles and no longer understood the Formula 1 world. In the crazy premier race in Saudi Arabia with crashes, safety car phases and interruptions, Hamilton prevented the Dutchman from winning the title prematurely.
The completely poisoned World Cup duel now comes to the final on Sunday in Abu Dhabi. “I’ve been driving for a long time, but that was incredibly tough,” emphasized Hamilton: “With all my experience, I tried to keep the car on the track.”
Verstappen had to admit defeat to the defending champion on Sunday after a five-second penalty and multiple uncompromising attacks against the British. He was only second. “A lot has happened that I don’t agree with,” the Dutchman moaned.
Hamilton drew level with the 24-year-old on points, it was his third win in a row, enhanced by the fastest lap in the rousing horsepower thriller with extra length. Verstappen only stays ahead at Red Bull because of the larger number of wins.
With a demolished front wing after an unbelievable collision, Hamilton saved himself to the finish of a more than memorable race on the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, in which Mick Schumacher retired early in the Haas and Sebastian Vettel also had to give up in the Aston.
The safety car has to get out early
The members of the royal family saw a tailor-made start for Hamilton and his teammate Valtteri Bottas, who finished third. Mick Schumacher’s crash then triggered the chaos spiral. The safety car had to go. Mercedes brought in both cars to change tires. Verstappen stayed outside and took the lead. The risky tactical trick seemed to be worth it. Because it took too long to recover the Haas wreck, the race was interrupted.
16 minutes later the cars started rolling again to the standing start: This time Hamilton got better away from second place on the inside, pulled into the curve before Verstappen, who left the track to successfully counter the attack – a clear rule violation because Verstappen had an advantage procured. Hamilton had to brake so that Esteban Ocon also passed. There was time enough to look at the pictures immediately afterwards: there was a crash at the back, among other things, Schumacher’s colleague Nikita Masepin retired, as did Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull.
Another interruption. After some back and forth, it was clear: an investigation into the incident and a presumed five-second penalty would be waived if Verstappen now let Ocon and Hamilton by. Verstappen and Red Bull did that, but put on the faster, softer tires.
The third start followed. Verstappen showed that he is not afraid of the risk in such a race, he got away best and shot past Hamilton inside to first place.
But Hamilton put pressure on it. And it escalated. Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff slammed his headphones on the table in anger. Verstappen had obviously cut the gas when Hamilton wanted to pass again, the Briton touched the rear tire of the Red Bull.
The team had told Verstappen to hand over the position. The Dutchman had previously countered another attack and left the track. Verstappen let Hamilton pass again, but attacked directly. The race management had enough: five-second penalty. In the end, Hamilton was the first to cross the finish line. (dpa)
Source From: Tagesspiegel