Max Verstappen prevailed against Charles Leclerc in an exciting duel and won the second race of the season in Saudi Arabia. The lead changed back and forth several times. Pole sitter Sergio Perez was unlucky with the safety car timing and only finished fourth.
After the brilliant start in Bahrain, the second race in Jeddah also tore the fans from their seats. Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc fought a heated duel over 50 laps on Sunday (March 27). Like a week ago, things got very tight between the Ferrari and the Red Bull several times. In the end, Verstappen secured his first win of the season by just 0.549 seconds.
Carlos Sainz in third place ensured that Ferrari once again took home two trophies. At first it looked as if it could be Sergio Perez's day. The Mexican started from pole position and didn't give up his lead during the first laps either. Leclerc in second place initially had no chance to attack.
On lap 15, the gap between the two leaders suddenly narrowed a little. In order to forestall an undercut, Red Bull brought its driver into the pits early. But just one lap later Nicholas Latifi suddenly got stuck in the wall at the end of the finish corner, which led to the first and only safety car phase of the race.
Top duel over several laps
Like many other drivers, Leclerc, Verstappen and Sainz took advantage of the time-saving pit stop and pushed past the unlucky Perez, who then never had a real chance of returning to the podium. After the restart, Leclerc and Verstappen suddenly took center stage. The world champion grabbed Sainz's first Ferrari right at the start. Now he also wanted to get the second Scuderia racer.
The first attack came on lap 42. Leclerc intentionally let Verstappen past the DRS line in front of the target curve in order to counterattack on the subsequent straight. The strategy worked. The Ferrari initially stayed in front. A lap later, Verstappen tried to stay behind on the DRS line. Both cars braked so hard that the tires were smoking. The Red Bull got so out of step that it was no longer possible to attack.
On lap 47, Verstappen was within striking distance again. And this time the Dutchman timed the approach to the DRS line better before the last corner. Leclerc was unable to prevent his pursuer from attacking with DRS on the home stretch that followed. Verstappen made short work and passed before the first corner. Leclerc tried to counter again in the last laps, but thanks to the good Red Bull top speed, Verstappen defended confidently.
A World Championship point for Hamilton
Behind the quartet of Red Bull and Ferrari drivers, George Russell secured fifth place with a respectable margin. The Silver Arrow newcomer kept Esteban Ocon at a distance, who fought a heated battle with teammate Fernando Alonso in the early stages. On lap 37, however, the race came to an early end for the old Spanish champion with a drivetrain problem.
McLaren also only brought one car home. Daniel Ricciardo fell just seconds after Alonso. So Lando Norris had to pull the coals out of the fire in seventh place. Behind them, Pierre Gasly crossed the finish line in eighth place. The second Alpha Tauri didn't even make it to the start. Yuki Tsunoda had to park his car with an engine problem en route to the lineup.
Ninth and tenth place went to Kevin Magnussen and Lewis Hamilton. Both had started on the hard tires and were therefore unable to use the early first safety car phase for a mandatory pit stop. The remaining distance was just too big to switch to mediums. So in the end there were only small dots.
Nico Hülkenberg, like in Bahrain, went away completely empty-handed. In 12th place, the Rhinelander was the last car in the field to cross the finish line. Mick Schumacher, the second German pilot in the field, had to forego a start in Jeddah after his serious accident in qualifying.