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Verstappen edges Leclerc for first win of 2022 in thrilling Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

28/03/22

It marked a return to the podium for the Dutchman.

Max Verstappen put the frustrations of Bahrain behind him with a superb drive to edge Charles Leclerc for victory at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah on Sunday.

The Red Bull driver and reigning world champion picked up his first points of the F1® season after coming out on top in a pulsating battle with his Ferrari rival.

It marked a return to the podium for the Dutchman after a late mechanical failure denied him a top-three finish at last week's season opener in Sakhir.

Leclerc seized the lead early on from Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez amid a safety car procession, following a crash by Williams' Nicholas Latifi, and looked poised for back-to-back wins after victory in Bahrain.

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But amid a thrilling final stretch at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Leclerc was caught on the main straight heading into lap 47 by Verstappen.

Leclerc's team-mate Carlos Sainz came home in third, to leave pole-sitter Perez fourth, while Lewis Hamilton, who started 15th following a dreadful qualifying session on Saturday, fought through the grid for a points finish in 10th.

After a tumultuous build-up to race day on and off the track, an uncharacteristically sedate start saw the grid mostly hold position in the opening moments.

Verstappen made one of the few jumps, getting the edge on Sainz down to Turn 1, but he was otherwise unable to gain early ground on Perez and Leclerc until Latifi's crash facilitated a reshuffle at the top.

Having maintained a one-second-plus advantage over Verstappen after taking the lead, Leclerc was forced to fight tooth and nail to keep himself ahead of the Red Bull man.

But with just four laps to go, he could not hold on to his slender lead and the Dutchman passed to notch up those first points of his title defence.


Red Bull put Bahrain nightmare behind them

Having seen what looked like a perfect start to the season crumble in the final minutes last time out, it will have been with no small relief that Red Bull team boss Christian Horner saw both his drivers cross the finish line here.

Verstappen showcased exactly why he will be among the hot favourites to defend his world title with a scintillating drive that paid maximum dividends late on, while Perez will surely be able to take positives too, despite slipping down to fourth after a pit stop miscalculation cost him dearly.


Ferrari cement contender status as Mercedes struggle

Having come away with a first one-two since 2019 in Bahrain, the Italian team again outlined why they could pose a serious threat to Red Bull's title hopes this year, with Leclerc and Sainz coming home second and third, with the fastest-lap bonus point for the former to boot.

But alarm bells will surely continue to ring at Mercedes following a difficult weekend for the Silver Arrows. While Hamilton drove superbly to get up to sixth at one point, a late pit stop meant he had to make do with 10th in the end, while George Russell drove a particularly anonymous race to come home fifth.


TOP 10

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) +1:02.946s
9. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +1:04.308s
10. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +1:13.948s


CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 45
2. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 33
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 25
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 22
5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 16

Constructors

1. Ferrari 78
2. Mercedes 38
3. Red Bull 37
4. Alpine 16
5. Haas 12


What's next?

Formula 1® returns to Australia in two weeks' time, for the first race in the country since 2019, as Red Bull and Ferrari look to show they can be frontrunners ahead of Mercedes.


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