Max Verstappen wards off Charles Leclerc to claim Saudi Arabian GP

Max Verstappen came out on top for the first time in 2022 after he pipped Charles Leclerc to the finish line in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

A week of controversy in Jeddah culminated in a spectacle on the racetrack as Verstappen and Leclerc pushed each other to their limits, with the Dutchman managing to stay in control after regaining the lead with four laps remaining.

Verstappen’s archrival, Lewis Hamilton, endured a difficult race in Jeddah after failing to finish qualifying, the seven-time World Champion just scraped into the points as he finished in 10th. However, there was some reprieve for the Mercedes camp with George Russell once again finishing in the top five as he managed a fifth placed finish this time around.

However, early signs show that the real battle lies between Red Bull and Mercedes. Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Perez, had to settle for a fourth-place finish despite picking up pole. Unlike the rest of the drivers, the Mexican pitted prior to Nicholas Latifi’s crash which cost him top spot and saw him settle for fourth.

Perez’s error proved to be Carlos Sainz and Ferrari’s advantage with the Spaniard finishing in third to ensure that both drivers from the Italian constructors enjoyed back-to-back podiums to start 2022.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 27: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB18 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 27, 2022 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

It turned out to be an evening to forget for Australian Daniel Ricciardo who was forced to retire after a promising performance which saw him jump from 14th to 9th. But his night ended abruptly when his engine cut out with less than 15 laps to go. The Aussie was not the only driver forced to retire with Alpine's Fernando Alonso and Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas also suffering the same fate on the same lap.

It was not all doom and gloom for McLaren with Ricciardo’s teammate, Lando Norris, securing his team’s first points of the season as he secured seventh spot.

What they had to say: Red Bull and Ferrari

Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, was excited by the upcoming battle between Verstappen and Leclerc that will heat up as the season progresses.

“Ferrari have a great car, great drivers and it was a really tough battle today,” he said. “If that’s where we are set for the rest of the season from what we have seen in the first two races, it is going to be epic.”

Verstappen was relieved to finally get on the board for the first time this season after his hard- fought victory over Leclerc.

“It was a really tough race but a good race, we were both battling hard at the front. We just tried to play the long game,” said Verstappen, who had retired from the first round with a mechanical failure. “Really happy we finally kickstarted the season.”

Meanwhile, the Monegasque driver was in a buoyant mood despite just missing out on top spot.

“"Oh my God I really enjoyed that race. It's hard racing but fair," he said.

"Every race should be like this."

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)

Formula 1 - 2022 Race Calendar