Red Bull and Max Verstappen put the failure of Bahrain firmly behind them as Max Verstappen got the better of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in Jeddah.
The Dutchman and teammate Sergio Perez were both forced to retire late in Sakhir last week due to fuel supply issues, but defending champion Verstappen got it right to come out on top after a thrilling battle with Leclerc, with the lead changing hands multiple times as each driver took advantage of DRS, before the Red Bull driver managed to get the job done, thanks to a last-lap yellow flag.
“It was a good race, we were battling hard,” said Verstappen. “We just had to play the long game, the tyres were wearing out quite quickly. It wasn’t easy, but we eventually managed to get ahead. I am just really happy to kick-start the season.
A magnanimous Leclerc added: “It wasn’t enough today but — oh my — I really enjoyed that race. It was hard racing but fair, every race should be like this. We are in a street track, we’ve been pushing like I’ve rarely pushed before, so there is respect, but I’m also a little disappointed.”
Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz took third to round off the podium and allow Ferrari to once again pick up a healthy haul of points in both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships.
“For me this race was progress from Bahrain, I found more rhythm with the car, still some tenths to find but I’ll get there,” he said.
“What a great race,” smiled Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner. “It was an exciting last few laps and we just had enough to bring it home. It was a patient race for Max, he looked after his tyres. He’s driven brilliantly all weekend, he’ll take a lot of confidence.”
Mercedes’ George Russell was fifth behind the Red Bull of Perez, with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, McLaren’s Lando Norris, Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly, the Haas of Kevin Magnussen and a struggling Lewis Hamilton Mercedes rounding out the top 10.
Only 13 cars finished the race under the floodlights after a litany of retirements as the race went on including Williams’ pair Alexander Albon and Nicolas Latifi, Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and the Alpine of Fernando Alonso,
Yuki Tsunoda’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix ended before it began after his Alpha Tauri came to a halt on the warm-up lap of Sunday’s race.
The Japanese driver complained of engine issues over the team radio, before abandoning his stricken car and jogging back to the pits.
“It looks like something in the drivetrain and he cannot race,” announced Alpha Tauri team principal Franz Tost.