For a second week in a row, we’re still reeling after a thrilling end to a race – but The Race’s writers have caught their breath for long enough to pick out the winners and losers from F1’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Redemption stories – of differing degrees – make up two of our winners, but even behind the captivating fight for the lead between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc there were so many interesting tales from the midfield that are charted in our good and bad from round two of the 2022 season.
There was no better way for Max Verstappen to bounce back from the heartbreak of Bahrain than to triumph in a straight-up rematch with Leclerc.
He demonstrated he can adjust his approach when necessary and, at the third time of asking, he made the move stick when it mattered on Leclerc.
That bodes well when you consider we’re likely to have many more rounds of this duel.
His qualifying defeat to Sergio Perez remains a mystery but what matters is that we saw a return to normality for Verstappen on Sunday, proving Saturday was just a blip. – Josh Suttill
At no point in the race did it seem like things were ever going to get better than fifth place for George Russell unless he was to benefit from similar fortunate to what Lewis Hamilton benefitted from in Bahrain.
His own personal performance was more complete than what we saw from him in Bahrain, and even though mid-race he often struggled to outpace Hamilton who was on older hard tyres, that’s likely because Russell had little reason to push.
Things might be painful for Mercedes and Russell right now, but he’s delivering solid performances that are at least helping to perform some damage limitation. – JS
In the context of Norris and McLaren’s last two years, seventh amid quite high attrition isn’t anything special.
In the context of Norris and McLaren’s last two weeks, it was a hugely encouraging result – especially as Norris made quiet progress from the midfield and was so nearly able to beat Esteban Ocon to sixth.
There’s something to build on here and McLaren looks less likely to be in the ‘cut adrift’ pack now. – Matt Beer
You’ve really got to feel for Perez. He delivered a sensational qualifying lap to secure his maiden F1 pole position and aced the start of the race to hold an early advantage in the opening stages.
But then the very next lap after pitting the safety car came out and his chances of securing a second win for Red Bull quickly evaporated as he dropped to fourth – narrowly missing out on third place as Carlos Sainz exited the pits.
Thereafter he never really looked like a serious threat to return to the podium places and wasn’t able to challenge Sainz in the same way Verstappen was able to pressure and overcome Leclerc.
Perez will just have to hope his qualifying masterclass wasn’t a one-off but a sign that he’ll be able to match – and beat – Verstappen on a more consistent basis. – JS
Hamilton started 15th, so it’s perhaps no surprise the seven-time world champion had a bit of a fragmented race.
The opening laps were bereft of progress among cars that the Mercedes, while still far from the ultimate pace, should really have had the beating of – even on used hard tyres, which Hamilton admitted he struggled to get temperature into to begin with.
Once he got going, he made short work of the pack as Lance Stroll, Norris and Pierre Gasly were cleared in quick succession. That appeared to have made his race as he stayed out under the safety car, passed Kevin Magnussen and then pulled clear of the Haas – which should have put him on course for at least a handful of points. Then the late virtual safety car scuppered his plans to pit – “it all hit the fan”, in Hamilton’s words – which ultimately meant a solitary point was all that was on offer.
Unfortunate. But partly of his making too due to his worst qualifying performance on pure pace since 2009, and typical of Mercedes’ tricky start to the season. – Jack Cozens
This was a chance for Alfa Romeo to bank strong points for a second race in a row. That it left without adding to its Bahrain tally goes down as a missed opportunity.
Zhou Guanyu’s hopes took a hit on the opening lap when he suffered what looked like a repeat of Alfa Romeo’s start problems at Turn 1 on the opening lap, then were dashed completely by the halfway distance when a team error at a pitstop meant he couldn’t serve a five-second penalty and copped an additional drive-through penalty.
Valtteri Bottas still looked a good bet for points as he mixed it with the midfield-leading Alpines, but he pitted for a second time while running ninth, then again a lap later, before retiring with rising engine temperatures.
Given the attritional nature of the race’s final stages, another double-score can’t have been out of the question with a clean race. That Alfa Romeo didn’t have one is a big blow, especially in what’s looking like a tight early fight for fourth. – JC
Sixth and best non-Red Bull/Ferrari/Mercedes (though should Mercedes now be considered part of ‘the rest’ rather than being in the ‘best’ trio?) was basically certain for Fernando Alonso until his Alpine slowed late on.
Given how tight the midfield is, that would’ve been a result very well earned. And it was certainly hard-earned given how tight his early battle with team-mate Ocon was.
It was entertaining, and quite refreshing that the team let it run for so long, but ultimately surely counterproductive.
The technical problem made it a moot point, but did the time wasted in all that intra-team place swapping and near-misses deny Alonso a chance to challenge Russell? – MB
WILLIAMS & ASTON MARTIN
A joint entry for two Mercedes customer teams who ended the race in a collision.
Aston Martin at least looked like it had a decent chance of inheriting a point or two at various stages, but really this was another demonstration that these two teams are tailenders right now. The fact they ended it colliding with each other just drew more attention to it.
Whereas Hamilton and Magnussen were able to hold their own on old tyres after staying out under the safety car, Nico Hulkenberg rapidly tumbled backwards. If this is the extent of his comeback, it’s effectively two last place finishes out of two – given only late colliders Lance Stroll and Alex Albon (who gets a Melbourne grid penalty) were classified behind him.
Throw in both teams’ miserable qualifying performances and Nicholas Latifi’s big crash, and there’s nothing to be cheerful about here. – MB