The FIA Formula One World Championship had its second visit to Saudi Arabia in under five months as the second stop of its 2022 season. On Friday, the race weekend had been overshadowed by a missile attack on a nearby Aramco oil refinery. While F1 and the FIA stated that the weekend would continue as scheduled, the drivers had to be convinced to race during four and a half-hour meeting.
Qualifying concluded with Red Bull Racing’s Sergio Pérez securing the maiden pole position of his career and the first for any Mexican driver in F1. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished second in the session. While Ferrari and Red Bull fought for pole, Mercedes were nowhere to be seen. George Russell qualified fifth, and Lewis Hamilton didn’t advance out of Q1. Mercedes had experimented with Hamilton’s setup to increase rear-end grip, but it just resulted in him lining up 15th on the grid.
There was a lengthy red flag in Q2 after Haas’ Mick Schumacher was involved in a heavy crash. Schumacher was conscious and speaking but had to be stretchered off and transported to a nearby medical center for precautionary checks. Schumacher was released from the hospital, but Haas only raced a single car on Sunday.
Schumacher wouldn’t be the only driver not to take the race start. Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda missed the start after his car shut down on the warm-up lap from the pitlane to the grid.
The race start was pretty tame at the front of the field, with only Red Bull’s Max Verstappen passing Carlos Sainz for third. The race’s first segment was focused mainly on the inter-team fight at Alpine between Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon for sixth place. By lap 13, Alonso was able to get around his teammate and pull a gap.
At the front, Ferrari seemingly drew Red Bull into pitting Sergio Pérez from the lead with a brilliant feint. The Italian team sent out their mechanics and radioed Charles Leclerc but never pitted the car. Pérez rejoined the track in fifth behind George Russell. Red Bull’s early pit call looked even worse after the safety car was deployed. On lap 16, Williams’ Nicholas Latifi lost control of his car and crashed at the exit of the final corner.
The rest of the frontrunners pitted behind the safety car, and Pérez nearly beat Sainz’s pit exit but was forced the yield the position. Both Hamilton and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen improved their track position by not pitting. After the restart, Leclerc firmly held on to the lead, with Verstappen in close pursuit.
Around lap 37, Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo both lost drive and were forced to retire. Also, Valtteri Bottas was forced to enter pitlane and retire his Alfa Romeo. A virtual safety car was deployed. Magnussen was able to stop, but Hamilton received the pit call too late. The pit entry was closed as marshals were sent out to recover Alonso and Ricciardo’s cars on the entry.
The race finale ended up being a head-to-head duel between Leclerc and Verstappen. The Red Bull driver was able to get within striking distance of Leclerc, and it roughly played out how it did last week in Bahrain. The pair jockeyed to be in the right position heading to the final DRS zone over several laps. Though, Verstappen came out triumphant to win the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Carlos Sainz rounded out the podium positions. Despite the alternate strategies, Magnussen finished ninth, and Hamilton salvaged a tenth-place finish.
Charles Leclerc leads the World Drivers’ Championship by 12 points over his teammate Carlos Sainz, and Formula One will return in two weeks in Australia.