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10 issues we realized from F1’s 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Method 1’s first go to to Saudi Arabia offered a memorable and controversial race as tensions flared between title rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

It turned the most recent chapter of their rivalry following the spats at Silverstone, Monza and Interlagos, however the eventual Hamilton victory means they sit tied on factors going into the Abu Dhabi season finale – albeit with Verstappen forward on countback of race wins.

The weekend was dominated by stewards’ room chat as soon as once more, persevering with the theme of current races. Whereas F1’s latest and quickest road observe proved thrilling in qualifying, the incident-packed race led to questions concerning the suitability of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit from a lot of drivers.

It was additionally a weekend the place human rights once more got here into the highlight for F1, which turned the most recent sport to hitch the array of main worldwide occasions to debut in Saudi Arabia.

Listed below are 10 issues we realized from the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

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The ambiance between Verstappen and Hamilton was decidedly frosty following their on-track clashes

Picture by: FIA Pool

1. Hamilton and Verstappen’s title combat is getting ugly (by Luke Smith)

As fraught because the F1 title combat has been at instances this yr, it appeared on Thursday that issues have been cooling down a bit. Each Hamilton and Verstappen appeared in good spirits and quite relaxed heading into the penultimate race of the season, separated by eight factors.

However the race was a really completely different story. The narrative of Verstappen’s aggression continued – not that it must be a shock – however the back-and-forth between the groups and a few of the antics on-track left a bitter style over the battle.

PLUS: How the Jeddah F1 race became a one-sitting Netflix drama series 

It’s inevitable that each groups and drivers are doing all they’ll to try to acquire a bonus. However there need to be instances when you realize when to again down. Verstappen refused time and time once more to try this, and whereas we wish to see combating spirit and dedication from drivers, that may generally cross a line.

The frosty post-race procedures and podiums summed up the place issues are at now between Hamilton and Verstappen. Hamilton referred to as Verstappen “loopy” over the radio within the race, and labelled his driving as “over the limit” in his post-race interviews. Verstappen fumed at the amount of rules in F1, whereas Purple Bull claimed that it was being treated differently by the stewards of their rulings.

Whichever aspect of the fence you might be on, it appears like this title combat is getting actually, actually ugly – however a few of that’s as a result of the powers in place haven’t acted sooner.

Verstappen refused to yield position to Hamilton into Turn 1 and took both wide in his attempts to defend

Verstappen refused to yield place to Hamilton into Flip 1 and took each large in his makes an attempt to defend

Picture by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

2. Verstappen’s Flip 1 strikes have been a consequence of Brazil (LS)

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff warned after the stewards took no motion towards Max Verstappen’s Flip 4 transfer on Lewis Hamilton at Interlagos that it could set a precedent – and we noticed precisely that in Jeddah.

Verstappen’s strikes to maintain Hamilton at bay have been aggressive, however he once more appeared to blur the strains of what was and was not allowed when it got here to defending place.

PLUS: Why F1’s inconvenient penalties have to stay 

The primary purple flag restart transfer on Hamilton was similar to Monza, the place he went off-track attempting to maintain his foot in and refused to again out. However the extra regarding one was his defence into Flip 1 when he completely missed the nook. He appeared uncontrolled, operating a great distance large and chopping the nook, prompting Hamilton’s “loopy” radio name.

It does little to ease issues that the title combat could possibly be determined with a conflict or collision. Wolff mentioned after the race that he hoped the occasions of Jeddah would be enough to avoid a “messy situation” in Abu Dhabi. However notably with Verstappen’s later penalty for his or her collision approaching Flip 27 having no bearing on his final result, he hasn’t confronted any actual penalties.

The FIA must try to maintain a lid on issues heading to the finale. However it does really feel like the dearth of motion and readability over Brazil has given the inexperienced gentle to some very aggressive strikes.

“I believe we’re seeing a number of incidents this yr, the place even with Brazil we’re imagined to do our racing on observe in between the white strains and the foundations haven’t been clear from the stewards, that these issues have been allowed, in order that’s continued,” Hamilton mentioned.

“From my understanding, I do know that I can’t overtake somebody and go off observe after which maintain the place however I believe that’s well-known between all us drivers nevertheless it doesn’t apply to one in all us, I assume.”

Verstappen was ordered to hand position back to Hamilton

Verstappen was ordered at hand place again to Hamilton “strategically”, resulting in their farcical contact into Flip 27

Picture by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

3. F1 followers deserve higher than an incident to determine the title in Abu Dhabi (by Haydn Cobb)

From the second a winner-takes-all situation was confirmed for the Abu Dhabi GP, the hype job – not that it wanted a lot – was accomplished for the 2021 F1 finale.

However that additionally meant the opportunity of a return to a dreaded situation F1 has witnessed earlier than, if the title rivals clashed and neither scored factors, then one could be declared champion no matter how the conflict occurred.

Comparable conditions have unfolded earlier than; assume Ayrton Senna on Alain Prost in 1990, Michael Schumacher on Damon Hill in 1994 and variations on the theme for Prost vs Senna in 1989 and Schumacher vs Jacques Villeneuve in 1997, the place one social gathering managed to maintain going.

No matter occurs in Abu Dhabi, the 2021 marketing campaign will go down in historical past alongside these iconic and at instances controversial seasons. However quite than all of it finish in carbonfibre confetti – or worse, the stewards’ room – followers of each side ought to demand a clear combat to the end to determine who comes out on high.

Given the quite a few on-track clashes Verstappen and Hamilton have been concerned on this season, every one ramping up in controversy because the stakes get increased, there’s a sense of inevitability {that a} flashpoint will occur on the Yas Marina Circuit.

The world will uncover what that’s over the subsequent week, however the plea from all areas will likely be to maintain it clear.

Norris was the driver who was worst-affected by pitting for tyres under the safety car

Norris was the driving force who was worst-affected by pitting for tyres below the security automotive

Picture by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

4. The purple flag tyre change rule stays controversial (by Tom Howard)

The rule successfully permitting a free tyre change below a purple flag situations is again within the highlight after Sunday’s race.

Lando Norris was arguably essentially the most affected and most positively essentially the most vocal concerning the rule he feels is “unfair”, “silly” and “simply ruins every part.”

He’s proper to really feel aggrieved. On Sunday, the McLaren driver was operating sixth earlier than he got here in for tyres below the security automotive brought on by Mick Schumacher’s crash – nevertheless it dropped him to 14th when the purple flag then got here out, permitting all those that stayed out a free tyre change. Norris did recuperate to tenth, however made his feelings on the rule known.

“I believe they need to change it to at least one obligatory pitstop with two completely different tyre units wanted for use, after which I believe that is acceptable,” mentioned Norris. “However this simply ruins every part, to be sincere. You place a lot effort in for it to be taken away for some silly rule.”

Hamilton was additionally in an analogous boat, shedding out to Verstappen for the primary restart, however had higher observe place than Norris so wasn’t so closely affected. Nonetheless, had this rule decisively contributed to the result of – say – a title decider, the transfer to alter the foundations could be loud and clear.

There were plenty of frustrated radio exchanges between the pitwall and race direction in a race filled with controversy

There have been loads of pissed off radio exchanges between the pitwall and race course in a race full of controversy

Picture by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

5. Masi and the FIA face huge questions after a busy Sunday (HC)

After a comparatively calm first day on the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, FIA race management and the stewards might need been given a false sense of safety towards the warnings of a busy weekend as a result of new observe’s blind corners and tight confines offering an undesirable danger of quite a few and heavy crashes.

Even when the scenario received a bit furry in remaining observe and qualifying, Hamilton’s yellow flag plus near-miss with Nikita Mazepin in FP3 after which the visitors paradise in Q1, it wasn’t out of the strange and manageable.

However what adopted on Sunday was a series of occasions that go away questions unanswered by FIA F1 race director Michael Masi.

From the traditional readability wanted on the fixed switches between Digital Security Automotive to green-flag racing for particles, to the extra absurd on the bartering of grid position switches heard over FIA-to-teams radio between Masi and Purple Bull’s Jonathan Wheatley, the race was a difficult one to handle – even earlier than the Flip 27 collision between the title protagonists.

At this level, Masi appeared to lose management of the race because the chaos performed out, arguing over the radio with Mercedes sporting director Ron Meadows over whether or not the instruction to modify positions had been given. Purple Bull wasn’t pleased with issues both, Christian Horner remarking that the race had missed the calm hand of the late Charlie Whiting, Masi’s predecessor.

Have solutions been forthcoming about what went down? To a small extent, sure, however solely by way of a three-and-a-half minute recorded FIA interview with Masi after his typical post-race media briefing was cancelled.

In that recording, Masi called the situations normal or elevated attributable to uncommon conditions. However watching it stay and having time to unpick occasions, it felt something however the norm.

Since when have been groups allowed to be provided grid place modifications? Why weren’t the stewards concerned? Has the ‘allow them to race’ mantra gone too far for self-policing? The place is the road between arduous racing and unfair racing? Is the Jeddah observe actually secure sufficient for single-seater racing? What modifications will likely be made when F1 returns subsequent March?

As your entire F1 paddock heads straight to Abu Dhabi this weekend, this one isn’t set to go away quickly. Severe questions want solutions.

Perez's spin caused havoc in the pack behind him, leaving Mazepin nowhere to go but into the back of Russell

Perez’s spin brought on havoc within the pack behind him, leaving Mazepin nowhere to go however into the again of Russell

Picture by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

6. The Jeddah observe ought to face modifications (TH)

There was a component of trepidation and nervousness surrounding F1’s first go to to the Jeddah Corniche Avenue Circuit given its eye-opening mix of ultra-fast flowing (and sometimes blind) corners.

Drivers raised issues earlier than a wheel had turned and urged the marshals to be extra-vigilant with restricted time to react to an unfolding incident forward. Come Sunday night time their worries have been confirmed legitimate, as many have been calling for modifications to be made forward of subsequent yr’s go to.

Crashes marred Sunday’s race, with a nasty a number of automotive crash that eradicated Sergio Perez, George Russell and Nikita Mazepin to immediate a second purple flag, the Haas driver ploughing into the again of Russell’s Williams because the pack slowed to keep away from Perez’s spun Purple Bull.

Perez labelled the circuit unnecessarily dangerous after qualifying, whereas Russell felt “motorsport has a lot to learn” from a chaotic inaugural Saudi Arabian GP.

Whereas the observe is exhilarating and provides a novel problem for the drivers, there was a sense that F1 had dodged a bullet.

F1 Race Director Masi has highlighted there could possibly be some tweaks for the longer term, saying “there will be some fine-tuning however nothing in a significant means that I envisage right here and now.”

Ocon was promoted to pole for the final restart, though knew he couldn't stay there

Ocon was promoted to pole for the ultimate restart, although knew he could not keep there

Picture by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

7. Ocon once more seized his likelihood as drama struck (by James Newbold)

There was a big component of fortune to Esteban Ocon’s first F1 win on the Hungaroring earlier this yr, as Valtteri Bottas and Lance Stroll’s wayward driving at Flip 1 contrived to knock out a number of sooner automobiles and left the best way open when Mercedes’ tyre conservatism left Hamilton alone on the grid for the restart.

And as soon as once more in Jeddah, as carnage unfolded throughout him it was the Alpine driver who emerged as an unlikely participant within the newest episode of the Verstappen-Hamilton cleaning soap opera by inheriting pole for the third race begin.

It tells of Ocon’s maturity that he knew victory was by no means on with the title protagonists lining up proper behind him and had already set his thoughts on securing third.

“I by no means had the intention of preserving them behind anyway,” he defined afterwards.

“I knew they have been going to be quite a bit sooner so I let each of them go. I used to be not likely attempting to spoil my time within the race, I used to be attempting to do the quickest time I might, and that was one of the simplest ways I might do it.”

However whereas luck was once more a consider his rise, Ocon did his job magnificently to say a robust fourth place, solely denied a rostrum by Bottas on the run to the flag as flooring injury took its toll within the remaining two laps.

He had made no errors to run comfortably in third till the legacy of his earlier brush with Yuki Tsunoda started to take its toll, the resultant floor damage allowing Bottas to capitalise within the drag race to the road.

Though he might not have a podium to indicate for it, Ocon’s drive in Jeddah was each bit as worthy as Hungary – and additional validated Alpine’s determination to tie him down till 2024.

Another double points finish for Ferrari has all-but put third in the constructors beyond McLaren's reach

One other double factors end for Ferrari has all-but put third within the constructors past McLaren’s attain

Picture by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

8. Ferrari’s consistency continues to all-but-seal P3 (by Megan White)

Ferrari continued its current consistency in Saudi Arabia as Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr got here house in consecutive locations for the fourth race in a row, crossing the road seventh and eighth.

It means Ferrari has all-but-sealed third within the constructors’ championship forward of season-long rivals McLaren, with 307.5 factors to the Woking-based outfit’s 269. Barring a McLaren 1-2 in Abu Dhabi, third is Ferrari’s.

Whereas McLaren had seemed the stronger staff all through the primary half of the yr, Ferrari’s consistency has been key. The staff has scored 57 factors within the final 4 races, in comparison with McLaren’s 15.

It is newest factors finishes observe fifth and sixth locations in Mexico and Brazil and P7 and P8 in Qatar, underlining a powerful comeback from the Maranello staff following its torrid 2020 – though Leclerc will lament falling again from his fourth place on the unique grid following his tyre change below security automotive, conflict with Perez and poor second restart.

Sainz – who recovered nicely from his Q2 spin that left him fifteenth on the grid – had a detailed on-track second with Leclerc at one stage because the medium-shod Spaniard fought to get previous his team-mate on the hards, however they prevented contact and ran line astern to demote Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi to ninth.

With Norris unable to again up Daniel Ricciardo’s fifth place together with his personal significant contribution of factors, Ferrari can take some coronary heart in guaranteeing McLaren wasn’t capable of capitalise on the form of loopy race it wanted to show round their personal factors battle.

Tsunoda hit another setback (and another Aston) in a rocky rookie year

Tsunoda hit one other setback (and one other Aston) in a rocky rookie yr

Picture by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

9. Tsunoda’s rising confidence nonetheless wants a consequence to again it up (JN)

As Pierre Gasly made up for his “worst performance” of 2021 in dropping from second to 11th in Qatar, scoring an virtually unnoticed sixth place, his AlphaTauri team-mate once more had an eventful day blighted by incident.

Tsunoda’s season of ups and downs continued in Jeddah with a robust run to succeed in Q3 on the mediums, finally qualifying eighth – albeit three tenths adrift of his team-mate, which he attributed to soiled air behind Sergio Perez.

“I believe my confidence, even in comparison with Qatar, is healthier,” he mentioned after qualifying. “Nonetheless possibly a few p.c are lacking. However positively it’s getting there.”

However it wasn’t lengthy earlier than Tsunoda’s fortunes took one other dip, a sluggish getaway from the preliminary race begin dropping him to twelfth earlier than a recovering Sainz dropped him one other place. Taking the third begin twelfth, he charged previous Kimi Raikkonen and each Ferraris, his transfer on Leclerc across the exterior of the Flip 13 hairpin a selected excessive level.

However his race got here unstuck when his bold transfer on Sebastian Vettel across the exterior of Flip 1 resulted involved that pitched Vettel right into a spin. It was the second time in three races he’d misplaced a entrance wing towards an Aston – after hitting Stroll at Interlagos – and after pitting for a brand new one was given a five-second penalty so as to add insult to harm.

The Japanese rookie’s final factors end, a ninth place at COTA, now appears like a really very long time in the past, with Alpine having surged forward within the battle for fifth within the constructors’ championship.

Tsunoda might actually do with ending his marketing campaign on a excessive in Abu Dhabi to again his rising confidence up with a consequence.

Hamilton voiced his unease about racing in Saudi Arabia on Thursday

Hamilton voiced his unease about racing in Saudi Arabia on Thursday

Picture by: FIA Pool

10. Hamilton’s voice on human rights in Saudi Arabia was essential (MW)

Hamilton as soon as once more took a stand on human rights this weekend in Saudi Arabia, donning his defiant Delight helmet to take victory for the second consecutive race.

He admitted that he didn’t feel overly “comfortable” about racing in the Kingdom forward of the weekend as a result of nation’s human rights report, including that he believes F1 is “obligation sure to assist increase consciousness for sure points that see with human rights in these nations we’re going to”.

Whereas Vettel joined his stand, donning a pair of Delight flag emblazoned trainers and hosting a women-only karting event to learn about womens’ rights in the country, others have been much less eager to display solidarity. Ricciardo confronted backlash on social media after pleading ignorance, saying he “doesn’t watch the information”.

Whereas it’s a disgrace that so few drivers nonetheless converse out on these points, Hamilton as soon as once more took the game’s ethical excessive floor – one thing he should be applauded for.

Sebastian Vettel donned rainbow boots in the Saudi paddock

Sebastian Vettel donned rainbow boots within the Saudi paddock

Picture by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

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