The plot for the 2022 F1 season is already taking shape. The reigning world champion has found his title rival in long term friend, Charles Leclerc. Verstappen and Leclerc look set to battle it out for this year’s championship after a thrilling race that saw the pair battling it out to the final corner.
This weekend delivered enough drama to rival last season’s visit to Jeddah – from questions about whether the race would go ahead following a missile attack to a heart-stopping crash in qualifying from Mick Schumacher. We’re rounding up everything you need to know about the 2022 Saudi Arabia GP.
Perez wins poles but loses out due to safety car
While Verstappen secured his first victory of the year in Saudi Arabia, his teammate Sergio Perez seemed set to take the top step of the podium. In his 215th race, Perez secured his maiden pole position – the first Mexican driver to do so in the history of F1.
After getting a storming getaway in the first lap, bad timing saw Perez pit one lap before a safety car, allowing Charles Leclerc to snatch the lead. The Mexican driver narrowly missed out on a 3rd place finish after battling against Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.
Verstappen and Leclerc take it to the edge
Red Bull got the weekend they needed after a double DNF in Bahrain. After qualifying in 4th place, Verstappen took advantage of the numerous safety cars to chase after his Ferrari rival. The pair continued their almighty duel from Bahrain, pushing each other to the limit as they drove wheel to wheel.
What was most exciting about their battle was the strategy behind their overtaking – manipulating the DRS zones to their advantage. Verstappen overtook Leclerc in the penultimate laps of the race with the pair finishing just over half a second apart. Leclerc managed to snag the fastest race point to extend his world championship lead.
DNFs and reliability issues plague the Saudi Arabian GP
While all eyes were on Verstappen and Leclerc, one of the biggest stories from Saudi Arabia was the number of DNFs and reliability issues. These issues are to be expected at the start of a new era of F1 cars, but they saw several drivers miss out on the chequered flag.
Schumacher wasn’t entered into the race after his incident in qualifying, and Yuki Tsunoda’s car suffered a suspected drivetrain issue on the way to the track. 18 drivers started the race, but only 13 crossed the finish line.
Both Williams drivers, Latifi and Albon, suffered crashes during the race. Alonso and Ricciardo both suffered reliability issues in the same lap, managing to bring themselves back to the pit. Bottas’ Alfa Romeo would also be retired within the same lap.
Mercedes continues to be off the pace
While our Mercedes F1 merchandise is flying off the shelves, the team is still struggling to get their car to be competitive. One of the biggest shocks of the weekend came when Lewis Hamilton failed to make it out of Q1 during qualifying, calling his car “undriveable”. With only 13 drivers finishing the race, Hamilton finished 10th after struggling in a battle with Magnussen’s Haas.
His new teammate George Russell had a relatively lonely race, finishing in 5th place. Russell spent most of the race 20 seconds off the leader's pace after qualifying in 6th position.
The highs and lows of the 2022 Saudi Arabian GP show that this season is set to be just as exciting as 2021. The countdown is on for F1’s return to Australia for the first time since before the pandemic. As we wait for the paddock to travel down under, show off your team spirit by shopping our latest F1 merchandise arrivals here.