This weekend has left Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen on even points for the Championship but that isn’t the only thing people are taking away from the 2021 Arabian Grand Prix.
The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix has been controversial and weird to say the very least. A lot of the talk has surrounded the Jeddah track itself. It’s very fast, it’s very dramatic… in qualifying. The fan vitriol surrounding the multiple red flags and safety cars during race day was palpable. Couple this with the already controversial decision to race in Saudi Arabia at all given their human rights record and stance on the LGBT community, and you have a disappointed fanbase.
I must say it was frustrating to watch for an extra hour for what was essentially nothing. Some were calling this a bigger fiasco than the Belgian GP earlier this year but considering there was an actual race this time, I would have to disagree.
The question that must be asked is whether or not Jeddah is too fast and too narrow for its own good. It provides drama, but it also removes a lot of driver incentive to really push it when the results could be disastrous.
George Russell told Autosport that the track just isn’t safe, period. When asked about the collision he was involved in, Russell stated that, “It seemed pretty inevitable, you go around at Turn 2 that’s fairly wide and open – cars can go side by side – and then it really funnels in and goes pretty narrow pretty fast.”
Russell continued,“So, a lot to learn I think for motorsport this weekend, because it’s an incredibly exhilarating and exciting track to drive but it’s lacking a lot from a safety perspective and a racing perspective.
It’s actually a shame that the track has turned out the way it has because I admire its willingness to experiment. It isn’t just another F1 track with roughly 15 – 18 turns, it’s a high-speed circuit with 27 turns in a very interesting shape! It’s possible that next year’s cars which will feature fewer wide body parts will make the track less of a mess, but we won’t know until we get to Jeddah again next year.
Ultimately, Jeddah has been able to provide good drama but ultimately poor racing.
The Championship Battle
The next thing everyone is talking about is of course the Championship battle between Hamilton and Verstappen. They are dead even on points now so it will go down to the very last race in Abu Dhabi to decide who becomes champion.
Verstappen looked poised to win this after a fortunate red flag but then things got… weird. Esteban Ocon took the lead after the second start due to the conflict between Verstappen and Hamilton which he was given because Verstappen went off track to gain an advantage. So that was its own thing but then what was going on with Verstappen giving position back to Hamilton? Check out what happened below:
Verstappen appeared to, and it has all but been confirmed really, that he brake tested Hamilton when asked to concede position to the Englishman. What resulted was Hamilton colliding with Max’s rear wheel and the Dutchman zooming off. What even was that?
Now it wasn’t completely on Max as the information telling Hamilton that Max was letting him pass was late to reach him. Still, this didn’t stop Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, from berating Max for his actions on live television.
Hamilton said of the incident,
Verstappen broke late and cut the corner once again on lap 37, forcing Hamilton off track which prompted Hamilton to respond over team radio, “This guy is f***ing crazy!”
Hamilton went on to win the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, but it didn’t feel like it was because of his own skill. Don’t get me wrong, after the stunts Verstappen this weekend this is the outcome I prefer. Verstappen felt at times a desperate man on the track, like all the pressure is finally getting to him. I wouldn’t blame him if that were the case but that doesn’t give him leave to act like he did on track.
In fact Verstappen didn’t get away with it. He was received a 5 second penalty for the illegal overtake and then a further 10 second penalty for the braking incident.
Verstappen said during his post-race interview that,
It wasn’t just that incident that Hamilton had issue with as he thinks Verstappen was way out of the line most of the race. “I’ve raced a lot of drivers in my life,” he said. “There’s a few at the top who are over the limit. Rules kind of don’t apply or don’t think of the rules. Today I just tried to do my talking on the track. Keep the car between the white lines and do it the right way. He (Verstappen) is over the limit for sure. I have avoided collision on so many occasions with the guy.”
What do you think? Is Hamilton being a little dramatic or was Verstappen out of line in Saudi Arabia?
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