Saudi GP Review Photo by: Marcel Heil on Unsplash

F1 Saudi Arabia Grand Prix 2022 Review

Well, the latest F1 Grand Prix in 2022 didn’t have as much drama as Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars, but the race was still entertaining. The tight corners and incredibly high speeds of the Jeddah circuit in Saudi Arabia, not to mention driving at night under floodlights, was always going to be a demanding race for everyone.

Although Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc looked poised to win his second race in a row this season, it was Red Bull driver and current F1 champion, Max Verstappen, who took the chequered flag on the Saudi Arabia circuit. Leclerc still finished in second place, while his Ferrari teammate, Carlos Sainz, was third on the podium.

There had been much talk of another one-two Ferrari finish before the race, despite Red Bull’s Sergio Perez being the fastest in qualifying and starting first on the grid. The Ferraris had incredible quickness through the Jeddah circuit corners, but the Red Bulls, as Verstappen proved in the end (who started fourth), were basically unstoppable on the straights.

Much is being said about the renewed patience showed by Verstappen to overtake Leclerc, as previously, many of the other drivers claimed that the Dutchman is too radical and dangerous with his methods. However, this could be a fresh start for the current F1 champ, as he waited until the perfect moment to overtake Leclerc and keep the lead until he crossed the finish line.

Leclerc kept Verstappen in his side mirror for much of the race, even successfully forcing the Dutchman back from overtaking with several nifty blocking moves. However, on Lap 47 of 50, Verstappen was too quick on this occasion and shot past Leclerc to hold on for the victory by only half a second over the Ferrari.

A Mercedes car finished in fifth place, but probably not the one you were thinking, as it was George Russell who ended the race behind Sergio Perez. This was a much better result for Red Bull, as the team failed to pick up a single point from Bahrain due to both cars malfunctioning not long before the final lap.

As for Lewis Hamilton? He hasn’t disappeared from F1 just yet, but ended up with just one point after finishing the Saudi Arabia race in 10th place. This was even a slight improvement for Hamilton, as he had a disastrous qualifying round and started in 15th place on the grid.

Valtteri Bottas, Fernando Alonso, and Daniel Ricciardo were among the drivers who ended up with a DNF, while Mick Schumacher for Haas didn’t start the race after his scary crash during qualifying that sent him to the hospital. Schumacher is thankfully okay, which is a credit to F1 safety standards after hitting the wall at 170 mph. Sebastian Vettel had to sit out his second straight race in a row after testing positive for the coronavirus before the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix.

Performances from Ferrari, Red Bull, and Mercedes

After finishing second in Saudi Arabia and first in Bahrain, the Formula One buzz this year seems to be all about Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc vs. the rest of the field. The longstanding Italian manufacturers have completely revamped their cars and look better than ever, but Leclerc is showing the exciting and dynamic form that was only hinted at in previous seasons.

As expected, Verstappen and Sainz from Red Bull won’t make life easy for their competitors, either, as they clawed back championship points lost from Bahrain. Both drivers had the speed and handling we’ve seen from them before, but thankfully the Red Bull cars were able to withstand the entire race in a hot and humid Saudi Arabia environment.

Mercedes and Hamilton still have a lot to figure out with regards to the car, as it’s plain that the current arrangement is far away from the desired pace, control, and aerodynamics. “With the setup I chose the car was undrivable, that was my decision,” said Hamilton. “I struggled with the car, it was snappy, I was losing the back end. It was very unstable [and] it is a long, long way back, I don’t anticipate moving very far forwards.”

Incidents and noteworthy moments

Apart from the Schumacher crash in qualifying and a few car failures during the race, there wasn’t too much drama on the track. One thing of note, however, was when Williams’ Nicholas Latifi hit the barriers on Lap 16, which brought out the safety car. On Lap 17, Sainz complained to his team that Verstappen pushed him off the track while the Ferrari driver was exiting the pit lane. However, the stewards looked into the incident and declared it was all legal racing.

There were, however, significant concerns about the race even happening at all, after a missile attack took place at an oil facility not far from the Jeddah track on Friday. Drivers, team bosses, and executives from Formula One held discussions in the evening about whether the race was safe to continue. There was reportedly talk of boycotting the event from some drivers, but this was only a fleeting moment. Saudi Arabia officials confirmed the security of the circuit and, of course, the race went ahead.

Several drivers voiced their displeasure at racing in Saudi Arabia during the current conflict, and despite the country having an F1 race on the calendar for several more years, there are questions over whether the location will be used next year.

Predictions for the next race

The next F1 race in 2022 will be held at Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia, from April 8th to 10th. The track has undergone some slight changes since drivers last battled on the famous circuit, as no F1 race has occurred there since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As of now, the top five driver standings are as follows:

  1. Leclerc (Ferrari) – 45 points
  2. Sainz (Ferrari) – 33 points
  3. Verstappen (Red Bull) – 25 points
  4. Russell (Mercedes) – 22 points
  5. Hamilton (Mercedes) – 16 points

With a bit of time to get their cars back in order, something tells us Mercedes will be far more competitive in Melbourne than we’ve seen them in the first two races. With any new F1 rule change, there are going to be some small difficulties that eventually get smoothed out. Mercedes and Hamilton have too much determination and experience (and money) to not figure out the issues that are preventing the team from getting to the level they reached in previous seasons.

Of course, it wouldn’t be out of the question that Hamilton is simply getting to his mental and physical limit of life as an F1 driver, especially after the crushing loss he received from last year’s championship.

Hamilton is no spring chicken, as the 37-year-old may have seven titles and 103 race wins, but Formula One could be catching up with him and the spotlight is moving towards younger, resolute drivers like Verstappen (24 years old), Leclerc (24), and even teammate Russell (also 24).

Lewis Hamilton is contracted to remain with the Mercedes team until the end of 2023, and as he seems a man of his word, it is unlikely he’ll opt out of the final year and retire. It certainly seems plausible that Hamilton will hang up his racing helmet at the end of his current contract, as it’s no secret that he has many passions and hobbies outside of F1.

It will be a sad day when Hamilton does retire, however, as apart from the seven championships, he has always been a breath of fresh air in F1 and is an iconic figure around the world to help promote the sport. But, for now, Hamilton is ready to get Mercedes back on track and we’ll definitely see him on the podium very soon.

Author: Joe Garland