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2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Blog

Let’s start with the good things that came out of last weekend. Sergio Perez qualified on pole, the first of his career, with what was possibly his best-ever lap. Perez said afterwards: “I could do another 1,000 laps and I could never beat this lap time.” The race on Sunday was also a highly entertaining affair, which showcased ‘cat and mouse’ racing at its best.

Sadly though, the Grand Prix was overshadowed by a missile attack on an oil storage facility less than 10 miles from Jeddah Corniche Circuit during Friday’s Practice. At one stage it looked as if the drivers would boycott, but, following a four-hour consultation on Friday night they were persuaded to continue with the event. Even so, there has been a lot of negativity surrounding this race. F1 must now surely consider whether or not they should return to Saudi Arabia in 2023.

Right, politics over, let’s get back to the racing. Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc stole the show. The Red Bull driver finally emerged on top, but it was very close! An interesting dimension which has emerged this year is we are seeing drivers manipulating their laps to try and take advantage of the DRS zones. Jeddah Corniche Circuit lends itself well to this and we saw drivers deliberately slowing down to try and not to be first going into the final corner, so they could take advantage of the DRS speed boost and overtake down the home straight. The purists amongst you may disagree but grandstand finishes like we saw on Sunday must help the overall appeal of the sport.

Verstappen was pleased with his performance anyway, saying after the race: “It was a tough and crazy race today. I had a lot of fun battling with Charles again, I really enjoyed it and it’s not easy to get past him, patience is always key, especially if you want to fight for the Championship.”

It was not all good news for Red Bull though and the hard luck story of the weekend must surely be Sergio Perez. Checo got the perfect start and was comfortably leading until the first round of pit stops. Ferrari seemed to have no answers and Red Bull, confident in the undercut strategy, pitted Perez first. With instructions to do the opposite, Charles Leclerc stayed out. There’s nothing wrong with any of that but during the interim Nicholas Latifi put his Williams into the wall at the final corner, bringing out the Safety Car…

As is often the case, this prompted a full round of pit stops. Ferrari must have been rubbing their hands together because Leclerc could pit without jeopardising his position and re-join as race leader. Hard to take for Perez, who saw his chances of winning snatched away in the blink of an eye. The Mexican was a little bit despondent, saying: “I think sometimes when you don’t have the right luck you cannot win the race, especially on crazy tracks like this, it knocks you down. I think I dominated the first stint and I was comfortably in the lead and had the race under control but unfortunately that wasn’t enough.”

George Russell delivered the best result Mercedes could have hoped for with a fifth-place finish. He should be pleased with his performance, but this is not where the 2021 Constructors Champions want, or thought, they would be. The truth, from what we’ve seen so far, is they can’t match Red Bull or Ferrari for pace. Toto Wolff described his team’s performance as an ‘exercise in humility’. With Lewis Hamilton qualifying P16, and finishing the race in P10, it was exactly that. Hamilton himself said: “Balance-wise, the car felt good, but just not fast enough.”

Alpine should be commended for livening up the early part of the race by allowing their drivers to fiercely race each other over the course of several laps. For neutral fans, it was exciting to watch and there seems to be no love lost between Alonso and Ocon. In the end, Fernando gained the upper hand and the team sensibly told them to hold their positions.

Otmar Szafnauer said of his drivers’ rivalry: “It’s what the fans want to see. And we told them at the beginning, we’ll allow them to race” However he also quantified that with: “We were losing a little bit more time than anticipated.” Reading between the lines, this may be the last time we see quite such an extended battle between two teammates.

One thing Alpine can be pleased with though is their cars performance. Alonso was having a great race until technical problems forced his retirement on lap 38. Ocon drove well too and brought his car home in P6. He said afterwards: “It’s some good points scored again for us and I’m happy overall with my race. The fight with Fernando was enjoyable. It was hard, fair, wheel to wheel racing, which reminded me of the karting days.”

We were critical of McLaren in last week’s blog. Their car is still not where they want it to be but looked better than in Bahrain. Lando Norris finishing in P7 is testimony to this. Andreas Seidl was concise in his summary, saying: “P7 today. Six points. We’ll take that.”

Aston Martin are another team who have not had the start to 2022 they wanted. Unlike McLaren though, there were no signs of improvement. We should point out that only 13 cars completed the race in Jeddah. Nico Hulkenberg was P12 and Lance Stroll P13… Mike Krack acknowledged their shortcomings, saying: “We will travel back to Silverstone, where we will work hard to improve our car for the Australian Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.”

On the subject of Melbourne, the team at Edge are excited that F1 is heading back ’down under’. We’ll be there for our first live race of season, and it will be a pleasure to welcome guests back to a racetrack for what promises to be a fantastic event.

Tickets for the AusGP sold out quite some time ago, but we still have a good level of access for the majority of races on the 2022 calendar. If you would like to join us at any Grand Prix, please call +44 (0)207 107 1640 or email f1@edgeglobalevents.com.