5th December, 2021
Lewis Hamilton won a crazy, twice-halted Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday to send the Formula One world championship into a winner-takes-all final showdown.
Hamilton, the Mercedes driver and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen are now level on points, both logging 369.5 points each.
On a chaotic night in Jeddah, the race took almost as many twists and turns as the rollercoaster season with crashes, safety cars, red flags, claims of dirty driving, penalties, collisions and angry exchanges with race director Michael Masi.
Seven-times world champion Hamilton took the bonus point for fastest lap to level with Verstappen on 369.5 points after 20 races.
The final round of the season is at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina next weekend.
Verstappen, who finished second with Valtteri Bottas third for Mercedes, leads 9-8 on wins, however — meaning that the Dutch 24-year-old will be champion if neither score another point.
“I tried to be as tough as I could be out there but also sensible and with all my race experience over the years, just keeping the car on track and staying clean,” said Hamilton after his 103rd career win.
The Briton started on pole but twice lost out to Verstappen at standing re-starts.
The Dutch driver was eventually ordered to hand back the lead, after going wide as Hamilton tried to pass, but when he slowed Hamilton ran into the back of him — accusing his rival of ‘brake-testing’ him.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner defended his driver: “I don’t know why he ran into the back of you like that, it made no sense,” he said over the radio.
Stewards handed Verstappen a five second time penalty but Hamilton rendered that irrelevant by overtaking seven laps from the end.
Mercedes were angry with Masi, saying they had not been given time to inform Hamilton that Verstappen had been told to give the place back, and Verstappen was also furious.
“What happened today is unbelievable and this sport is more about penalties than racing. For me, this is not Formula One,” said the Dutchman, who was awarded Driver of the Day in a fan vote.
“That was spectacular but not a good race,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
*Reuters via NAN