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Max dominates Saudi Arabia Grand Prix: 'Fantastic'

Published on 09 March 2024 by Florence Cobben

Max Verstappen has won the second Grand Prix of the year. After winning the Bahrain race just the week before, the reigning world champion is two-for-two on this season's race wins. Max drove confidently to claim victory in Saudi Arabia, ahead of his Oracle Red Bull Racing teammate Sergio Perez. Charles Leclerc completed the podium in third place. This marks Max’s 100th podium, and his 56th race win. It also makes him the only Formula 1 driver to win nine races in a row, twice. 

'Overall a fantastic weekend for the whole team, but also for myself. I felt really good with the car’, Max explains. ‘The last stint was a bit longer than we would’ve liked, but with the safety car you had to go for it. So the last few laps, also with those backmarkers, with the cold tyres, it was a little bit slippery. But we had good pace all around, we could manage it quite well, with the gap (to the other drivers) also.’ When Max was posed the question if he, like Charles Leclerc, suffered any impact to his neck, he explains: ‘Yeah. It is early in the season, (the track is) counter-clockwise as well, a lot of G’s (G-force) constantly throughout the whole lap. So it’s definitely always one of the more physical (races).’

Regarding the race, Max clarifies, ‘I was counting down the laps. It’s not the most exciting experience, but on the other hand it was nice. The car was good.’ Max illustrates further: ‘In the beginning it was difficult with the hard tyre, because I had little grip. It took a couple of laps before I got good grip, and after that I could steadily increase the gap at the front.’

Under the Jeddah lights, Max makes a promising getaway as polesitter. He blocks Leclerc and stays ahead of the Monegasque. For a brief window of time Perez seems to have an opportunity to climb into second place, but after a couple of corners Leclerc has succesfully defended his position. Pierre Gasly’s start is less promising. He has problems with his gearbox and is told to retire after the first lap.

Over the course of the first few laps, Max manages to break away from Leclerc and Perez, who are busy fighting eachother for second place. On the fourth lap, the Red Bull Racing-driver manages to overtake Leclerc's Ferrari using DRS. Two laps later, Perez has already increased the gap between him and Charles to over a second, meaning Leclerc can’t use DRS to catch up to him.

In the same lap, Lance Stroll forces the deployment of a safety car after crashing into one of the tyre stacks. Stroll is unharmed. With the safety car out, almost all the drivers go into the pits to change their tyres, thereby losing less time than with a regular tyre change. Max as well. He loses his P1 position to Lando Norris, who stayed out of the pits and so took over the lead position. Lewis Hamilton, Nico Hulkenberg and Zhou Guanyu also do not enter the pits.

On lap nine, the safety car leaves the track and Max is off, chasing down the lead. The world champion is stuck behind Norris for a couple of laps, but by lap 13, he is once again the race leader. A couple of cars behind, Perez also busies himself with overtakes. He passes Hamilton and claims P3. A few laps later, Norris also falls prey to Checo, placing the Red Bulls back in P1 and P2. Still, it’s not all sunshine and roses for the Mexican. He gets a five-second time penalty due to an unsafe release.

Halfway through the race Max has significantly distanced himself from the rest of the grid. Driving multiple purple sectors and setting several fastest laps, he has a gap of nearly seven seconds to his teammate Perez. He, in turn, is six seconds ahead of Norris, who is under fire from Leclerc. Hamilton and Piastri are fighting for fifth place. Kevin Magnussen also emerges as an unexpected standout - midway through the race, he received two 10-second time penalties. The first was for a collision with Alexander Albon, the second for gaining an advantage while driving off the track. The damage being done, Magnussen shifts gears and dedicates his race to widening the gap between his teammate Nico Hulkenberg and the racers behind him, ultimately securing Hulkenberg a place in the points.

Twelve laps before the chequered flag, Norris and Hamilton go in for soft tyres, one after the other. Both drivers emerge close together on track. The Brits fight over eighth place, but it is Norris in the McLaren who proves to be the faster driver today.

The chequered flag is waved in Saudi Arabia, and Max crosses the finish line first. After his victory in Bahrain the week before, the reigning world champion now has won both races of the 2024 season so far. It is the 56th victory of his career. Perez brings home second place. The podium is completed by Charles Leclerc, who also secured fastest lap. But it is this race's guest star who is awarded driver of the day: eighteen-year-old infielder Oliver Bearman. He finishes his Formula One debut in seventh place, after replacing Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz, who is recovering from appendicitis.

Results Grand Prix Saudi Arabia:

1Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT501:20:43.27325
2Sergio PerezPERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT50+13.643s18
3Charles LeclercLECFerrari50+18.639s16
4Oscar PiastriPIAMcLaren Mercedes50+32.007s12
5Fernando AlonsoALOAston Martin Mercedes50+35.759s10
6George RussellRUSMercedes50+39.936s8
7Oliver BearmanBEAFerrari50+42.679s6
8Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Mercedes50+45.708s4
9Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes50+47.391s2
10Nico HulkenbergHULHaas Ferrari50+76.996s1
11Alexander AlbonALBWilliams Mercedes50+88.354s0
12Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari50+105.737s0
13Esteban OconOCOAlpine Renault49+1 lap0
14Logan SargeantSARWilliams Mercedes49+1 lap0
15Yuki TsunodaTSURB Honda RBPT49+1 lap0
16Daniel RicciardoRICRB Honda RBPT49+1 lap0
17Valtteri BottasBOTKick Sauber Ferrari49+1 lap0
18Zhou GuanyuZHOKick Sauber Ferrari49+1 lap0
0Lance StrollSTRAston Martin Mercedes5DNF0
0Pierre GaslyGASAlpine Renault1DNF0