Tsunoda was looking to overtake Vettel into Turn 1, but it all ended in tears – the Aston Martin came across the AlphaTauri, taking off the latter’s front wing and bringing out the virtual safety car.
The Japanese driver was briefly stationary with his brakes on fire as he attempted to dislodge his front wing, which was caught under his car. He managed to do so, trundled back to the pits and the race restarted on Lap 26.
Norris and Latifi were promoted a place each – 12th and 13th – when Alonso lost his car, spinning but managing to continue.
“Oh come on guys,” said Vettel as his Aston Martin began to shed parts after another collision with Räikkönen, bits of carbon fibre bring out another VSC on Lap 27.
Alonso radioed in to alert the authorities to the fact that bits of broken carbon fibre was now populating various parts of track, Lap 29 seeing another VSC come out. The Spaniard still wasn’t happy though, calling for a full safety car.
“Why isn’t Kimi ****** speeding up?” asked Verstappen as the two race leaders queued behind the Finn.
The race re-started on Lap 33, with the gap now 1.7sec between the title contenders, but by the end of the tour it was just over 1sec.
As the fuel burnt off, Hamilton set another fastest time of 1min 31.411sec on Lap 35.
The VSC came back out again on the next lap to for marshals retrieve another large piece of carbon fibre on the track.
When it ended, Hamilton was close enough to get DRS down the pit straight. He breezed past the outside, before Verstappen braked as late as possible, going off the track into the first corner to maintain his lead.
On Lap 39, the Red Bull team instructed Verstappen to give the place back to Hamilton, but slowed significantly in the middle of the track of the track. Hamilton ran into the back of Verstappen, unaware the Dutchman was attempting to let him past.
The Mercedes continued with a broken front wing, with Hamilton claiming he’d been “brake tested”.
Frantic messages were exchanged between Mercedes and Masi, the team claiming it didn’t have time to tell its driver what was going on.
Despite his front wing flailing, Hamilton was still going yet faster and faster – a quickest time of 1min 31.089sec coming in from the Mercedes on Lap 42.
Verstappen let Hamilton past at the end of the lap, but then immediately dived back past Hamilton so as to use DRS down the pit straight to pull away.
It was then announced on Lap 43 that Verstappen had a 5sec time penalty, before the Dutchman let Hamilton through at the end of that tour – “We didn’t quite have to do that,” said his race engineer.
Hamilton was now pulling away, by Lap 45 he had a 3.2sec lead. “Rear tyres are gone,” said Verstappen, but the Dutchman couldn’t pit as his time penalty would put him behind Ocon.
Bits of Hamilton’s right end plate were still disintegrating as his team told him to stay off the kerbs on Lap 46.
By Lap 48, Bottas was searching for a way past Ocon, but the Frenchman held fast into the first corner.
Lap 50 and the two were trading places, but now all eyes were on Hamilton – he came across to win his 103rd race and draw level with Verstappen in the championship.
Bottas managed to beat Ocon in a drag race to the line, claiming the final podium place with Verstappen second.
2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix race results
|1||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||50 laps||26*|
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+11.825sec||18|
|9||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+58.505sec||2|
|10||Lando Norris||McLaren||+1min 01.358sec||1|
|11||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||+1min 17.212sec|
|12||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||+1min 23.249sec|
|13||Fernando Alonso||Alpine||+1 lap|
|14||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||+1 lap|
|15||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo||+1 lap|
|16||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||DNF|
*extra point awarded for fastest lap