Hamilton emerges from chaos to win: 2021 Saudi Arabian GP lap by lap


Lewis Hamilton claimed victory in a chaotic and dramatic Saudi Arabian GP after numerous controversial incidents with Max Verstappen

HAMILTON Lewis (gbr), Mercedes AMG F1 GP W12 E Performance, portrait celebrating his win during the Formula 1 stc Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021, 21th round of the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship from December 3 to 5, 2021 on the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - Photo Florent Gooden / DPPI

Hamilton came through an incredible race to win out against Verstappen

Florent Gooden / DPPI

One the most chaotic races of the season saw Lewis Hamilton claim a dramatic win, after two red flags, multiple virtual safety cars and physical safety cars punctuated a dramatic first race in Saudi Arabia.

Hamilton and Verstappen traded places, with the Dutchman twice going off while defending from Hamilton, before the two collided when the Red Bull was instructed to give the lead back to the Mercedes.

The result leaves with drivers level on championship points with just one race remaining next weekend in Abu Dhabi.

Valtteri Bottas beat Esteban Ocon in a run to the line for the final podium place with Daniel Ricciardo fifth.

Verstappen and Hamilton have now both been called to the stewards to for an alleged breach of the Sporting Code – check back for updates.


Here’s the lap by lap report as it happened of the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton leads at the start of the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton led comfortably at the start of the race

Joe Portlock/F1 via Getty Images

A solid start from Hamilton meant he converted pole into the lead, whilst Perez almost ran into Verstappen as he locked up going into the first corner on Lap One.

Antonio Giovinazzi fended off Fernando Alonso, whilst Tsunoda looked to try and get past the Spaniard as the trio squabbled in the opening exchanges, whilst Carlos Sainz scythed down the inside of Kimi Räikkönen for thirteenth place.

Hamilton pulled out a small gap of 1sec by the end of the first tour. The front three of Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen were pulling away from the rest of the field rapidly. As Lap Three started, they had a margin of 2sec over Charles Leclerc.

Sainz used his DRS to go round the outside of Tsunoda at Turn 1 – at the same time George Russell and Lance Stroll were trading places in the battle for 16th, the Canadian ultimately getting ahead to establish his supremacy.

Lap Five saw Alonso take to the run-off to keep Giovinazzi at bay, but he would lost the place a lap later as the Italian moved into the final points-paying place.

On Lap Six Hamilton set the fastest lap of 1min 33.397sec, his margin to Bottas now 1.4sec.

Alonso’s Alpine looked to be oversteering and he was now under pressure from Sainz too and there were moves elsewhere in the field as Ricciardo snatched eighth from Pierre Gasly at the first turn on Lap Eight.

Hamilton was still setting the pace as he clocked a 1min 33.214sec on Lap Nine, then improving it by a tenth a lap later.

Alonso reported he was unhappy with his Alpine as Tsunoda was the latest driver to turn the screw on the Spaniard.

Then on Lap 10 the much-predicted crash came – Turn 21/22 claimed its first victim as Mick Schumacher slammed into the barrier, destroying his Haas.

Mick Schumacher crashed into the barriers during the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix

Mick Schumacher crash triggered the first red flag of the race

Peter Fox/Getty Images

The yellow flag came out with many, including Hamilton, choosing to pit the reigning champion and taking the opportunity to fit hards.

Bottas came in too, meaning that Verstappen now led the field under the safety car.

The Finn had held up the Dutchman to allow Mercedes time to pit Hamilton – Verstappen radioed in to complain, receiving an expletive-laden response from his engineer in agreement.

On Lap 13 Michael Masi threw the red flag as more barrier repairs were needed, meaning Verstappen essentially got a free pit stop as he was allowed to change tyres during the stoppage.

“Why is there a red flag? ****,” reacted Hamilton over the radio. “There are still opportunities,” Mercedes race strategist James Vowles told him.

The race resumed on Lap 15 with a standing start, and from there chaos unfolded – Hamilton got a better start than Verstappen, with a clear lead into the first turn, before the Red Bull attempted to force his way back into the lead, having to take to the run-off when it became clear he wouldn’t make the corner.

Verstappen emerged in front as pushed Hamilton wide upon rejoining, allowing Ocon to get into second with the Mercedes in third.

Max Verstappen passes Lewis Hamilton at the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Verstappen passed Hamilton off-track at the first restart and handed back the place after the race was stopped again

Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Behind them Perez squeezed Leclerc into the wall coming out of Turn 2, meaning the Red Bull was turned into the barrier. Cars braked to avoid the carnage, which meant Nikita Mazepin smashed into the back of George Russell, eliminating both the Haas and Williams immediately.

The red flag was brought out again on Lap 16 to clean up the mess of carbon fibre strewn across the track.

A bizarre exchange then occurred between race director Masi and Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley, the former offering the latter of Verstappen being shuffled down to third behind Hamilton, with Ocon in the lead in exchange for no penalty.

Red Bull accepted the offer, meaning they would start in in that order.

Once the race got underway for a third time on Lap 17, Hamilton initially had a good start, before Verstappen stepped as late on the brakes as possible to dive down the inside of Turn 1. Hamilton was squeezed between Ocon and the Dutchman, the Alpine taking to the run-off but keeping the lead for one corner.

Lewis Hamilton hits Esteban Ocon at the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton was squeezed at the second restart, making contact with Ocon’s Alpine and allowing Verstappen into the lead

Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Verstappen then got a better exit out of the corner, accelerating past the Alpine on the short straight to snatch the lead.

Hamilton shortly got past Ocon too, as Tsunoda went full-on IndyCar as he passed Leclerc round the outside on the banked corner.

The Mercedes closed in on Verstappen on Lap 20, the Red Bull driver reporting a “lack of power”, before the team informed him the battery was just topping up.

Hamilton set fastest lap with a 1min 32.532.sec as Lap 21 began, the gap now down to 0.8sec with the contest intensifying, before the Mercedes driver lost nearly a whole second after suffering a snatch of oversteer.

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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”.

Lewis Hamilton hit Max Verstappen in the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

The title rivals clash again: Hamilton misread the moment Verstappen slowed to let him past

Lars Baron/Getty Images

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

Position Driver Team Time Points
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 50 laps 26*
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull +11.825sec 18
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +27.531sec 15
4 Esteban Ocon Alpine +27.633sec 12
5 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +40.121sec 10
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +41.613sec 8
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +44.475sec 6
8 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +46.606sec 4
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
17 Sergio Perez Williams DNF
18 George Russell Williams DNF
19 Nikita Mazepin Haas DNF
20 Mick Schumacher Haas DNF

*extra point awarded for fastest lap