Lewis Hamilton edged out Max Verstappen to win a chaotic and controversial Saudi Arabian Grand Prix yesterday to send the title battle to the final race in Abu Dhabi next weekend. Both men are level on points ahead of the decider after an incident-packed street race in Jeddah saw two red flag stoppages.
Verstappen picked up a five-second penalty after a controversial move on world champion Hamilton with the British seven-time champion accusing the Dutchman of ‘brake-testing’ him.
Hamilton had sped away from pole position before the balance of power shifted after 10 laps when Mick Schumacher buried his Haas in a barrier.
Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas pitted under the safety car but Verstappen stayed out. Four laps later, the race was red-flagged to allow the barriers to be repaired which enabled Verstappen to pit, change tyres and resume the race in the lead. On the restart, Hamilton reclaimed the lead but claimed he was forced off the track by Verstappen. Moments later there was another red flag as Sergio Perez, George Russell and Nikita Mazepin all collided at the rear of the field.
The stewards decided that Verstappen’s manoeuvre was illegal and promoted Alpine’s Esteban Ocon to pole for the third start of the race, with Hamilton in second and Verstappen in third. Amazingly, Verstappen then took the lead again with Hamilton following through. However the drama and controversy continued when they collided late in the race. Hamilton said he had been brake-tested and Verstappen was penalised by the stewards before the Briton swept past and onto victory. Bottas was third in his penultimate race for Mercedes.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton (pictured) in action during the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at Jeddah Corniche Circuit yesterday. (Reuters)