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Verstappen wins Saudi Arabian Grand Prix for Red Bull 1-2

Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen won the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix on Saturday. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

Defending three-time world champion Max Verstappen consolidated his lead in this year’s embryonic Formula One title race with another majestic victory on Saturday when he led Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez home at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. 

The 26-year-old Dutchman dominated from pole position to chequered flag to finish 13.643 seconds ahead of Perez, who hung on to second despite taking a five-second penalty for an unsafe release from a pit-stop.

The pair finished 18.6 seconds clear of Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, whose team-mate British teenager Oliver Bearman, at 18 the youngest ever Ferrari driver and third-youngest in F1 history, came home a remarkable seventh to make a points-scoring debut.  

Bearman, watched by his father David and Carlos Sainz, whose seat he was given when the Spaniard went into hospital for the removal of his appendix on Friday morning, drove with impressive calmness and aplomb. 

Oscar Piastri finished fourth for McLaren ahead of Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin, George Russell of Mercedes and Bearman with two more Britons Lando Norris and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton taking eighth and ninth for McLaren and Mercedes. 

Flying colours

Nico Hulkenberg finished 10th for Haas. 

It was Verstappen’s ninth consecutive victory, his second this year in Red Bull’s second one-two finish and the 100th podium  of his career, bringing him his 56th F1 win.

“It’s one of the more physical races, a tough one,” said Verstappen.

Perez said: “Overall, it is a great day for the team, on a different track to Bahrain, and now we have to keep this momentum going.”

“It was a bit boring because the Red Bulls were too quick,” said Leclerc, who clocked the fastest lap. 

He praised his unexpected new teammate.

“Ollie did an incredible job… Today, seventh in his first race – it’s hugely impressive. He is hugely talented.”

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen (centre) celebrates alongside Sergio Perez (left) and Charles Leclerc. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/ AFP

After another day of paddock intrigue, resulting in Red Bull calming troubled waters with senior advisor Helmut Marko confirmed as staying in his post to the satisfaction of Verstappen, there was great anticipation on the grid ahead of the floodlit race.

Bearman was the centre of attention and showed no nerves as he lined up 11th.

Pierre Gasly reported a gearbox problem to Alpine before the start when Verstappen pulled clear and Leclerc fought off a challenge from Perez, but the Mexican came back to take second at the start of lap four.

Bearman stayed out of trouble as Gasly became the first retirement in 2024. 

“You are doing well, really well, but we are quicker than the cars in front,” Ferrari told him in an early nudge to begin attacking before Lance Stroll lost control of his Aston Martin at Turn 22, smacking heavily into the barriers. 

The Safety Car was deployed, with Verstappen  pitting for hards, gifting Norris the lead. The champion rejoined second ahead of Hamilton, who also did not pit. 

On the re-start, Bearman – who had pitted – made his first F1 passing move, lunging inside Yuki Tsunoda for 11th while Norris pulled a second clear of Verstappen at the front.

The Dutchman sized up his prey and swept past Norris with the aid of DRS (Drag Reduction System) into Turn One on lap 13 to regain the lead while Perez, who had also pitted, took third from Hamilton. 

Bearman soon passed Zhou Guanyu for 10th.

On lap 18, Perez found his way past Norris to make it a Red Bull one-two, with the champion ahead by 5.3 seconds, before Bearman’s next move – up to ninth by passing Hulkenberg’s Haas. 

By lap 25, it was Verstappen leading Perez by seven seconds with Norris a battling third, resisting Leclerc until lap 27.

McLaren pitted Norris with 12 laps remaining. 

He came out eighth, part of a train of four British drivers from sixth, Russell, to ninth, Hamilton, with Bearman and Norris in between.

For the teenager, in the longest race of his life, it was a test of fitness, nerve and stamina…. And he passed with flying colours.

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