Sports Desk, Dec 5 (EFE).- The United Kingdom’s Lewis Hamilton, driving for Mercedes and seven-time Formula One world champion, on Sunday won the Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah, the 21st and penultimate race of this season, moving even with rival Max Verstappen in the ranking point count.
This year’s F1 champion will be decided next weekend at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with Hamilton vying with The Netherlands’ Verstappen, with Red Bull, who came in second in the Saudi race, for the title.
The win was Hamilton’s 103rd career F1 victory, his eighth of the season, but Verstappen is leading the pack with 369.5 points – the same number as the Briton – because he has won one race more.
Hamilton, who started in the pole position, is also out in front of his Mercedes teammate, Finland’s Valtteri Bottas, who passed France’s Esteban Ocon (with Alpine) right at the end of Sunday’s race and ended up in third place with Ocon in fourth.
Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) was fifth, just ahead of France’s Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri), while Monaco’s Charles Leclerc came in seventh and Spain’s Carlos Sainz finished in eighth.
Also garnering ranking points in the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix for coming in within the top 10 slots were Italy’s Antonio Giovinazi (Alfa Romeo) and the UK’s Lando Norris (McLaren), in ninth and tenth place, respectively.
The Jeddah race was marked by several accidents, two red-flag interruptions and numerous “confrontations” on the circuit between Hamilton and Verstappen.
The Briton and the Dutchman battled hard all the way through, even colliding at one point, and Verstappen went off the track twice as he passed Hamilton. The latter inadvertently rear-ended his rival’s car just before the final turn on Lap 38 when Verstappen evidently slowed down a bit to let him by, having been instructed by race officials to cede first place back to the Brit, something of which Hamilton was unaware.
Driver Mick Schumacher crashed on the 10th lap, bringing out a safety car and race officials decided a red flag was needed to repair damage to the barrier Schumacher hit, and another red flag was shown when the race restarted as Hamilton and Verstappen vied for the lead, but it was Ocon who grabbed it just prior to a big crash involving a number of cars, although the leaders avoided the smash-up.
With Hamilton’s win and Bottas’ third-place finish, Mercedes – which now leads Red Bull, its nearest competitor, by 28 points – has taken an important step for the eighth consecutive time in the World Constructor Standings.
During the night race on the world’s fastest urban circuit, Verstappen was sanctioned with a five-second penalty for committing an infraction when Hamilton tried to pass him and, not ceding his position when he should have, could face an additional penalty, depending on how the race judges rule.
The podium ceremony was, thus, a tense one, with everyone on tenterhooks over who will win the 2021 title, and everything hanging in the balance at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the United Arab Emirates next weekend.