Verstappen ‘really happy to kickstart the season’ after winning out over Leclerc in sensational Saudi race
Max Verstappen took his first points of the 2022 season at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – and he did it in sensational style, after triumphing in a brilliant fight with Charles Leclerc.
The old karting rivals were well clear of the pack with less than 10 laps of the race at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit to go when Verstappen began to seriously challenge Leclerc for the lead, the pair having to drive smartly to try and claim the DRS advantage down the main straight.
But after an epic duel, it was Verstappen who came out on top, taking his first points of the season after his Bahrain GP retirement seven days ago – with the delighted Dutchman telling the media: “It was really tough but a good race. We were battling hard at the front, but we just tried to play the long game.
“[The Ferraris] were really quick through the corners; we were quick on the straights. The tyres were wearing out quite quick. You could see in the end we had a little bit more pace so I tried to get by.
“It wasn’t easy playing smart tricks in the last corner,” added Verstappen, who appeared to be helped by yellow flags, which prevented Leclerc using DRS, in the final two laps.
“Eventually I managed to get ahead, but even after that [Charles] was constantly in the DRS and then with the yellow flags in the last lap, just knowing how much you should lift, what is allowed or not, it was tough. But just really happy to kickstart the season.”
The result meant the Red Bulls swapped places from their original starting positions, with pole-sitter Sergio Perez coming home fourth – the Mexican caught out by a Safety Car that fell in Leclerc’s favour earlier in the race – as Verstappen claimed his first win of the season after starting P4, finishing ahead of Leclerc and the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz.
And the reigning champion extended his sympathy to his team mate – while revealing the more patient approach he’s adopting behind the wheel in 2022.
“It was unlucky luck for Checo today with the first Safety Car, but I’m sure we have plenty of races to make up for that,” said Verstappen.
“Patience is always key,” he added of his own battle. “Especially when you want to fight for the championship, you always fight hard, but of course keep in mind that you need to score points, so that’s what we did today: we raced hard but we also wanted to score the points.”
Verstappen’s win moves him to P3 in the drivers’ standings, behind Leclerc and Sainz, with Red Bull jumping to P3 in the constructors’ as well, albeit 41 points behind Ferrari but just one behind Mercedes.