What the teams said – Race day in Saudi Arabia
Having led from the start, the early stages seemed to be all serene progress for Mercedes. But pitting both cars under the first Safety Car lost them track position, with the resultant red flag favouring Verstappen. Starting second and third, Bottas locked up at the restart, and that dropped him out of contention, although he never gave up and fought his way back to the podium. As for Hamilton, he got into the lead at the first restart but lost out to an off-track Verstappen, and Race Control subsequently gave him the place back for the second restart. He didn’t get away as cleanly, dropped behind his rival and then set about chasing him down. That he managed to do, via another off-track moment and a collision between the pair, which included front wing damage for the Mercedes to boot. But all those incidents add up to one thing – Hamilton is now tied in the championship with his rival.
Lewis Hamilton, 1st
"I've been racing a long time but that was incredibly tough - I tried to be as sensible and as tough as I could be out there but also sensible with all my race experience over the years, just keeping the car on track and staying clean. It was difficult but we persevered as a Team. We've had all sorts of things thrown at us in the second half of this season so I'm just really proud of everyone. I'm really grateful for the crowd we've had this weekend - it's nice to be here.
"We've done an amazing job with what we have this weekend, Valtteri did a great job today to get big points for the Team - this is for all the guys and girls back at the factory. It's been an amazing event! I felt very welcome here, the people have been lovely and the track is phenomenal to drive, very difficult physically and mentally, but you wouldn't want it any other way. So, on to the next one!"
Valtteri Bottas, 3rd
"It wasn't an easy day, there were so many obstacles with the red flags and all the incidents, it made it a bit tricky. I just kept pushing, it was tough to overtake today but I finally got to P3 on the final straight - it was such a nice feeling to get the podium that way. Esteban drove great today, he was difficult to pass but I hung in there for an exciting finish. Good for team points today, and great that Lewis and Max are level on points, we have an incredible weekend ahead in Abu Dhabi."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"Winning the race today, in such a dramatic way, I think Lewis deserved it. We could have been out a few times with a broken front wing - it was a spectacular race, if not necessarily a good one. We obviously had frustration at the beginning with the red flag but today was a difficult race to manage for Race Control - when is a virtual safety car is called, when is a safety car called, when is a red flag? It's so tough, and I'll reserve judgement until I watch the race back tomorrow.
"Both our drivers kept their cool heads, and kept pushing and pushing. Lewis drove so intelligently and with patience. Valtteri made a great comeback and to take P3 on his 100th race for Mercedes is just brilliant, a big haul of points for the team. At the end it's all going down to the wire, that's how the sport should be and we love it."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"We came in this morning expecting an eventful race but didn't see that coming. Firstly, well done to the team and drivers; it's been the most challenging weekend we've had for a long time but great to come away with a win and both drivers on the podium. It was very encouraging to see how strong the car was in the race today, we were left a little deflated after qualifying having seen the pace of the Red Bull on a single lap. However, it seemed that the gap shifted in our favour today and Lewis was able to easily control the gap in stint one.
"The Safety Car followed by the red flag put us on the back foot and with all the interruptions, we'd lost temperature in the tyres for each restart but in the long run, the hard tyre was the right choice for Lewis, allowing him to attack towards the end. Valtteri did a fantastic job to get that podium place right at the end, we selected the medium to give him better grip at the second restart but it wasn't as strong on the long run which made that pass on the final lap even more of an achievement. Now our focus shifts to Abu Dhabi, today reminded us just how unpredictable the sport can be and we can't carry an ounce of complacency into next weekend. But if we can get the car working as well there as we have done in the last three races then everything is possible."
Running third in the early stages, Verstappen jumped both Mercedes cars in the first red flag period courtesy of a free tyre change. He ran wide across Turn 1 at the first restart, emerging in the lead but being deemed to have gained an advantage, so gave the place back for the next restart. That one he nailed, barging his way into the lead which he held for much of the race. But under pressure from behind, he ran wide again and was ordered to give the place back to a chasing Hamilton. This he did – albeit briefly – and only after a collision between the two. He did then finally cede the position, whilst being awarded a time penalty for gaining an advantage off track. As for Perez, he got tangled up with Leclerc at the first restart, spinning into the barriers and out of the race.
Max Verstappen, 2nd
“There was definitely a lot of action today, a lot of things happened. I was told to give the position back, so I moved off the racing line and slowed down, Lewis just stayed behind me, I don’t understand why he didn’t pass. I don’t agree with the five-second penalty, but it is what it is and we’ll just move on. We didn’t have perfect pace in the race today, so that’s something to work on looking ahead to Abu Dhabi. We’re on equal points now heading into the final race, it’s going to be an exciting end to the season.”
Sergio Perez, DNF
“It wasn’t the best weekend for the Team, we lost crucial points in the Constructors’ Championship, so we are going to Abu Dhabi now to try and turn things around. We were slightly unlucky with the first red flag but we got away well after the second restart. We got past Gasly and Charles and as I was coming out of turn three there just wasn’t enough room for everyone, given how the corner was. I ended up tangling with Charles, he clipped my rear tyre with his front right tyre. It was a bad moment for everyone but just a very unlucky one. It is just a big shame because we needed those points today. I stayed with the car out on track because we were trying to turn the engine back on, we thought we could restart it but it was a bit on the hot side so we had to retire. It was a very important race for the Team today so this one hurts a lot but there is hope for Abu Dhabi. There is still optimism and something to fight for and we will give the final race of the season everything so let’s look forward.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“There was obviously an awful lot of damage and debris for Race Control to deal with because of all the incidents, so it was a frustrating race in that respect and we were probably lucky to come away with second, especially given the amount of damage we had to the back of our car. I don’t know what Lewis was doing because Max was trying to give the place up as instructed by Race Control, he lifted and you can hear that, it was clear we were trying to give the place up and we’d informed Race Control. I don’t know if Lewis didn’t want to pass before the DRS zone, but it was very strange to have him drive straight up the back of Max. We got a five second time penalty, I thought it was on the harsh side, they both went wide and were racing. Max has fought like a gladiator this weekend and given it everything. It was frustrating to drop points in the constructors’ championship with Checo being taken out at the restart, so we now have one chance. We have a week to regroup and now it goes down to the wire at Abu Dhabi. It’s a straight-out fight as it has been for the entire year. For the fans it is fantastic, it keeps the championship dream alive and we have one shot and it’s time to take it.”
Alpine were agonisingly close to a second straight podium, as Ocon picked up places at the start, didn’t pit and so found himself fourth at the first restart. He passed a locking up Bottas, and then Hamilton who had been forced wide. Second on paper became first when Race Control shuffled the order, and he started from the coveted P1 slot for the second restart. But running three wide into Turn 1, he eventually ceded to the faster cars and was a lonely but brilliant third for most of the race until Bottas out-dragged him across the line on the final lap. As for Alonso, a mid-race spin all by himself cost him any chance of points.
Esteban Ocon, 4th
“I gave it my all today. The competitor inside of me is disappointed to miss out on the podium by such a short distance, but I’m very proud of the whole team today. What we achieved is outstanding and to take fourth place and add 12 more points in the bag in the championship is what counts. We took the right decisions in the race; we did everything we could on track and on strategy at the right moments, which put us in the best possible position to take big points. It was quite fun to start on pole position too – I’ve not done that since 2015 in GP3 – but I knew my race was not with Lewis and Max in front. That said, the opportunity was there today and we can leave here with our heads high and feeling very proud. We move onto Abu Dhabi ready to finish the season on a high and take any opportunity that might come up.”
Fernando Alonso, 13th
“It was a crazy race tonight. I think when the first red flag was waved the race was over for us. We opted to stop and were in a very good position, and realistically we could have been fifth or sixth had it all fallen into place. They stopped the race and we were very unlucky there. Every time there seems to be a red flag or a situation like that we are on the wrong side of things. I think it was a bit dangerous racing amongst all the debris today and to not have a full Safety Car. Nothing happened in the end which was good. We scored good points with Esteban today, but we need to make sure our pace is back for Abu Dhabi and we end the season on a positive.”
Marcin Budkowski, Executive Director
"Some good points today to consolidate fifth in the championship... but that result does hurt! What a race from Esteban - he drove exceptionally well and only just got beaten by a much quicker car on the line. He had a very good start and gained two positions in the first lap, then kept the pace up until the first race interruption. We elected to stop Fernando during the Safety Car because we didn’t think it would turn into a red flag, and this compromised his race as he wasn’t in a position to get back into the points. We didn’t stop Esteban to preserve his good track position, which even turned into pole position at the second restart. He managed his race perfectly and really deserved a podium today. Losing it for a few metres is a bitter feeling, especially since after the race we discovered he had picked up some damage to his floor on lap 48, which cost him lap time, but to be disappointed with fourth shows how strong a race we had. After two very good races for the Team, we aim to finish on a high in Abu Dhabi."
Norris gratefully got rid of his soft compound tyres under the Safety Car, only to lose out when the race subsequently stopped and his rivals gained a free tyre change. That ended his significant involvement in the race, although he did well to recover from near the back up to P10. Ricciardo though started on the hards, didn’t pit and profited hugely, running fourth for much of the race before losing out to Bottas late on.
Daniel Ricciardo, 5th
“That felt like the longest race ever. The race start was so late, so it already felt like a long day, and then with all the restarts it felt even longer. The starts were good, I always made up positions until the last one where I stayed fourth.
“I used the hard tyre for the race start, so we couldn’t really use it for the restart and were forced to go on the medium, and I think the hard was the better tyre. So, I couldn’t quite get Esteban [Ocon], and I tried to hold off Valtteri [Bottas] as long as I could. I was surprised how long I held him off, but I think once he let his tyres reset, it was quite hard to keep him behind. I defended him one lap, re-passed him and then he got me. I struggled a bit at the end with the tyres, so I’m happy to have held on to a top five. It certainly makes up for yesterday.”
Lando Norris, 10th
"A very unlucky day. I think we deserved much more today. The team did a good job and I thought I drove a good race, but the red flag changed everything and ruined any chance of a stronger result, just by being unlucky. It was a long race after that. So, I'm disappointed. On the positive side, we scored one point again – but I feel we deserved a lot more."
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“Mixed feelings this evening. However, I’m very happy that, after three very challenging weekends during the triple-header, we’ve responded with a strong performance here in Jeddah. After starting P11 due to his damaged floor yesterday in qualifying, Daniel had a very competitive race to finish P5. Lando made a strong start and unfortunately was very unlucky with the red flag that cost him a lot of positions – but he fought back well for a point.
“A big thank you to everybody: the team here at the track working in very hot conditions, everybody back at the factory and our colleagues from Mercedes HPP. Operationally, we executed a clean race despite challenging circumstances with the red flags, which was vital in order to get the good result we had with chaos all around us. Finally, congratulations on a successful first Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, here at this new and exciting venue in Jeddah. One more to go in 2021: let’s go for it.”
Gasly lost places at the start, but had a much better restart to climb back up to where he started. From there, he was one of the very few to have a relatively quiet race. The same can’t be said for his team mate, who lost his front wing battling with Vettel. As well as losing a lot of time limping back to the pits, that moment earned the Japanese rookie a time penalty for good measure and he came home a lowly 14th.
Pierre Gasly, 6th
“I’m very pleased with today, finishing in the top six in front of Ferrari, I’m really happy with that result and we’re taking home a lot of points again. We knew it was going to be tricky coming to a new track, but we’ve performed well throughout the weekend and had a strong starting position today. It was a difficult race, with lots of things happening and it was very long, which meant it required a lot of focus. We know how complicated it is into the first corner here, so having three starts was intense, but we tried to take every opportunity we could and in the end I think we did a good job.”
Yuki Tsunoda, 14th
“It’s been a tough afternoon. I struggled at the beginning of the race, but I think the final restart went well and I managed to gain back some places. Unfortunately, I pushed a bit too hard and I had the collision with Vettel. The pace in the car was looking quite good at that point in the race, so I should’ve held off and waited for another opportunity to overtake, it was my mistake and I’ve apologised to him. It’s frustrating as I feel like points were on offer today.”
Franz Tost, Team Principal
“Firstly, congratulations to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for this fantastic event here in Jeddah. They’ve built a really great track, although if I had to suggest an improvement that could be made for next year I would say to bring in some more cranes, so that any car involved in accidents can be cleared away quicker, avoiding long red flag periods.
"From our side today, Pierre started from P6, but his first start was not so good, and he finished the first lap in eighth position. Yuki started in P8 and also lost some positions on the first lap, but both drivers were able to regain some of them thanks to the red flags. Pierre especially did a really good job coming back after the second red flag and regained P6, which he was able to defend until the chequered flag. He drove another fantastic race today and showed a very strong performance yet again, so well done to him. Yuki also improved a lot in the final stint of the race and was able to overtake a few cars to make his way up to P9. Unfortunately, he then had the collision with Vettel in corner one. I think he did the right thing to try and overtake but, unfortunately, they touched and he sustained damage to the front wing. He had to come in to change it, we put him on the hard tyres and, from then on, he drove a good race with strong lap times. Overall, it was a good first experience in Saudi Arabia for us, with a sixth position from Pierre and with Yuki also showing a really great performance throughout the weekend. We’re now looking forward to the final race in Abu Dhabi, where we hope to have another good last event of this season.”
Leclerc was running fourth in the early stages, but was one of many cars to lose out by pitting under the Safety Car – which when the reds came out, granted some of his competitors a free trye change. Sainz though had started on the hard compound so didn’t pit, which propelled him up the order. At the first restart, the Monegasque collided with Perez and was fortunate to be able to continue, with the Scuderia pair then keeping out of trouble for the rest of the race to bring home double points – despite nearly coming a cropper when they decided to have an intra-team battle.
Charles Leclerc, 7th
"We’re happy with the way we recovered after Friday's crash, so it is a shame to only finish seventh, because we had the potential to do better.
"The first part of the race was really good and our pace was strong. When the Safety Car came out after the start, we thought some luck had come our way and we would benefit from stopping when we did. Three laps later came the red flag and it cost us three positions.
"We avoided taking too many risks at the restart, but then came the contact with Checo and we lost more positions. What compromised our race the most was the flatspot that I picked up at that point. This made it really tough to get the Hards to work after the next restart and it also caused some front locking. The pace came back towards the end, but today was one of the days when various factors prevented us getting a better result."
Carlos Sainz, 8th
"This was a fun race to drive and we cannot be too disappointed starting from fifteenth and finishing in eighth place. I had a good start and I was able to attack, immediately making up some places on the Hard tyre, which was working really well. Unfortunately the first Safety Car and red flag came out too early for my interests. We had no choice but to fit the Mediums, even though we knew we had to make them last 36 laps.
"We had a very strong pace at the beginning of the second stint, making it up to seventh and catching Gasly ahead, but towards the end my tyres were completely finished and in the final laps we couldn’t do anything to defend from Charles, who was on the Hard compound.
"It’s a shame about yesterday’s qualifying, as I’m convinced we could have finished higher up, but I’m happy to have been able to score points again. Now we look forward to Abu Dhabi to end the season on a high!"
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal
"Today, the potential was there to bring home more points than we did. The many incidents in this Grand Prix did not play out in our favour, but the performance level of the team and the car was clear to see.
"Now we head to Abu Dhabi with a comfortable lead over McLaren in the fight for third place in the Constructors’ championship, while Charles has moved up to fifth in the Drivers’ standings. We must continue to concentrate and prepare well for one final effort, before putting this season behind us and focussing solely on 2022."
Vettel was in the thick of the action after starting on the hard compound. He found himself in the top 10 at the first restart, but first lost out when Tsunoda ran him wide trying to fight for eighth, and then lost more bodywork when Raikkonen decided to get his elbows out. The German eventually retired with car damage, leaving Stroll to fly the flag for the team. He had lost out by pitting before the first stoppage, but fought his way back into the points, only to lose out to a much quicker Norris in the closing stages.
Sebastian Vettel, DNF
“A tough way to end the race [with significant floor damage] and a shame we lost the chance to fight for points properly. Things were going our way in the early part of the race. Having started in P17, we were up inside the points after the restarts. I was running ahead of the Ferraris, but we did not have the strongest pace today and we were under pressure. Yuki [Tsunoda] hit me in the first chicane, which dropped me down the pack. Then there was the incident with Kimi [Räikkönen], which completely destroyed my race [with the damage caused]. I had the track position and there is not enough room for two cars in that corner so I think Kimi needed to back out.”
Lance Stroll, 11th
“It was a shame not to get points, especially because we came so close in the end in P11. The first red flag went against us because we had pitted earlier, but we were able to make a couple of very good restarts following the stoppages to climb to P10. We initially pulled a good gap to [Lando] Norris behind, but overtaking proved easier than expected and we just lacked a little bit of pace on the straights, so we could not hold onto P10. I was optimistic because the balance of the car felt good, but P11 was probably the maximum in the end.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“After an incident-packed evening Sebastian eventually had to retire a few laps from the end, his car too damaged as a result of contact with other cars, particularly Kimi’s [Räikkönen] Alfa Romeo. Lance might well have scored points but, unfortunately, he was disadvantaged when we tyre-stopped him during a Safety Car deployment triggered by Mick’s [Schumacher] accident, a logical strategy that was stymied by the red flag that followed soon after. In the end he finished a plucky 11th. From here we go straight to Abu Dhabi, where we hope to finish the season in better style, ideally with a double points finish.”
Giovinazzi started 10th, but lost out to Ricicardo and looked to have a tough afternoon ahead surrounded by faster cars. But the timing of the red flags helped him, and miraculously he managed to avoid all the chaos at the first restart to run solidly in the points. He lost out to the Ferrari pair midway through, but ninth is his second points finish of the year and first since Monaco. As for Raikkonen, he might be close to retirement, but he hasn’t lost his racing chops just yet, going wheel to wheel with Vettel despite there being no points on offer at the time. A subsequent trip to the pits for a new front wing dropped him down the order.
Kimi Raikkonen, 15th
“It was a hectic race, especially with all the restarts and the first laps. Our pace was not too bad and we could have fought for the points, but once I picked up damage in the contact with Vettel, it was really difficult. There wasn’t much in it, we were going side by side, I tried to make the corner but we touched. That ruined my race completely, there was no way back from there.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 9th
“I am really happy with tonight’s race – not just the result, but the performance as a whole. We were strong in qualifying yesterday already, and today we managed to keep out of trouble in the chaos: we always made some gain in the starts and we had the pace to keep in the top ten, even though at the end the two Ferraris were just too quick for us. It was a tough race, very physical – it reminded me of Singapore at times, with the heat and humidity – but in the end we have a good reward to show for it. We finished so many times just outside the points, in P11, so to have a ninth place feels really deserved. I am looking forward to Abu Dhabi and to fight for another good result to close the season well.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“First of all, what a great show tonight was, what an ad for our sport. In this incredible new venue, we delivered a strong race to bring home two points thanks to Antonio’s great performance. It’s a good reward after we’ve been on pace all weekend, straight from FP1: we knew we had the speed but we still had a big job ahead of us to deliver it, keeping clear of the chaos and making sure we extracted everything we could from our package. We had two cars running in the points at one stage and, even though Kimi dropped out of the battle after contact with Vettel, Antonio was able to run as high as seventh for most of the race. To finish right behind two Ferraris and hold a McLaren at bay was the most we could do so we can be pleased with our performance. It’s a confidence boost ahead of the final race, let’s finish the season well now.”
Russell dropped back at the start, but worse was to come at the restart. He slowed to avoid the Perez-Leclerc crash ahead, and was then hit hard and bounced into the air by an unsighted Haas from behind, which ended his evening. Latifi did see the chequered flag, but despite all the chaos, couldn’t quite extract enough pace to climb into the points.
George Russell, DNF
"I came through the small kink of Turn 3 and there were cars everywhere. I hit the brakes to slow down and unfortunately, I got hit from behind, was up in the air and that was our day over. It’s a shame but with such a narrow track that is so fast, and with the size of these cars, an accident is almost inevitable. Heading to Abu Dhabi, we need to find a bit more speed from the car so we can be battling a little higher up the field. It’s my last race with Williams next week and I want to finish on a high."
Nicholas Latifi, 12th
"Today was a very tough race, both physically and mentally. Trying to keep the rhythm and the tyre temperature through the many restarts and Safety Cars is always challenging, but I gave it everything I had and I was fortunate not to get caught in the collision ahead of me during the second start. It was a good race to learn from as we head into our final event of the season in Abu Dhabi next week."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"The race today was even more busy than we had anticipated with the track proving difficult to clear once debris had been deposited. We were unfortunate when the early safety car became a red flag, but we had little to gain from staying out and potentially a lot to gain by pitting. The restarts were difficult with the tyres not quite at peak grip after a single lap to the grid behind the safety car.
"George was very unfortunate to have his race ended when the Haas hit him; he could see a collision ahead and so didn’t approach the corner flat out, but the Haas behind was unsighted, and the collision was terminal. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, and the car doesn’t seem too badly damaged.
"Nicholas drove a very strong race, stayed out of trouble and showed good pace, matching Giovinazzi. Knowing that it would likely be a battle of attrition, he handled the race very well, benefited from incidents ahead and took excellent care of the car and tyres during the numerous VSC periods. Unfortunately, today, it wasn’t enough to score any points. However, Alfa Romeo were only able to score two points and so we head to Abu Dhabi with a ten-point lead to defend.
"Next week is set to be a spectacular end to the season with an incredible battle at the front. The recent changes to the Yas Marina circuit will add to the challenge for all the teams and we are looking forward to testing the car and drivers on this faster, more flowing version of this well-known track."
Not their day. Schumacher started the chaos by crashing down at Turn 23 by himself, spinning off and bringing out first the crucial Safety Car and then the red flags when the damage to the barriers was deemed worse than feared. Mazepin then was seemingly blameless when he hit the back of Russell’s Williams hard at the first restart followed by the wall, with Russell slowing suddenly to avoid other incidents in front of him. Both Haas boys walked away from their incidents which was a relief to see.
Mick Schumacher, DNF
“Unfortunately, it seems like I was pushing a bit too much trying to get back into the DRS window of Russell and lost it going into T23. The pace seemed to be there, we were comfortably keeping up with the Williams and I think that was what we really weren’t anticipating, therefore being highly motivated but maybe a bit too much in that case. That one point is still the target, so hopefully we’ll manage to get it there.”
Nikita Mazepin, DNF
“It was quite an impact unfortunately. We benefitted from a position of not stopping and I was fighting with Stroll coming out of T2. The next is always easy flat and it was meant to be for both cars but all of a sudden, the car in front – which was Russell – he braked. I also tried to brake but there was nowhere to stop from 200 to zero, so I collected him and looking at the replay there was a car on the inside that he was trying to avoid himself.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“A disappointing day today with two crashed cars in the penultimate race of the year. Mick just tried to keep up with the Williams, which didn’t work out, and Nikita got himself into a position where he couldn’t do anything about it – he was a passenger of whatever happened in front of him. Unfortunate but one more to go and then we move on.”
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"We witnessed an action-packed race that was filled with drama, incidents and safety cars. Under those circumstances, strategy becomes a question of reacting to rapidly changing events as quickly as possible and making the right calls under pressure, also considering the individual allocation available. With such an unpredictable situation, there were a number of unknown factors, and the track was also extremely dirty with a lot of debris from all the incidents. In the end, we saw a spectacular duel with no holds barred between the two championship protagonists, on different tyres. The hard tyre was one of the keys to the race win thanks to its low degradation level and consistent performance until the very end. Now we look forward to a thrilling championship finale at the last race for our 13-inch tyres in Abu Dhabi".