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Verstappen seals assured victory in Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as Bearman scores points on debut

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JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull

Max Verstappen has continued his title defence in fine style by taking a dominant victory in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, while an action-packed event unfolded behind him.

The Dutchman enjoyed a strong start from pole as the 50-lap race got underway and, from there, held an assured lead, despite an early Safety Car sparking a flurry of action in the pit lane where Red Bull were amongst the teams to risk a double-stack strategy.

Sergio Perez came home in P2 to mark a second consecutive one-two result for the squad. The Mexican was handed a five-second time penalty for an unsafe release into the path of Fernando Alonso during that busy visit to the pits, but held enough of a gap to third-placed Charles Leclerc to keep his position.

Leclerc completed the podium ahead of Oscar Piastri in fourth, with the Australian having spent a significant portion of the race trying to find a way past Lewis Hamilton who was one of the few drivers in the field to stay out during the early run of pit stops.

Saudi Arabia 2024

Race results

PositionTeam NameTimePoints
1VER1:20:43.27325
2PER+13.643s18
3LEC+18.639s16
4PIA+32.007s12
5ALO+35.759s10
View Full Results

Fernando Alonso held onto fifth as the sole Aston Martin to remain in the race, with team mate Lance Stroll having been the cause of the Safety Car call-out following a crash into the barriers on Lap 7. Alonso had withheld pressure from the Mercedes of George Russell in the latter stages, but the Briton ultimately had to settle for sixth.

It was a memorable Formula 1 debut for Oliver Bearman, standing in for Carlos Sainz at Ferrari after the Spaniard was diagnosed with appendicitis earlier on Friday. The youngster scored his first points by securing P7, during an impressive drive in which he carried out several overtakes.

Bearman led a pack of British drivers, with Lando Norris ending the day in P8 ahead of Hamilton in P9. Both Norris and Hamilton had stretched out their opening stints on the medium tyre before making pit stops in the second half of the race.

Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top 10 to score Haas’s first point of the season. The German had also opted not to pit during the initial round of stops, and was aided by a team strategy that saw Kevin Magnussen keep a pack of drivers at bay behind in order to give Hulkenberg space when returning to the track from his eventual pit stop.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: Oliver Bearman of Great Britain driving the (38) Ferrari SF-24 on

Bearman scored points on his F1 debut for Ferrari in Saudi Arabia

Alex Albon just missed out on points in P11, despite making some solid moves in that midfield fight including an overtake on Yuki Tsunoda. Magnussen took P12 in what was an eventful evening for the Dane, having been handed two separate 10-second time penalties.

Esteban Ocon was the sole Alpine to finish in P13, while Tsunoda was the lead RB in P14. The Williams of Logan Sargeant followed in P15, with Daniel Ricciardo behind in what was a quiet afternoon for the Australian in P16, barring a spin on the final lap of the event.

The Kick Sauber duo of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu were the last drivers to finish in 17th and 18th respectively.

Stroll was one of the two to retire following that early crash, while Pierre Gasly’s race was practically over before it started. The Frenchman retired soon after the start, having reported a gearbox issue on the Formation Lap.

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Race Highlights: 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

AS IT HAPPENED

After Verstappen clinched his first-ever pole at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit during Friday night’s qualifying session – with Leclerc alongside him on the front row for a fifth consecutive race – the attentions of the paddock then turned to Saturday evening’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

There was a moment of drama before the race had even begun when Tsunoda was released into the path of Norris in the pit lane, with the incident being noted by Race Control. Elsewhere, a key talking point was how Bearman must be feeling ahead of his F1 debut, having only received the call-up to replace Sainz just hours before first stepping into the Ferrari in FP3.

As the cars assembled on the grid and the tyre blankets came off, it was confirmed that most of the field would be starting on the medium compound, barring Bearman and Bottas who were both running the softs.

When the lights went out and the action commenced, Verstappen got away well to lead while Perez tussled with Leclerc for second, with Leclerc ultimately securing the position out of Turn 4. Further back there was a racy start from rookie Bearman, who was already trying to overtake Tsunoda after the RB driver was leapfrogged by Stroll at the start.

Meanwhile Piastri got ahead of Alonso on Lap 2, while Alpine’s challenging start to the season continued when Gasly – who had reported a gearbox issue on the Formation Lap – became the first retiree from the race.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull

Verstappen had a strong start from pole as the race got underway

By Lap 4 Perez had put himself up into P2 by sweeping past Leclerc with relative ease, aided by the DRS being open. Elsewhere, replays showed that Russell had questioned whether Norris had made a jump start at the launch, despite the McLaren driver not making up any places from P6.

Norris’ team mate Piastri, meanwhile, was still ahead of Alonso in fourth, but the ever-determined Spaniard was not letting the pressure off.

Alonso’s fellow Aston Martin driver Stroll was not having such luck. The Canadian crashed into the barriers in Turn 23 after contact with the wall on Lap 7, prompting a yellow flag to be thrown before a Safety Car was called. Fortunately Stroll walked away unharmed.

A flurry of action in the pit lane followed as multiple cars made a pit stop to bolt on the hard tyres, including the Red Bulls, Leclerc, Piastri and Alonso. Norris and Hamilton were amongst those to stay out, seemingly to avoid a double-stack at their respective garages. Zhou and Hulkenberg also opted to remain on track.

The busy situation in the pit lane seemed to spark a few tricky moments, with replays showing Alonso radioing about a close call with Perez. Back on circuit, the Safety Car period came to an end on Lap 9, with leader Norris managing to keep Verstappen behind at the restart while Hamilton held third.

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2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix: Leclerc fights off Perez challenge to keep P2 on the race start

Further back there was action aplenty – Bearman pulled off an overtake on Tsunoda for P11, while Magnussen had a bit of an off-track moment during a battle with Ocon and Albon, though the Dane managed to hold onto P13 to stay ahead. This incident was soon being investigated by the stewards for Magnussen allegedly causing a collision.

It was announced on Lap 12 that Perez was also under investigation for an unsafe release in the Alonso pit lane incident. Meanwhile the Mexican was making moves, passing Hamilton for third just as Verstappen surged ahead of Norris to retake the lead.

Bearman’s feisty debut continued as the teenager swept past Zhou into Turn 1, putting himself into the top 10. Fellow Ferrari driver Leclerc had overtaken Hamilton for fourth up ahead.

The stewards’ verdicts came in on Lap 16 – Perez was issued with a five-second time penalty for an unsafe release, while a 10-second penalty had been handed to Magnussen for causing a collision with Albon.

Piastri tried to find a way past Hamilton for fifth on Lap 17, with the McLaren looking to go around the outside before going wide off the track. Perez had more luck in his overtaking endeavours, picking off Norris for second place while Verstappen continued to lead by five seconds.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing

Perez was handed a five-second time penalty for an unsafe release in the pits

“Mate, he’s so slow,” reported Bearman as Lap 20 ticked down, referring to the Haas of Hulkenberg that he was trying to pass for P9. Heading into Turn 1, the Ferrari driver soon swept past the German to secure the position.

As Hamilton – still running the medium tyres – continued to defend well from Piastri in the fight for fifth, the stewards were being kept busy as Magnussen was issued with another 10-second time penalty, this time for leaving the track and gaining an advantage in a scrap with Tsunoda for P12.

Norris was also still holding on impressively with his original medium rubber, with the McLaren remaining in third by Lap 25 despite increased pressure from Leclerc in fourth. But as the race passed its halfway point, the Briton could resist no longer as Leclerc easily breezed past.

Meanwhile there was a multi-car scrap unfolding from P12 to P16, with Magnussen at the front of the pack seemingly holding up Tsunoda, Ocon, Albon and Sargeant behind. The Haas looked to be trying to back up the field in order to help team mate Hulkenberg to stay ahead in P10 whenever he should eventually pit.

This didn’t stop those involved from trying to fight back. Tsunoda utilised a slipstream to glide past Magnussen into Turn 1, but the Dane then retook the position. Having had a bit of a moment, Tsunoda also lost a place to Ocon in the melee. The Japanese driver reported “dangerous driving” over the team radio.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Haas F1 VF-24 Ferrari

Magnussen had an eventful evening at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit

Back at the front, Verstappen’s lead had grown to seven seconds from Perez by Lap 31, while Perez had built a nine-second advantage over Leclerc in third.

Elsewhere, Norris and Hamilton were both holding station on the medium compound. Norris was posed a question by his race engineer over whether he could make his way back through whenever he would eventually pit. The Briton said he would try, despite sounding slightly unsure.

In that midfield scrap behind Magnussen, a frustrated Albon pulled off an impressive move on Tsunoda to claim P14, while Hulkenberg finally made his pit stop on Lap 34. The Haas emerged back onto the track in P11, meaning that Magnussen’s role in the team strategy had been successful.

Piastri once again looked to have found a way past Hamilton on Lap 35 but, in a case of deja vu, again left the track, forcing him to relinquish the position to the Mercedes.

But the McLaren was finally given some clear air when Hamilton made his pit stop on Lap 37, with the seven-time world champion rejoining the track in P9, seven seconds behind Bearman in P8. Norris also visited the pits for the hard tyres one lap later, which subsequently slotted him in-between Bearman and Hamilton to set up a battle of the Brits.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren MCL38

Norris waited until Lap 38 to make his sole pit stop in the race

As cameras showed Sainz watching on from the Ferrari garage, his replacement found himself being slowly chased down by Norris as the laps ticked down, though the McLaren driver was firstly occupied with trying to keep Hamilton at bay.

Norris had also been noted by Race Control for weaving on the straight ahead of Hamilton. Meanwhile, Russell looked to be getting closer to Alonso in a battle for fifth.

There was trouble for Zhou on Lap 43 when the Kick Sauber driver – the last man in the field to pit – suffered a slow pit stop, dropping him to the back of the pack behind team mate Bottas.

As the race entered into its final stages, Bearman asked over team radio about whether Norris could catch them by the end. While he was told that this was indeed the case, the rookie driver was also encouraged to go for his “fastest race until the end”.

Norris continued to close the gap into the last few laps, being less than three seconds behind on Lap 48 of 50. Hamilton, meanwhile, had dropped out of the DRS range of Norris.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG

Hamilton was one of the four drivers who opted not to pit during the earlier Safety Car period

Up ahead, Perez had slightly narrowed Verstappen’s lead, but the Dutchman remained 6.7s ahead of his team mate as another victory looked to be on the cards following his win last time out in Bahrain.

Elsewhere there was trouble for Ricciardo, who had been having a relatively quiet race towards the back of the field. The RB driver spun on the final lap, having been running in P16.

A small mistake also hit Norris as the Briton continued to attempt to close in on Bearman, but the gap did not look to be getting much smaller.

At the front, Verstappen crossed the line to take an assured victory, his second ever win on the streets of Jeddah. Perez followed in second to secure another one-two finish for Red Bull, marking a solid start to their title defence in 2024.

With a significant gap back to Leclerc in third, Perez was still able to hold his position despite his five-second time penalty. While Leclerc had to settle for P3, the Monegasque did manage to claim an extra point for the fastest lap.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-24 on track

Leclerc clinched the final podium position of third, as well as setting the fastest lap

Piastri was the lead McLaren to cross the line in fourth, while Alonso resisted late-race pressure from Russell to take fifth, keeping the Mercedes behind in sixth.

Bearman brought an end to a memorable debut by finishing in P7, scoring points on his rookie appearance. The youngster’s father was seen looking on proudly from the Ferrari garage.

Fellow Britons Norris and Hamilton followed in eighth and ninth respectively, with Hulkenberg rounding out the top 10.

Albon claimed P11 ahead of Magnussen in P12, with Ocon, Tsunoda, Sargeant, Ricciardo, Bottas and Zhou completing the final classified runners.

Stroll and Gasly were the two retirees from the race, having both exited in the opening stages due to a crash and a technical problem respectively.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull

Verstappen scored another victory in Jeddah, bringing his 2024 points tally so far to 51

Key quote

“I think overall of course a fantastic weekend for the whole team, but also from my side, I felt really good with the car, and also basically was the same in the race,” Verstappen said after his victory. “Of course the last stint was a bit longer than we would have liked, but with the Safety Car we had to go for it. So the last few laps, also with those backmarkers, with the cold tyres, it was a little bit slippery but we had good pace so we could manage it quite well. Overall, very, very pleased.”

What’s next

The next stop on the 2024 F1 calendar will be the Australian Grand Prix, with the paddock heading to the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit from March 22-24. Head to the RACE HUB to find out how you can follow the action.

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