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Saudi Arabia’s first F1 Grand Prix was full of twists and turns

  The first edition of the Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, held in the city of Jeddah, located in the west of the country on the Red Sea, ended yesterday, after a wild race, the 21st of the season and the last one before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix next weekend. 

The inaugural edition of the Saudi Arabian Formula 1 Grand Prix was eagerly awaited, and for good reason… Between a new and very attractive setting: a circuit presented as the fastest in the world in an urban area, with peak speeds that can exceed 250 km/h; the second longest track in existence after Spa Francorchamps; all located right on the turquoise waters of the Red Sea, and not far from the site of the old city of Jeddah (Al-Balad) classified as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO This will delight motorsports fans as much as culture lovers. 

 

Moreover, the Formula 1 twitter account proposed to discover the circuit in immersion here, with Finnish driver Kimi Räikkönen

 

 

After two free practice sessions dominated by Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) on the first day, it was his rival for the title Max Verstappen who was the fastest in qualifying. Nevertheless, at the end of the second day of racing, which was punctuated by some great times by Verstappen, as well as a small error on the track, it was Lewis Hamilton who won and took pole position for the day. 

 

Sporting disputes and unprecedented decisions 

 

As is often the case between Hamilton, Verstappen and their respective team-mates, the competition was fierce and punctuated by low blows. Thus, Valtteri Bottas, who started in second position, slowed down in front of Max Verstappen on the 10th lap, but was not sanctioned by the FIA. Only 3 laps later, following Schumacher’s accident, the race was not stopped despite a damaged barrier. After the second start, the Dutchman, who was accused of overtaking off the track, was forced to give his place back to the British driver. And so it went on, until the decision that will perhaps set a precedent from now on: on lap 18, after the race had been stopped as a result of this fraudulent overtaking, the FIA did not want to dwell on the matter and waste time for the drivers. It therefore negotiated with Red Bull on a simple principle: a penalty of two places on the grid or the opening of an investigation with a potentially higher penalty. Although Red Bull had every interest in accepting, this first arrangement in the history of Formula 1 did not fit into any regulatory framework and has since been the subject of a lot of ink. 

 

 

Caption: Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) at the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Credits: Getty Images 

 

The after-race has a bitter taste

 

A few more laps, a few more aggressive touches between the two racers, one most spectacular, and it was finally Lewis Hamilton who won at the end of this frenzied race, marred by numerous penalties inflicted on both sides. With this victory, along with the best lap point, Hamilton scored 8 points more than Verstappen and is now equal on points with the Dutchman. Everything will be decided in the last GP in Abu Dhabi!

 

And the two main protagonists have been arguing ever since, via the press: “I have raced against many drivers in my life over the last 28 years, and I have faced different personalities, but there are some who go over the top. We all know how to race here, there’s only one who doesn’t,” said the British winner of this event, scathing. His opponent took the speech as well, and felt he was the victim of an unfair double standard: “I find it interesting that I’m the one who takes a penalty when two drivers cross the white lines“, Verstappen bitterly ironized. An opinion that is inevitably shared by Helmut Marko, Red Bull Racing’s sports advisor: “If Verstappen gets tough with Hamilton, he takes a penalty. If Hamilton takes him out, all of a sudden it becomes an ordinary attack. It can’t go on like that. This promises a fierce battle for the title in Abu Dhabi next weekend. 

 

 

 

Jeddah in celebration 

 

In addition to the thrill of the race, the first ever Saudi Arabian Formula 1 Grand Prix brought the whole city to its feet with an amazing international concert program. Top stars from all over the world such as DJ Snake, Justin Bieber, Jason Derulo and David Guetta, as well as some of the world’s most popular Arab music stars such as Amr Diab, accepted the Kingdom’s invitation. Every evening, after the races, the two fan zones located around the circuit were sold out, as the entire city’s youth gathered to hear live performance of some of their favorite artists.