Date: 1800 BST, 27/03/2022
Venue: Jeddah Corniche Circuit
Red Bull imploded late on in Bahrain but we’re tipping them to bounce straight back in our Saudi Arabia Grand Prix predictions.
Max Verstappen had shown enough to remain favourite in the drivers’ championship before a mechanical failure prompted his retirement with three laps left to go.
Verstappen had an exciting duel with eventual winner Charles Leclerc for much of the race before seeming to settle for second best.
However, technical issues denied the reigning champion a decent start to the new campaign and he is now playing catch-up.
Teammate Sergio Perez also saw a place on the podium slip out of his grasp when spinning his car.
“We were feeling quite competitive throughout the weekend, so the result was very unfortunate for us,” said Verstappen.
“The problems started initially with the brakes, they were overheating so I had to lift off and as a result I lost pace and had to let Charles go.
“After that, there were still a few issues with car balance and the final issue looked like a fuel system problem, which is why I had to retire.
“We don’t know exactly what went wrong yet but we’ll definitely analyse the data and make sure we learn from it.
“At the end of the day, motor sport is unpredictable and these things can happen; this is race one, we have plenty more ahead of us.”
Perez is 15.0 to prevail this weekend but we’re sticking with Verstappen to recapture his sparkle from last year and get back on top.
How the Bahrain Grand Prix finished
1 Leclerc (Ferrari), 2 Sainz (Ferrari), 3 Hamilton (Mercedes), 4 Russell (Mercedes), 5 Magnussen (Haas), 6 Bottas (Alfa Romeo), 7 Ocon (Alpine), 8 Tsunoda (Alphatauri), 9 Alonso (Alpine), 10 Guanyu (Alfa Romeo), 11 Schumacher (Haas), 12 Stroll (Aston Martin), 13 Albon (Williams), 14 Ricciardo (McLaren), 15 Norris (McLaren), 16 Latifi (Williams), 17 Hulkenberg (Aston Martin), DNF Perez (Red Bull), Verstappen (Red Bull), Gasly (Alphatauri)
Ferrari served notice that this season won’t simply be another two-team exhibition by leaving Bahrain with a one-two finish.
Leclerc delivered possibly the best weekend of his F1 career to convert his 10th pole position into a third race victory.
He commented: “Coming into this season, we knew we would be in a better position than we have been for the past two years, but we didn’t know exactly where we would stand.
“To be back on top with a car that is capable of winning feels incredible. Pole, fastest lap, the victory and second place for our team. Forza Ferrari!”
Carlos Sainz capitalised on Red Bull’s problems to be runner-up and is 8.0 to go one better this Sunday.
Lewis Hamilton also took advantage of the late drama to snatch an unlikely podium spot but that papered over the cracks of a worrying weekend.
Mercedes were the best part of a second off the pace in Bahrain and without the late safety car and Red Bull’s double DNF, Hamilton would have finished a very distant fifth.
It seems unfathomable that Mercedes will not improve, but it is also difficult to recall a season where a team has started so far behind and ended it by producing a world champion.
Past Saudi Arabia Grand Prix winners
2021 Hamilton (Mercedes), Verstappen (Red Bull), Bottas (Mercedes)
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