Max Verstappen dominates the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, but Oliver Bearman steals show on his F1 debut

Photo credit: Red Bull Racing
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Amidst all the commotion at Red Bull and the appendicitis suffered by Carlos Sainz, there was of course also a race to be driven. After a loud and flashy opening ceremony there were just two drivers that were starting on soft, them being Valtteri Bottas and Oliver Bearman. The 18 other drivers started the formation lap on the medium tyres.

Before the lights went on it was Pierre Gasly who reported a gearbox issue, but he did make it back to the grid. When the lights went out Sergio Pérez went inside Charles Leclerc, with both going through the next couple of turns next to eachother. Eventually Leclerc ends up on top. His rookie teammate Bearman has a little excursion coming out of turn 4, but little time is lost. At the end of the lap Gasly has to box to retire the car, while Fernando Alonso lost a spot to Oscar Piastri.

Bearman then took on the fight with Yuki Tsunoda, and the two make almost contact after Lance Stroll has a slow exit from the final corner. The replay in the meantime shows that Lando Norris had a little jumpstart, but since he stopped again inside his box he didn’t really benefit from it, and eventually wasn’t penalised for it.

At the start of lap 4 Pérez overtakes Leclerc, while Verstappen drives the fastest lap. Behind Stroll a DRS-train is developing, going from ninth place up to Alexander Albon in P13. Three laps later Stroll suddenly goes straight at turn 22 after he hits the wall on the inside. He goes straight on into the barriers, prompting a safety car. Everyone except Norris, Lewis Hamilton, Zhou Guanyu and Nico Hülkenberg stop, promoting the McLaren driver to the lead. Alonso had a close call with Pérez after the Mexican was released from his pitstop, eventually resulting in a five second time penalty.

At the restart Leclerc firmly defends from Piastri, while Bearman finally goes past Tsunoda. Albon tries to overtake Kevin Magnussen, but the Dane squeezes the Thai into the wall, which prompts the stewards to hand the Haas driver a 10 second time penalty.

Going into lap 13 Verstappen passes Norris and Pérez passes Hamilton, showing that the hard tyres are getting up to temperature. The next one to make an overtake is Bearman on Zhou, while not much later Russel overtakes Hülkenberg and Leclerc overtakes Hamilton.

Oscar Piastri is the next one to try and overtake Hamilton, but the Briton fights back and forces Piastri to take evasive action. Norris is being overtaken by Pérez, but the former is on a different strategy. Bearman tries to overtake Hülkenberg, but so far no luck for the rookie.

Both Piastri and Bearman are stuck behind their respective opponents, but a great setup in turn 27 propels the youngest Ferrari-driver ever past the German. In the meantime Magnussen gets a second 10 second time penalty for overtaking Tsunoda by cutting turn 5.

Up front Verstappen improves the fastest lap several times, and is seven seconds clear of his teammate at the halfway point. At the back of the pack it is Magnussen who now has DRS train behind him, going all the way back to Logan Sargeant in 16th. Tsunoda tries an overtake, but Magnussen defends. Albon tries the same on Esteban Ocon, but he fails as well.

Who does succeed is with his overtake is Leclerc on Norris, but with the young Briton trying to survive until he can switch to softs, he doesn’t put up a fight against the Ferrari driver.

Albon tries overtake Ocon on the outside of turn 13, but decides to back out before something nasty happens. Tsunoda tries to overtake on Magnussen again, but the Dane defends and pushes the RB-driver wide, causing the latter to lose a place to Ocon. Daniel Ricciardo, who has a snoozer of a race, in the meantime catches up with the train.

Albon tries again to overtake in turn 13, this time on Tsunoda, and fails again. And what about Verstappen? He keeps driving fastest lap after fastest lap. In lap 33 Albon successfully overtakes Tsunoda going into turn, with the K-Mag-train extending all the way up to Valtteri Bottas on last place.

Nico Hülkenberg finally stops lap 34, and gets back just in front of his teammate in 11th place. Piastri finally overtakes Hamilton in lap 35, but outbrakes himself and has to let Hamilton back through again. He does eventually gets past, but only when Lewis stops for softs. Alonso mimics his teammate by clipping the wall on the inside of turn 9, with George Russell slowely closing in on the Aston Martin.

Lando Norris stops a lap later than Hamilton, but a slow stop puts him just in front of the seven-time world champion. After picking up a black-and-white flag for weaving, Norris picks up the pace and starts to chase Bearman. The Ferrari-driver is however unimpressed and counters, while Norris can’t really seam to shake off the Mercedes of Hamilton.

Little happens in the remainder of the race, so Verstappen wins the race, for Pérez and Leclerc, who snatches the fastest lap in the final lap. Piastri brings home fourth for McLaren, with considerable margin to Alonso in fifth. Russell ends sixth before the debuting Bearman in seventh, who is also voted driver of the day by the fans. Norris is eighth, just in front of Hamilton, while Magnussen’s teamwork gives Hülkenberg the final point in tenth place.