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Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2024: Max Verstappen wins as Oliver Bearman finishes seventh

Max Verstappen of Red Bull won the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix with ease, while Oliver Bearman, a British driver, made his debut by finishing seventh for Ferrari.

 

Max Verstappen won for the second time in two races in 2024 and for the ninth time in a row, starting in September.

Leading Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez to a one-two, it maintained Verstappen’s dominance over the Formula 1 competition, which he has had for almost two years.

As Carlos Sainz recovered from his appendectomy, Bearman filled in for him and at the age of eighteen, he became the youngest British driver in Formula One history—and the third youngest overall.

He exhibited poised driving to stave off a possible threat from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and McLaren’s Lando Norris as they rallied following late pit stops for fresh tyres on inverted strategies.

Norris and Hamilton had stayed out during an early safety car, deployed after Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll crashed on lap six.

They stopped with 13 and 14 laps to go, Hamilton a lap before Norris, and fitted soft tyres, in the hope they could use their extra grip to close in on those ahead.

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But after initially taking chunks out of Bearman’s advantage, their tyres began to fade, and Norris and Hamilton were left fighting among themselves for eighth place rather than challenging the teenager.

Bearman started 11th after being drafted in before final practice and was 12th after the safety car.

He passed Zhou Gunayu’s Sauber and then Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas and then benefited from the strategies of Hamilton and Norris on an accomplished debut that confirmed him as a potential star of the future.

“He completely deserves it,” Leclerc said. “He has done an incredible job. In P3 he was straight on the pace, in qualifying he did an incredible job and missed Q3 only by a little.

“To finish seventh in your first race in F1 in a new car is incredibly impressive. Everyone has noticed how talented he is, and it is just a matter of time before he is in F1.”

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Hamilton pressured Norris hard, and the younger Briton was warned for weaving on the straight in defence, but the McLaren managed to hang on in front.

McLaren’s and Mercedes’ decision not to stop under the safety car put Norris into the lead – he had been running sixth in the early laps, behind Max Verstappen, Perez, Leclerc, McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

Max Verstappen rejoined after his stop under the safety car in second place behind the McLaren, but passed the Briton just three laps after the restart and was untroubled thereafter.

After two races, Max Verstappen already has a 15-point championship lead over Perez and looks well on target for a fourth consecutive drivers’ title. At this rate, he is looking as if he could even break all the win records he set last year.

Perez was no match for his team-mate’s pace but was more than fast enough to pull a big enough gap for a five-second penalty imposed for an unsafe release from the pits to have no effect on his second place.

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Leclerc finished 11.4secs behind Perez, underlining Ferrari’s position as the leaders of the chasing pack, but a dispiriting margin for anyone hoping for a challenge to Red Bull in these early stages of the 2024 season.

Piastri spent many laps stuck behind Hamilton after the safety car reshuffle, but once the Mercedes pitted out of the way, the Australian consolidated fourth place.

He finished ahead of Alonso and Russell after a soporific race that provided little encouragement for those hoping for an exciting season, the longest in F1 history.

Source: BBC Sports

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