The First Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Was Absolute Carnage

Formula One / 17 Comments

We've seen circus animals conduct themselves better than much of what happened here.

The first-ever Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was a farce. We'd like to use the actual language we hollered at the TV at various times during the race, but we don't want all the sailors out there blushing.

Watching the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was like sitting on the bleachers at the local go-kart track, witnessing several drunk guys race each other during a bachelor's party. It was amateur hour. Thinking back, we'd instead have watched the bachelors' race than what we saw yesterday.

This recap is going to be scathing. Many people are to blame, including Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Toto Wolff, Christian Horner, the marshalls, the stewards, and the fanboys.

Every person above played a role in the worst Grand Prix we've seen in years, and if we had our say, we'd have given first, second and third place to Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Ocon, and Antonio Giovinazzi, the only three drivers who had a genuinely clean race.

Instead of giving you the highlights, we'll be highlighting a few people's unprofessional and downright dangerous conduct this weekend. And before the fanboys get their underwear in a twist, both Hamilton and Verstappen raced like spiteful noobs this weekend.

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Mercedes-AMG F1
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Lewis Hamilton

We'll get to Hamilton first because he won the race. Hamilton loves to point out that he's been racing for many years and is calmer under pressure and less prone to complaining.

On Saturday, he expressed his concern about how dangerous the track is. Pat on the back for standing up and saying something, Lewis.

But on Sunday, he was a different person. Sir Health & Safety made a 180-degree turn. Mick Schumacher planted his Haas into the wall at turn 23 on lap ten. The race was red-flagged, and rightfully so. Jeddah Corniche is a fast circuit with no run-off. Those barriers are the only thing between the racers and a watery grave. It was also an inaugural race, which meant the people in charge had no idea whether that portion of the track could sustain various incidents.

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Mercedes-AMG F1

F1's race director, Michael Masi, made the right call. Unfortunately, the red flag was in Red Bull's favour. They could swap Verstappen's aging tires without a pit later in the race, giving them a considerable advantage. That rule is debatable, but it was within the rules.

And that's when Hamilton started complaining. For somebody so concerned with safety the day before, how could he not grasp why the race was stopped?

Once the track was clear of debris and the crash barriers were repaired, Hamilton purposely held up the entire grid so Verstappen's tires would cool down, giving him the advantage off the line of the second standing start. He had every right to do that, but it affected everybody else on the grid. It was selfish, immature, and unbefitting conduct from a seven-time world champion.

We'll get to the rear-end shunt at the end because there's a lot to unpack.

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Mercedes-AMG F1

Max Verstappen

Verstappen cracked under pressure. Christian Horner may refuse to see it, but everyone who watched the race could see that Verstappen was driving dangerously. That stunt he pulled into the first corner following the restart was just not on.

What makes us even more disappointed is that he has the talent to beat Hamilton without playing dirty. The move he pulled around the same corner on the third restart was golden. While Ocon and Hamilton were grappling for position, he moved on both on the outside. It was a stunning overtake. But when he ran deep into a corner where Hamilton was going to overtake him, he had no hope of actually making the corner by braking that late. It was dirty.

Verstappen is getting a reputation. Other drivers fear him, as he's willing to risk it all to claim ownership of a corner. There is a way to pressure another driver without resorting to contact. Fernando Alonso is a master at it, for example. What we're seeing from Max is what we used to see in his rookie days, and it's not looking good.

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Red Bull Content Pool

Verstappen needs a stern talking to from his team boss. Yet Christian Horner is willing to defend every move Max makes, and it will be their downfall. The same is true at Mercedes.

Hamilton and Verstappen are tied at 369.5 points, but Verstappen still leads the championship. When drivers are tied, the lead goes to the person with the most victories during the season.

In our opinion, both drivers should have had 26 points deducted for being dangerous, snide, unprofessional, and setting a poor example to all the young racers out there.

Also, Max. Thousands of hopefuls want to get into F1 and stand on that podium. When you make it there, you celebrate. You leave all of the personal BS on the track and celebrate for five minutes.

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Red Bull Content Pool

Inconsistent Stewards

Hamilton escaped a yellow flag penalty during Free Practice 3 because the yellow light panel was accidentally activated. Does that sound familiar? Yep, because it happened in Qatar to Verstappen.

Verstappen failed to convince the stewards that he did not see the yellow flags and received a five-place grid penalty. In this case, the stewards let it go. It turns out it was a rogue light panel. How eerily similar to what happened in Qatar…

Hamilton also blocked Mazepin's qualifying and nearly caused a massive accident with Pierre Gasly. Both were basic rookie errors. It was blatant, yet Hamilton walked away with a stern talking to and Mercedes got a fine.

Vettel received a five-place grid penalty for impeding Alonso's hot lap earlier this year.

The stewards are constantly going on about how they don't want to impact the outcome of a race and that they're not in favor of any team. We also understand that in a title race this tense, they want to try and impact it as little as possible with politics. But it's time the stewards bucked up and took responsibility, and at the very least were consistent.

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The Fanboys

We've been accused of favoring both Hamilton and Verstappen. In truth, we're fans of good racing. We have no problem admitting that Hamilton owned the Brazilian Grand Prix, in the same way Max Verstappen was the better man in Mexico. There's no doubt that these two are the best drivers on the grid. Just look at how quickly they opened the gap between them and the rest of the pack.

Unfortunately, both sides have rabid, Tesla-like fanbois. One side calls Verstappen dangerous, while the other says Hamilton crashing into the back of Verstappen was dumb and completely avoidable.

This kind of banter is usually part of the game, but it takes a dark turn these days on social media. It inevitably turns nasty, racist, threatening, and just plain rude.

Being a fanboy is fine. But at least have the decency to admit when your man made a mistake. Mistakes are part of every F1 race. It's how other competitors get ahead.

In this case, nobody walked away from the race clean. Both top-tier drivers behaved like amateurs this weekend, and the grown-up move is to admit it and move on to the next race.

Mercedes-AMG F1
Mercedes-AMG F1

The Jeddah Corniche Circuit Is Dangerous

We'll admit that we were looking forward to the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. "The fastest street circuit in the world" sounded insanely cool. In reality, the track sucks. It was like watching a faster Monaco Grand Prix, but the speed only made it dangerous. When drivers were able to go out in isolation in practice and qualifying, it was great that they could exploit the speed. Valterri Bottas summed up his early laps as "F**k, this track is cool." But in race circumstances, it became dangerous.

Because this was the first Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, F1 flew in several marshalls from Bahrain. It was not enough to make a difference, however. A large portion of the race took place behind the safety car and the virtual safety car, all because the marshalls did a poor job of cleaning up, removing one piece of debris but leaving others.


There was so much contact, the track was littered with parts. In addition to that, parts would keep on falling off. Instead of cleaning it all up, one person would run into the track, pick up the biggest piece, and then run back.

Even the smallest, most insignificant bolt is a serious hazard at 200 mph. And the track was constantly littered with debris. Both Alonso and Vettel reported debris at various corners, which shouldn't happen. The fact that we didn't see a real high-speed collision or blow-out caused by the debris is a miracle.

Yes, it was the first race held in Saudi Arabia, but the race was an absolute shambles, and it should never have happened. The Qatar Grand Prix was also a first, and it was flawless.

Jeddah Corniche Circuit

That Rear-End Incident

The lack of communication between Mercedes and its driver was the biggest mistake of them all. We recently had a behind-the-scenes peek, specifically at this team, and we don't understand how Hamilton was kept in the dark during crucial parts of the race. Toto Wolff smashed his headset, which is highly uncharacteristic for the usually outspoken but reserved team manager. He's going to need to sell his Mercedes- AMG GT R to pay for that expensive headset.

Verstappen's post-race ten-second penalty is harsh. Soon after the race, the aerial footage emerged, and it's clear that Verstappen slowed down enough for Hamilton to pass. There was enough space at the left for him, and Verstappen did not slow down around a blind corner.

According to the FIA, Verstappen braked suddenly, resulting in -2.4G deceleration. An F1 car's maximum deceleration is around 4.5 G, so it's clear Max did brake, but he was trying to let Lewis pass so he could stay within DRS range. Even the commentators said they'd have done the same. Max was in the wrong, that much is true, but he wasn't the only one at fault.

Hamilton said he had no idea what was going on, as the team did not communicate with him. So he crashed into the rear of Verstappen. We're sorry, but that was an amateur move. He obviously did not want to pass Verstappen because he didn't want to enter the DRS zone first.

Hamilton's response to Verstappen slowing down was amateur at best. If he didn't know why Verstappen was slowing down, why did he not assume the car had problems and pass it? Why follow that close to a slowing car and not pull away sooner for the overtake?

Max's response to the shunt, which was to continue racing, was valid. Hamilton's shunt resulted from an unsuccessful attempt to overtake, so in his mind, the racing resumed.

Watch the incident from two angles below. First from Hamilton's point of view. Remember that he can only see the rear wing from his seat. Now, look at the incident from above. There is room to pass on both sides. The brake check excuse is a weak one.

A Comedy Of Errors We Hope To Never See Repeated

Saudi Arabia was action-packed, but not in the way anyone wanted. All the promise it held and the sentiment surrounding tributes to the late Sir Frank Williams got lost in what could best be described as absolute carnage. The track was dangerous, the driving more so, the egos and attitudes reached new peaks, and the governance of the race was not conducive to anything productive. A race that should've commemorated Williams will now be remembered as nothing more than the F1 equivalent of a demolition derby.

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was the culmination of many mistakes, and ultimately, the tensions between two teams who have been neck and neck this year boiling over. Max and Lewis now go into the final race of the year, Abu Dhabi, with the same amount of points. The winner will be decided there.

Let's hope that Verstappen and Hamilton both look back at this race and realize just how bad an example of sportsmanship they both were.

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