Max Verstappen finished the first-ever Saudi Arabia GP in P2, just behind title rival Lewis Hamilton. Their tight point distance, reduced to zero by Hamilton after this race, translated into a hard and rough battle on track, as Verstappen even got a five seconds time penalty for gaining an advantage by going off track at Turn 1.
Where to start? We finished 2nd, after an eventful race and a lot of things happened that I don’t fully agree with. I went for it on track and gave it my all. Thanks to all fans, for supporting me and voting me Driver Of The Day! On to Abu Dhabi #KeepPushing 🇸🇦 #SaudiArabianGP pic.twitter.com/5kV8083ebd— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) December 5, 2021
After yesterday's crash in the final seconds of Q3, the Red Bull driver started in P3, but gained the lead of the race by staying out during the first safety car, taking advantage of FIA's later decision of issuing a red flag to pit, and kept it until he was informed of his penalty, as he said in the post race press conference:
“When they told me that I had the five-second penalty, it was not worth fighting anymore because I would never pull a gap of five seconds. So yes, a lot of action, a lot of things that happened," Verstappen explained, citing also tyre management troubles as a reason why he didn't try to cloe the gap to the Brit.
"I think ultimately, we didn’t really have perfect pace in the race, maybe also the medium tyres were not amazing to the end. I think the hard tyres [of Hamilton] had a bit more life in them I think, but as always, it’s easy to say afterwards."
The Dutch driver wasn't pleased with the stewards' decision, as he believes they both were at fault in that circumstance, citing also the Brazil collision as a reason he shouldn't have been penalised:
“At the end, that five-second penalty I don’t think is correct but at the end of the day, I don’t want to talk about it that much because they don’t deserve any words coming out of my mouth. I find it interesting that I am the one who gets a penalty when both of us ran out of the white lines."
“In Brazil it was fine but suddenly I get a penalty for it; you could see both of us didn’t make the corner. But it’s fine, I also don’t really spend too much time on it. We have to move forward," he concluded.
Another controversial racing episode happened between the two championship contenders, as, while Verstappen slowed a Turn 27 to return to Hamilton a position he had gained by going offtrack, the Mercedes driver, which hadn't been informed by his team, as per Toto Wolff's words, hit the back of the other driver's car.
The Dutchman recalled the moment, and added that the accident was probably caused by a misunderstanding:
“They told me to give the position back, and so immediately when I heard that on the radio I just pulled off to the right, showing that I was going to move over, and I braked, downshifted, and he just stayed behind me – so I was just looking in the mirror and I’m slowing down and I think there was a bit of a miscommunication and he ran into the back of me.”
Asked how it feels to head to the final round of the season at Yas Marina with the same amount of points as Hamilton, the championship leader said it's going to be an "exciting" moment for both him and the fans:
“We are equal on points now, and I think that’s really exciting of course for the whole championship and Formula 1 in general… Yes, it will be decided there, so hopefully we have a good weekend, so let’s see," Verstappen concluded.
After the race, he was summoned by the stewards for the aforementioned collision with Hamilton, and received an extra 10 seconds time penalty, which allows him to keep his P2.