Lewis Hamilton wins the first-ever Saudi Arabia GP from pole, closing up the gap to title rival Max Verstappen. It's the third win in a row for the seven times world champion, who converted his fifth seasonal pole, the second consecutive.
The British driver lost temporarily the lead of the race to Verstappen because of Mick Schumacher's crash, as he had stopped immediately when the first yellow flags were issued, while the Dutchman got lucky as the red flags came out a few laps later.
The championship leaders fought extemely hard to gain precious points, a fight that led to multiple controversial episodes of hard racing. At Lap 37, Verstappen went off track, gaining an advantage on Hamilton, with the former that later slowed to return the position. But there was a misunderstanding between the two as Hamilton ended up hitting the rear of his car, and Verstappen was later given a 5 seconds time penalty,
Later on in Lap 42, Verstappen went again off track, allowed Hamilton to recover the position only to overtake him at the next turn, and the Brit later edged Verstappen off track as he returned to his starting position.
OH I REMEMBER, WHAT A NIGHT! 💜😍 pic.twitter.com/uHsN8ROuuS— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) December 5, 2021
Hamilton wasn't pleased with his rival's driver style, as he said to Sky Sports UK that he was unnecessarily aggressive on track, forcing him to back off in order to stay in the race:
“I've raced a lot of drivers through my life in the 28 years. I've come across a lot of different characters and there's a few at the top which are over the limit."
"Rules kind of don't apply, or they don't think of the rules. [Max] is over the limit for sure."
“I've avoided collisions on so many occasions with the guy, and I don’t always mind being the one that does that, because you live to fight another day, which I obviously did."
To better explain his point of view, he recalled the dynamics of the first accident the Dutchman got penalised for:
“Then he obviously brake-tested [me], I think to try and get the DRS into the last corner to overtake me again back into Turn 1, so there was a commotion. I thought that I'd lost my wing.”
The British driver was confused at first by the way Verstappen had chosen to return him his position:
“I didn't get the information, so I didn't really understand what was going on. It was very, very confusing. All of a sudden, he started backing up and then kind of moving a little bit…
"I was like, is he kind of like trying to play some crazy tactic? I don't know. Then all of a sudden the message started coming through. He hit the brakes so hard, and I nearly went completely up the back of him and took us both out."
"For him, it doesn't matter if we don’t both finish. For me, we both need to finish," he summed up.
Hamilton finds Vesrtappen's choice of action not only beneficial to the Dutchman only as he slowed at the turn where he could have easily recovered the lead of the race shortly after, but also "dangerous":
“It was apparent that he was trying to let me past, which was what he had been asked to do, but before the DRS zone, and so then it would have meant he would have just DRS'd back past me in the last corner – followed me and then DRS'd me in to Turn 1."
"So that was the tactic. But the worse part was just the steep heavy braking that happened at one point, which is when we collided. That was the dangerous part.”
Winning. The right way. 💜👊 We keep pushing, we don’t give up. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/TI9KvWZTu6— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) December 5, 2021
Hamilton admitted it was "tough" for him to keep his racing clean while fighting with Verstappen:
“I’ve been racing a long time but that was incredibly tough. I tried to be as sensible and as tough as I could be out there. With all my race experience over the years, just keeping the car on track and staying clean, it was difficult."
“But we persevered as a team, we’ve had all sorts of things thrown at us, particularly in this second half of the season," he concluded.
However, regardless of all the racing drama that has happened in the past hours, the Mercedes driver is ready to fight for what could be a record-breaking eighth title next weekend at Yas Marina:
“I'm personally chilled. I feel like I'm in the boxing ring and I'm ready to go.”
Hamilton was called up by the stewards to give his opinion on the racing accidents with Verstappen, which led to an extra ten-second time penalty for "erratic racing" to the Red Bull driver.