Lewis Hamilton wins controversial first-ever Arabian Grand Prix after a major clash with Max Verstappen. The Red Bull driver had to let the Brit overtake him to avoid penalty.
Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas had locked the first grid row on Saturday during quali. The race director Michael Masi red-flagged the race twice, first after Mick Schumacher spun and hit the barriers in Turn 23 in lap 10.
Hamilton started first, but Verstappen managed to overtake him in the first chicane, while the Mercedes driver dropped to the third position, behind Esteban Ocon from Alpine.
The second red flag came after a collision between Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc, plus Nikita Mazepin and George Russell. It was Ocon to take the first spot at the restart this time, with Max Verstappen making his move down the inside of the opening chicane to get in the lead. Meanwhile, Hamilton had to fight for his right at the second spot with Ocon.
Chaos continued at the Arabian Grand Prix with three Virtual Safety Car periods from Lap 28 to Lap 36. Hamilton attempted to overtake Verstappen on Lap 36, on the main straight. Red Bull’s driver braked late and ran wide at Turn 2, keeping his lead. From the pits, he received the request to give P1 to Hamilton to avoid penalty. He slowed down but seemed to remain in the middle of the track. Hamilton was caught off guard, had no idea which side to turn and clipped the rear end of the Red Bull racing car. His front wing suffered serious damage. Damage that affected the balance of the car, but he had to take the risk, as entering the pits would give him no chance to win.
First-ever Arabian Grand Prix ends in controversy
The Mercedes driver eventually went past Max on Lap 42, but the Dutch pushed him wide again and held on to his lead. It was this time the stewards decided to interfere and gave him a five-second time penalty. Verstappen was hoping to take that precious one point for the Fastest Lap. But the team told him to remain on the track. With only 20 seconds ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and with an estimated time loss of 22 seconds, he would’ve given up his second position.
Valtteri Bottas had an exciting last lap. He had his own battle with Ocon, as the two kept changing positions. But it was the Finn that managed to get ahead and finish third.
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen will go to Abu Dhabi, for the last race of the season with equal points, 369.5. The grand finale will take place next week. In the Constructors Championship, Mercedes has 587.5, while Red Bull has to settle for 559.5.