Max a ‘bad sportsman’ for skipping podium celebration

Walking off the podium without joining Lewis Hamilton in the post-race celebrations, Max Verstappen says without proper champagne it “wasn’t fun”.

For the third race in succession, Verstappen finished runner-up to Hamilton, P2 at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

It was a testy one at that with the title rivals racing wheel-to-wheel, forcing each other off the track and even colliding.

Verstappen was given two time penalties for his part in all of that – a five-second penalty for gaining an advantage off the track and, after the race, another 10-second penalty for erratic driving.

That penalty related to his lap 37 collision with Hamilton, the Briton having accused the Dutchman of brake-testing him and calling him “f***ing crazy”.

The stewards agreed, stating “the sudden braking by the driver of Car 33 was determined by the stewards to be erratic, hence the predominant cause of the collision and hence the standard penalty of 10 seconds for this type of incident is imposed”.

The post-race penalty did not change the result, Verstappen holding on to P2.

Stepping up onto the podium to receive his trophy and a bottle of rose water – no champagne in Saudi Arabia – the 24-year-old quickly made his exit.

Speaking to Sky Sports, he said: “Because there was no champagne. It wasn’t fun.”

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton on the podium. Saudi Arabia December 2021

His actions, though, did not go down well with some fans or pundits.

BBC sports commentator Sulaiman Folarin said of it: “Max Verstappen just confirmed he is a bad sportsman.

“He walked off the stage without celebrating as customary. Where are his apologists?”

Max Verstappen walks off the podium and just underlines the sort of sportsman he is…” said The Sun’s Luke Gardener.

However, former driver Martin Brundle was a bit more sympathetic to Verstappen’s obvious disappointment.

“He walked off the back,” he told Sky F1. “He doesn’t want any part of that.

“He clearly feels very aggrieved he had to give the lead back — having offered the lead back, but there was contact.”

David Croft added: “Verstappen doesn’t want to celebrate on that podium tonight. If the gloves weren’t off before, they certainly are now.”

 

 

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Marko overruled again in Hamilton penalty bid

Helmut Marko appears to have been overruled for a second time in Saudi Arabia by Red Bull over trying to elicit a penalty for Lewis Hamilton.

On Saturday, the 78-year-old Red Bull consultant had claimed an appeal would be launched after Hamilton escaped without a grid penalty for two incidents during FP3 – cleared of ignoring yellow flags and given nothing more than a reprimand for blocking Nikita Mazepin. But no appeal happened.

After the race, in which Max Verstappen incurred three separate sanctions for incidents that also involved Hamilton, Marko again was seeking punishment for the seven-time World Champion, who won the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to draw level on points with his title rival.

The Austrian was unhappy that Hamilton had not kept within 10 car lengths of Verstappen on the lap to the grid for the first restart at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit and hinted on ServusTV that an appeal might be forthcoming.

However, race director Michael Masi stated there was no case to answer because that was not actually a formation lap, and so Red Bull are believed to have no plans to seek action against Hamilton.

Marko was also in typically feisty mood after the race regarding the collision in which Verstappen was hit from behind by Hamilton’s Mercedes while trying to surrender the lead to the Briton, a move designed to try and avert the five-second penalty that came his way.

“We hope there will be a re-assessment with the officials when we can back up our view with facts – and hopefully there will then be a punishment for the Hamilton side,” Marko is quoted as saying by Sport1.

Marko believed the evidence lay in Verstappen’s brake pressure during the incident on lap 37 of 50, with the stewards having found the Dutchman responsible of “erratic” driving.

They said Verstappen had “braked suddenly (69 bar) and significantly, resulting in 2.4g deceleration” as the “predominant cause of the collision”.

But Marko insisted: “We feel we have been treated unfairly. We are working to prove Max’s braking pressure did not increase when he crashed with Hamilton.

“Hamilton simply misjudged and drove into Max’s car. Unfortunately, that left two big cuts in our rear tyre. That’s why we couldn’t attack anymore.”

 

Red Bull are understood to have accepted all the stewards’ decisions from Saudi Arabia and will focus their attention on trying to provide Verstappen with a car in which he can finish ahead of Hamilton at the season’s finale in Abu Dhabi to secure a first Drivers’ title.

 

 

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Hamilton set fastest lap as wing damage went ‘up and up’

Lewis Hamilton gained the extra point for the fastest lap of the race in Jeddah despite wing damage costing him up to 0.4sec per lap.

That point could be crucial in the context of the World Championship fight as Hamilton drew level on points with title rival Max Verstappen after winning the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Parts of the wing were seen flying off Hamilton’s car as the final laps progressed, and Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said the loss of time each lap was only increasing as the car became less stable.

“It was going up and up,” Shovlin said about the wing damage, quoted by The Race. “So we started off with probably only a tenth or two after he got sandwiched and Esteban [Ocon] rode over it.

“We were quite lucky it just seemed to hit the road, lost a few bits but bounced back, no more damage.

“After [the contact with] Max we then lost the whole side of it, getting up to nearer four tenths of performance.”

Hamilton let out a sigh of relief when asked by Sky Sports F1 about setting the fastest lap, smiling as he said he “took a lot of risks to get that” extra point.

Shovlin said setting the fastest lap with a damaged car was simply down to Hamilton’s sheer will on the track, but added he may have thought differently about pushing so hard if he had been able to see the damage that had been done.

However, Shovlin added it had been a tough call by Mercedes to keep him out with the damaged wing as they felt it was “not guaranteed” to stay on his car – but they took the risk and it paid off for them.

“He’s very determined,” Shovlin said of Hamilton’s quickest lap.

 

“At the time, we were very much in two minds, we were seeing other people struggling with the tyres, we could see the wing was most definitely not guaranteed to stay on the car after the evening it had.

“It’s a difficult decision between doing something that might put Lewis level or do you play it safe? Ultimately Lewis took the decision, and his decision was probably aided by the fact he couldn’t see his front wing.

“If he was watching the TV like we were, he may have thought better of it.”

 

 

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Bottas grabbed P3 despite Mercedes tyre ‘mistake’

Valtteri Bottas felt his quest for a Saudi Arabian Grand Prix podium finish had been made harder by a Mercedes “mistake” during the first stoppage.

The Finn, who started second on the grid, had been into the pits for hard tyres under the Safety Car – like his team-mate Lewis Hamilton – just before the race was red-flagged following Mick Schumacher’s crash.

Bottas had to stick with those hard tyres for both restarts instead of Mercedes taking the opportunity for a free change and lost places to rivals on the medium compound, but he eventually worked his way through and snatched third place from Esteban Ocon by outdragging him on the final run to the line.

It meant the 32-year-old, on his 100th and penultimate race start for Mercedes, helped them build a 28-point lead over Red Bull going into the concluding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and is now secure in P3 in the Drivers’ standings behind title rivals Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

“It was not an easy day,” Bottas told reporters afterwards. “There were many obstacles and obviously with the red flags and everything made it a bit tricky – and with the first red flag, being on the hard tyre, that was a mistake I think. The first red flag really had us over.

“Some of the guys with the medium tyres got me, but then I got the mediums after and it was okay. I just kept pushing. It wasn’t easy to overtake but finally on the last straight I got third.”

The cars with which Bottas was battling were Ocon’s Alpine and Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren, the latter having collided with the Mercedes man at the recent Mexican Grand Prix.

“It makes a difference to be fourth or third,” said Bottas. “Obviously Esteban had a good race and they were actually surprisingly quick and it wasn’t easy to get him, but I got him just at the end. Just kept pushing and it was worth it not to give up.

“He actually was driving really well and also before that I was stuck behind Daniel for a long time, which made me consume my tyres quite a lot. Actually my front right tyre was pretty finished, so that made it even more tricky.

“Once I dropped to fifth at the first restart, I knew it would be all about being patient and eventually getting there, whatever would be possible. It was a bit closer than I thought, but made it.”

 

On his battle with Ricciardo, Bottas added: “We obviously didn’t collide this time, so that’s a bonus. It was good racing. It was a tough race, pretty intense, but I enjoyed it.”

 

 

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Masi denies ‘deal’ with Red Bull over Jeddah restart

Michael Masi says Max Verstappen’s grid ‘penalty’ for the second restart of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix resulted from an “offer” rather than a ‘deal’.

A predictably chaotic first race at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit featured three standing starts due to two red-flag stoppages – one caused by a Mick Schumacher crash and the second by a collision that ended the races of Nikita Mazepin, George Russell and Sergio Perez.

For the third and final occasion when the cars formed on the grid, Verstappen should have been at the front but instead lined up third following an incident where he had clashed with his World Championship rival Lewis Hamilton at the previous restart.

This ‘grid drop’ came about following separate conversations between Masi and the sporting directors of Red Bull and Mercedes, Jonathan Wheatley and Ron Meadows respectively, where they agreed to that course of action rather than Verstappen being given a penalty.

It was referred to during broadcast coverage as a “deal”, but in speaking about the episode later the FIA race director preferred to use different terminology – and insisted the seemingly unusual chain of events had been anything but irregular.

Michael Masi talking on phone at the Brazilian GP. Interlagos November 2021.

“I wouldn’t call it a deal,” Masi told the Formula 1 website. “From a race director’s perspective I have no authority to actually instruct the teams to do anything.

“In that situation I can give them an offer, the ability to do that, but the choice is theirs.

“The stewards are obviously empowered to impose penalties but I can give them my perspective. That’s why I offered them (Red Bull) the ability to give that position up.

“It was as a result of the red flag that came about with the incident at turn three. The priority in any red flag situation is to make sure the drivers are safe, then to activate the recovery and the marshals can clean the track and so forth, so it probably seemed a bit elongated compared to normal.

“However, it’s very much a normal discussion that takes place.”

 

The Australian insisted there had been precedents not only during this season but in past campaigns too, and that he acted as soon as he had seen the first of three incidents during the race for which Verstappen was penalised for skirmishes with Hamilton.

“Immediately when I saw it happen at turn two I suggested to the stewards I would give the team the ability to give that place back,” explained Masi.

“The red flag obviously ensued very quickly thereafter and that was absolutely the priority before we got going again. Being under a suspension, it was the ability to effectively correct that before we went racing again.

“Very much a normal discussion that happens on a number of occasions and has had all year and previously.”

 

Planet F1 verdict

 

 

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Herbert ‘sure’ one more twist is coming in Abu Dhabi

Johnny Herbert has praised the two “gladiators” fighting it out for the World Championship – and expects a final twist in the battle for the title.

Lewis Hamilton took victory in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, finishing ahead of Max Verstappen and moving level on points with the Red Bull driver heading into the final round in Abu Dhabi at the  weekend.

The two title challengers collided in Jeddah when Verstappen was instructed to let Hamilton past, but the Red Bull driver was later given a 10-second penalty for “erratic” driving as the Mercedes man went into the back of him heading to Turn 27.

Hamilton eventually came out on top in the race and set up a final-day showdown, and Herbert thinks it could be a dramatic finale of an “epic” year around Yas Marina.

“This one has just been epic the whole way through,” Herbert told Sky Sports News. “There have been twists and turns all the way through the season, and we are talking about going into the last race and we’ve already had a twist going into Abu Dhabi.

“I’m sure there will be another twist at a circuit a lot of the drivers know – they don’t know it fully because it’s slightly changed – but I still don’t know who will actually come out of it crossing that line for that chequered flag.

“Because it’s that tight, it’s brilliant. It’s these gladiators, Max and Lewis, that are really going at it.”

There have been worries voiced about a race-ending collision between the two title challengers, with several moments of contact throughout the year.

 

As Verstappen leads the Championship by virtue of having an extra race victory compared to his title rival, Herbert said it would only be the Dutchman who would stand to benefit from a crash at the weekend.

“I don’t want to see the championship decided by one of the drivers taking out the other, and that will only be Max because he’s got the advantage of those race wins,” said the Sky Sports pundit.

“I hope it doesn’t come down to that because I just want to see the skill of these guys being tested.”

Hamilton feels Verstappen’s driving has been “over the limit” of late and that he has had to take avoiding action on several occasions against the Red Bull driver.

 

 

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Report names 2022’s six sprint qualifying venues

A report has revealed which six circuits Formula 1 would like sprint qualifying sessions to take place at next season.

The new format, consisting of a traditional qualifying session on a Friday that determines the grid for a Saturday sprint ‘race’ which then sets the starting order for the main event on the Sunday, was introduced this season.

It was used on three occasions, at Silverstone, Monza and Sao Paulo, and while it was not universally popular among the drivers and fans, the sport was generally happy with how things went.

So much so that, long before the end of the current campaign, they began to state their intentions to double the number of sprints for 2022.

Valtteri Bottas leads at the start of Sao Paulo GP sprint qualifying. Interlagos November 2021.

“Many circuit promoters have told us they would like to see sprint qualifying as part of their offering in the future,” said Ross Brawn, F1’s motorsports managing director, in June, quoted by Corriere dello Sport.

“We have an internal group that measures all the different ratings and polls the fans, dividing them by categories.

“We can imagine a scenario in which perhaps there are six events in 2022 in which to try this format again, and from there it could expand further.

“Who knows what the ideal number would be? I think it’s something we will have to discuss once we have a clear idea of how it works and how successful it is.”

 

Exactly where they will take place has remained unclear, even with the confirmation of the 2022 calendar, but a report from Autosport has now revealed which venues F1 wants to play host to them.

If they get their way, the race weekends in Bahrain, Imola, Canada, Austria, the Netherlands and Brazil will all feature sprint qualifying sessions.

Should the Bahrain Grand Prix be used as a sprint qualifying weekend, it means the format will be used to open the 2022 campaign.

Brazil is the only venue on F1’s wish list that hosted a sprint in 2021, which would mean Bahrain, Imola, Canada, Austria and the Netherlands all staging sprint qualifying for the first time.

 

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Driver ratings from the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

We saw the good, the bad and the ugly from drivers at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, one of the craziest Formula 1 races ever.

Here’s how we rated every driver’s performance in Jeddah…

Lewis Hamilton: Hamilton headed to Saudi Arabia knowing a win would make him the favourite in the title fight, and despite obstacles of all shapes and sizes being thrown his way, he got it.

While Verstappen’s crash was the reason he got pole, his own lap in qualifying was still excellent as was his start on race day, with him comfortably staying in the lead. His good work was undone soon afterwards though with a Red Flag coming out soon after he pitted and lost track position to his title rival, allowing the Dutchman to put on fresh tyres.

The Mercedes man responded by making another very strong start which ultimately led to him getting ahead of the Red Bull man who was forced to start behind at the next restart due to corner-cutting in his efforts to stay in front. He then lost the place immediately though, but it didn’t look like it would matter when Verstappen was told to let him through after more aggressive defending.

Then, instead of going past, the seven-time World Champion hit the leader. He could have handled things better himself with his reluctance to give up the advantage of DRS partly why he ended up in the back of the Red Bull and not ahead of it, but Max so suddenly slowing was the main reason for the incident.

Hamilton quickly cleared his head and produced a masterclass as he found some serious pace and pulled away massively despite having a severely damaged front wing. It wasn’t a pretty or perfect race for him, but as is so often the case, he stepped up when he had to and did what he needed to do. 8

Max Verstappen: It was the best of drives. It was the worst of drives. Over the course of the penultimate race weekend, we saw Verstappen’s brilliance as well as his flaws.

On Saturday his final lap in Q3 was simply stunning, one of the best I’ve seen in a long time, up until he crashed at the final corner. If he hadn’t made that mistake, he would’ve taken pole and may have cruised off into the distance on race day. What actually happened couldn’t have been more different.

The Dutchman struggled with his first two standing starts on race day, failing to challenge the Mercs initially before having a poorer getaway than Hamilton at the restart, causing him to eventually be given a penalty for his efforts to stay ahead. The third of them was incredible though as he flew off the line and squeezed through the smallest of gaps to take the lead. Senna would be proud.

Sadly for Verstappen, that’s as good as things got for him. He earned his second penalty of the day with some more extremely aggressive defending, and the manner in which he slowed down to give his rival the position afterwards was dangerous and earned him his third.

The Dutchman is a driver that drives on the very limit which can be utterly glorious to watch at times, as it was at the second restart, but he ultimately went too far in Saudi Arabia. 5

Valtteri Bottas: With all that was going on between the two at the front, we barely saw or heard anything about the man who joined them on the podium, but he had a fair amount of drama himself.

After a decent qualifying performance, the Finn did his job perfectly at the start, staying ahead of Verstappen, but his restart was poor as he locked up and thus fell behind Ocon and Ricciardo, whom he then struggled to get back ahead of for a good while.

He ultimately cleared the McLaren and set off in pursuit of the Alpine, passing him in the final few metres of the final lap, but while P3 was a decent result, it could and maybe should have been P2 given Verstappen’s penalties if not for his mistake and struggles to overtake slower cars. 6

Esteban Ocon: Ocon was understandably gutted after the race given how close he came to another podium, but he should be delighted with how he drove nonetheless.

While it was a fair bit of luck that put him briefly into P1 and into contention for a top-three finish, he deserves a lot of credit for avoiding the chaos around him, making no mistakes and generally having very strong pace. Indeed, his qualifying performance, with him outclassing Alonso, showed that he was simply very good at that track.

The result all but secured P5 in the standings for his team and moved him to within five points of his team-mate. Only top drivers have been able to push the Spaniard so close in the same car, and the Frenchman is showing that he can be one. 10

Daniel Ricciardo: What at one point looked set to be another disappointing weekend for Ricciardo turned out to be a great one as he delivered one of his best drives of the season.

It was hard to see him doing so when he went out in Q2 in qualifying, but he quickly started to make amends in the race, gaining two places at the start before the Red Flag gave him a few more. He didn’t put a foot wrong after that, staying inside the top five until the end.

The Aussie had his fair share of luck and will maybe be a little disappointed that he couldn’t challenge Ocon more, but it was a great drive nonetheless. 9

Pierre Gasly: Gasly couldn’t close the gap between his team and Alpine in the standings or stop it from growing, but it’s fair to say he gave it his all and did the best that he could.

As always, he was excellent in qualifying, securing P6, and like in Qatar, he then dropped down the field at the start of the race. Unlike there though, he managed to stop the rot, taking full advantage of issues for those ahead to climb back to when he started and stay ahead of the Ferraris despite having a slower car.

The Frenchman displayed excellent one-lap pace on Saturday and showed real resilience and composure on Sunday. While he made a poor start, he showed that he’s fast becoming the complete driver. 8

Charles Leclerc: P7 is a bit of a disappointing result for Leclerc given strong the pace of his Ferrari throughout the weekend, although it wasn’t entirely his own that he finished there.

After taking P4 in a very impressive qualifying for him, he held onto the place at the start of the race, staying ahead of Perez, but like a few others he then lost a few positions due to pitting just before the first Red Flag was waved. To make matters worse, he then locked up and hit the Red Bull man at the restart, causing him to drop down more places.

It was a decent recovery effort after that with the Monegasque pulling off a few good overtakes to ultimately finish ahead of all but three midfield drivers. Things could have been better if he didn’t make contact with Perez, but they could’ve been much worse too if not for his driving. 8

Carlos Sainz: While he finished the race a place behind his team-mate, Sainz would have most likely left Saudi Arabia as the much happier of the two Ferrari drivers.

That’s because he started down in P15 after spinning and damaging his wing in qualifying. He didn’t stay there for long though as he made an excellent start and restart, thus finding himself well inside the points and ahead of his team-mate halfway through the race.

He continued to make good progress after that, overtaking Giovinazzi and catching Gasly. However, his tyres then started to wear, causing him to fall behind Leclerc.

Looking after his tyres more would have perhaps been a good idea, as would not crashing in qualifying, but it was a top drive nonetheless. 9

Antonio Giovinazzi: Speaking of top drives, Giovinazzi enjoyed one of the best race weekends of his Formula 1 career.

The Italian was perhaps the stand-out performer on Saturday, making it into Q3 ahead of three drivers who were in faster cars than him. He was just as good the next day too, running well inside the top-10 from start to finish to triple his points-tally for the season.

He did admittedly have a faster car than he has had for most of the year, but you can’t help but think that if he drove that way more, we may have been seeing him on the grid again in 2022. 9

Lando Norris: Norris had a lot of pace in Saudi Arabia, but even more bad luck, meaning that scoring more than a single point was all but impossible in the end.

Things were going well for the McLaren mane early on with him starting in P7 and then moving up to P6. At that point, he looked set to score big points, but the Red Flags had other ideas. He dropped all the way down to the back of the field as a result of them and could only climb back up to P10 in the remainder of the race which was a credible achievement in itself.

Sure, he could have perhaps taken P9 from Giovinazzi if he had found some more pace and been completely flawless, but his performance was still better than his result suggested. 8

Lance Stroll: Stroll found himself in the slowest car , relative to the rest of the field, he’s driven in a good while at Jeddah, but got everything out of it in the race to come close to scoring a point.

Even with a car that struggled at the track, qualifying was still poor for the Canadian with him going a tenth and a half slower than his team-mate and less than a tenth faster than the Haas of Schumacher. His race pace was better though and he got himself into the mix for a top-10 finish thanks to two excellent restarts.

He didn’t have the pace to stay ahead of Norris in the end, but can be fairly pleased with his performance nonetheless, although his qualifying wasn’t great and he gained a lot of places due to incidents for others rather than on merit. 7

Nicholas Latifi: We’ll be honest; we didn’t see Latifi once throughout the race and couldn’t tell you much about what he got up to without researching it, which says a lot about the pace he possessed.

He was decent in qualifying, going faster than both Astons but slower than his team-mate, and couldn’t make any waves in the race, spending most of it towards the bottom of the field and only finishing ahead of drivers that had issues.

The Canadian deserves some credit for qualy and simply making it to the end of the race without being involved in any incidents, though. That’s all there is to really say about that. 6

Fernando Alonso: Alonso went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows with his best race of the year, ending with him on the podium, being followed by one of his most difficult weekends.

The Spaniard simply didn’t have the pace in Saudi Arabia, being knocked out in Q1 and racing with the backmarkers while his team-mate spent the entire weekend well inside the top 10.

He did have some setup issues on Saturday and bad luck on Sunday, but he’ll be the first to admit he didn’t drive as well as he can either. 5

Yuki Tsunoda: Not for the first time this year, it looked like Tsunoda was really starting to find his feet early on in the weekend before things fall apart for him.

Starting in P8 after a good qualifying performance, he made a steady start to stay in the top 10 but then lost a lot of places due to pitting just before the Red Flag. That meant he’d have to pull off some overtakes to get back into the points, which didn’t go so well, with the AlphaTauri getting a penalty and losing more time and places after hitting Vettel.

He’s starting to show that he has good pace on his day and is definitely improving, but while luck wasn’t on his side, there’s still a long way to go in terms of his driving too. 5

Kimi Raikkonen: Just as he doesn’t have much to say in general, I don’t have much to say about Kimi’s weekend.

He was slower than his team-mate in qualifying, and couldn’t join him in the fight for points in the race, with his only real moment of note being when he hit Vettel.

Hopefully, his final round in Formula 1 will be a more worthy send-off for the Iceman. 6

Did not finish:

Sebastian Vettel: After going out in Q1 on Saturday, Vettel made a great start to the race and was well placed to fight for points, running in P8 ahead of the Ferraris, when he was hit by Tsunoda, ending his hopes of a top-10 finish. Things then went from bad to worse as Kimi got in on the Seb-bashing, ultimately causing him to retire.

Neither incident was his fault, and in terms of driving alone, his Sunday was pretty good. 7

Sergio Perez: It hadn’t been a good weekend for Checo before he retired after hitting Leclerc and the barrier, but he only completed a handful of laps – 10 – in racing conditions before that, which isn’t enough for a rating. N/A

Nikita Mazepin: The same can be said about Mazepin. It was an incident this time that was no fault of his own at least, and the main thing is that he’s okay. Seeing him fly into the back of a slowing Russell was a scary sight. N/A

George Russell: Nothing to rate here either, the Williams man was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. N/A

Mick Schumacher: Again, he didn’t last long enough for a rating, but will no doubt be annoyed with himself for crashing. N/A

 

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Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021: Time, TV and title permutations

A frantic and entertaining introduction to F1 in Saudi Arabia has set up a dramatic conclusion to 2021 in this year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton took victory in a gripping race in Jeddah last time out, with his win and fastest lap point combining to put him level on points with title rival Max Verstappen heading into the final race of the year.

Everything is at stake in both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ standings heading into the race, with Mercedes holding the advantage in the team standings and Verstappen topping the individual table by virtue of having an extra race win over Hamilton’s tally.

The stage is set, then, for the climax of what has been a Formula 1 season for the ages.

Here is everything you need to know ahead of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix…

When is the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?

Practice 1: Friday 10 December: 1330-1430 (0930-1030 GMT)
Practice 2: Friday 10 December: 1700-1800 (1300-1400 GMT)
Practice 3: Saturday 11 December: 1400-1500 (1000-1100 GMT)
Qualifying: Saturday 11 December: 1700 (1300 GMT)
Race: Sunday 12 December: 1700 (1300 GMT)

Where does the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix take place?

Sunset over Yas Marina Circuit. Abu Dhabi Grand Prix December 2020.

Significant alterations have been made to the layout of the Yas Marina Circuit this year in the hope of improving overtaking opportunities around the track.

Gone are the slow-speed chicanes in the first and second sectors, which means the corner count has been reduced from 21 corners to 16.

What was the left-right combination of Turns 5 and 6 will now be a straight line heading towards the hairpin, which means a heavier braking zone and a possible new overtaking spot on the circuit.

Likewise, at the end of the second long straight used to be a left-right-left chicane – but this has now been replaced by a long, wide, banked left-hander.

Also, the following sweeping right-handers (formerly Turns 12-15, now combined into Turns 10 and 11) have all been opened up before the braking point for the corners which take the drivers underneath the Yas Hotel in the closing part of the lap.

All of these factors combined will lead to significantly faster lap times around the track as a result.

Click here for our full track guide.

Where can I watch the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?

Every session, from the start of FP1 to the end of the race, can be found on pay-TV broadcaster Sky Sports in the UK. A live stream of their coverage can also be accessed via Now TV.

Highlights of qualifying and the race will also be shown on free-to-air broadcaster Channel 4.

You can watch all the action from Saudi Arabia live with F1 TV Pro. Please check to see if it is available in your country.

Subscribers to the official F1 app can access live data throughout the race weekend and listen to radio commentary there on race day.

PlanetF1 will carry live timing and expert commentary on every session, with coverage beginning 30 minutes before each practice and qualifying, and one hour before the race.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be shown live on TV on the following outlets in other key markets:

United States: ESPN
Canada: RDS (French), TSN (English)
Australia: Fox Sports
France: Canal+
Italy: Sky Sport F1
Germany: Sky Sport F1
Spain: DAZN
Netherlands: Ziggo Sport
Brazil: Band
Japan: DAZN
Africa: Super Sport

What are the odds for the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?

Here are Planet Sport Bet’s latest odds on the winner of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix:

Lewis Hamilton: 4/9
Max Verstappen: 2/1
Valtteri Bottas: 16/1
Sergio Perez: 28/1
Charles Leclerc: 66/1
Lando Norris: 66/1

(Odds correct as of December 6. Head to Planet Sport Bet for up-to-date prices and further markets).

How will the World Championship be decided at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?

As the two title contenders head into the final race of the season level on points, the equation is simple.

Whoever is ahead out of Verstappen and Hamilton in the race will be World Champion.

If neither driver finishes or both drivers finish outside the points, Verstappen will be World Champion for the first time, owing to the fact he has one more race victory than Hamilton over the course of the season.

What is the weather forecast for the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?

The conclusion of the season will take place in day/night conditions at Yas Marina Circuit, but no rain is expected over the course of the weekend with warm temperatures to boot.

Friday: 28°C, sunny spells during daytime and a dry evening, across all three days.
Saturday: 29°C peak temperature
Sunday: 29°C peak temperature

Directions to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Abu Dhabi International Airport is almost within touching distance of the circuit, with only a 15-minute drive to reach Yas Island from the airport.

Head all the way down Al Diyafa Street before eventually taking a right that will lead you to Yas Dr Street, which will take you over the bridge to Yas Island, and circuit parking will be signposted from there.

What are the latest F1 Championship standings?

Drivers’ Championship

Max Verstappen – 369.5 points
Lewis Hamilton – 369.5 points
Valtteri Bottas – 218 points
Sergio Perez – 190 points
Charles Leclerc – 158 points

Constructors’ Championship

Mercedes – 587.5 points
Red Bull – 559.5 points
Ferrari – 307.5 points
McLaren – 269 points
Alpine – 149 points
AlphaTauri – 120 points

 

Tyre choices for the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Pirelli have mirrored their choice of tyres from last year’s race and will bring their three softest compounds to the final race of the year, with the C3, C4 and C5 tyres acting as the hard, medium and soft respectively.

Pirelli F1 boss Mario Isola explained the change in circuit layout will see a difference in how the tyres are used, but they will still be able to use the softest compounds.

“This will be the first time we face the new configuration, including some areas with new asphalt, but we have been able to rely on simulations and other information in advance to prepare,” he said on Pirelli’s website.

“The result of these changes are bigger vertical loads, especially on the front tyres. But we don’t expect the overall severity for the tyres to change significantly, which is why we have nominated the softest tyres in the range.”

 

 

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Ricciardo relishing ‘dream scenario’ of title fight

Daniel Ricciardo is loving the “dream scenario” the title fight has arrived at ahead of the final race – and says it is a “gift” for Formula 1.

In a Saudi Arabian Grand Prix that saw Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen fight hard and collide, they ultimately finished it in P1 and P2 respectively with the Mercedes man taking an extra point for fastest lap.

As a result, the seven-time World Champion and the Dutchman head into the season’s finale level on points – and it is the first time title rivals have done that since 1974.

Ricciardo has always wanted to witness such a scenario and says it is a “dream” for the sport as a whole.

“That they go to Abu Dhabi with the same number of points is a gift to the sport,” the Australian said, quoted by nos.nl.

“I’ve been hoping for that for years, although of course I’d prefer to be in the fight myself.

“We will have a real final. The veteran who can break all records versus the youngest grand prix winner ever. That’s a magnificent story. A dream scenario.

“I call it a battle royale. The pressure couldn’t be higher. May the best man win.”

Ricciardo is enjoying the battle so much in fact that he tries to follow it on big screens during races – and was glad the red flags let him keep up with it last time out.

“Sometimes I try to follow the race from the cockpit on the big screens but it wasn’t easy in this one. This isn’t really a circuit to watch screens,” he said.

“But all the interruptions and incidents allowed me to follow how things were going between Lewis and Max.”

The McLaren driver is not the only former team-mate of Verstappen who is loving the title fight we are witnessing, with Pierre Gasly somewhat blown away by the situation.

“It’s unbelievably beautiful for the average neutral fan that this is happening,” said the Frenchman.

“Lewis and Max equal in points. Unbelievable. You are not making it up. I don’t know if we’ve seen it before in Formula 1 history. At least I can’t remember it.

“It’s a crazy scenario. I’m very curious how it will turn out.”

 

As for the Dutchman’s current team-mate, Sergio Perez, he says he will do all he can to help out the 24-year-old but has not given up hope of winning the Constructors’ Championship with the team either.

“My task in Abu Dhabi is clear,” he said. “I will support Max as much as possible in his duel with Lewis, but we are fighting on both fronts. We can also become world champions as a team.

“Everything is possible. It can fall either way.

“The interests are high and the pressure is enormous. It almost never happens that both titles are still at stake in the last race.”

 

 

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