Max Verstappen has won the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after an intense battle to the chequered flag with Charles Leclerc – who finished in second, .5s off the pace.
The pair were swapping the lead role for several laps, but the charging bull ultimately came off best this time out.
Joining them on the podium was the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, who was shadowed by Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull. He started from his first pole position and ended the race in fourth.
As Ferrari and Red Bull fast become the main rivals of the 2022 season, Max Verstappen told Sky Sports: “It was really tough but a good race. We were battling hard at the front and we just tried to play the long game.
“They were really quick through the corners and we were really quick on the straight. The tyres were wearing out quite quickly around here.
“You could see at the end, we had a little bit more pace. It wasn’t easy but eventually managed to get ahead.
“I’m really happy that we’ve finally kick-started the season.”
At lights out, Sergio Perez took off from his first Formula 1 pole position and remained ahead of the two Ferrari men in second and third on the grid – quickly stretching his lead to over .6s.
Before the end of Lap One, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen managed to overtake the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz for third at Turn Two of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
The front of the field was very much a battle between Ferrari and Red Bull heading into Lap 5, however, the leading Mercedes of George Russell managed to get ahead of the Alpine of Esteban Ocon for fifth – meanwhile, his teammate Lewis Hamilton’s nightmare weekend continued early on in this race, as he began to complain about tyre grip.
There was an in-house battle going on between the two Alpine men who continued to overtake each other on the straight – even running one another off the track at points.
Heading into Lap 10, Alonso remained ahead of Ocon after he was ordered to give P6 back to his teammate for gaining the position by running off track.
Meanwhile, the leading order remained the same with Red Bull’s Perez leading the pack, followed by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Verstappen in third, and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz in fourth.
Mercedes’ George Russell remained in fifth while his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, had made up five places in his W13 by Lap 14 and was in 11th.
Ferrari appeared to bluff the leading Red Bull into an early pit stop this evening as the men in red prepared for a tyre change but he ultimately stayed out as Red Bull entered the pits in a quick response.
The Safety Car was then summoned one lap later, after Nicholas Latifi crashed out for the second time this weekend in the Williams, an unlucky feat for Perez who lost two positions during his stop one lap prior.
He was now in third behind teammate Max Verstappen with a very coy Charles Leclerc in first – who was then on fresh tyres ahead of the restart.
Hamilton was in seventh when racing resumed but had not pitted for fresh tyres at this point as he started on the hard Pirelli – which would ultimately last for 41 laps.
On Lap 21 Leclerc remained ahead of Verstappen, with Sainz in third and Perez in fourth – after conceding his position for pushing Sainz wide on his exit from the pits.
On Lap 26, Leclerc appeared to touch the white pit lane line as he drove up the home straight – which you are not allowed to do unless you are going in to make a stop.
Verstappen – who witnessed the faux pas – came over the team radio to ensure it was pointed out to stewards as he was 1.6s behind Leclerc for first.
On Lap 27, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso’s race came to an end after a power failure. One lap later, there was a virtual safety car after Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren stopped on track.
Meanwhile, Bottas also retired from the race after entering the pits due to technical issues – a whole host of problems in a matter of moments this evening.
On Lap 41, Hamilton finally pitted for a fresh set of medium tyres. He now had nine laps to make his way up the field at the Jeddah Circuit.
Following the second restart, Max Verstappen had managed to close up on Leclerc. He made the overtake, however, the Monegasque driver retook the lead after cleverly holding back for a moment before making his move on the main straight.
After a lengthy battle of swapping the top spot, on Lap 47 Verstappen successfully overtook Leclerc on the same main straight.
The Dutchman held him off right to the chequered flag after a heated battle between the pair.
Carlos Sainz crossed the line in third, followed by Sergio Perez and George Russell in P4 and P5 respectively.
Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen are all currently under investigation for going over the speed limit while under the yellow flags in sector 1 at the end of the race.