A dramatic first race in Jeddah leaves the drivers’ title neck-and-neck heading into the final round while Red Bull Racing is still fighting in the constructors’ battle.
After a strong qualifying for all four Honda-powered cars, hopes were high for the race and Max maintained his third position at the start with Sergio also staying fifth off the line. However, both AlphaTauri drivers lost ground, with Pierre slipping from sixth to eighth, and Yuki being demoted to 12th after light contact with Esteban Ocon.
A Safety Car on lap 10 opened the opportunity to make a pit stop, with Red Bull calling Sergio in but leaving Max out to take the lead from the two Mercedes drivers. It proved to be a sublime piece of forward-thinking as the race was soon red-flagged to allow barrier repairs, meaning Max could change his tyres for a new set of hards and retain the lead for a standing restart.
The restart saw Max lining up on pole with Pierre in seventh, Sergio eighth and Yuki 11th, with all four on the hard compound and able to run to the end.
Unfortunately, while Max fought to retain the lead off the line, Sergio was caught in the middle of Charles Leclerc on his left and Pierre on his right through Turn 3, with contact with the Ferrari pitching him into the barrier and taking him out of the race.
That crash caused another red flag, and the stewards informed Max he had to drop two places as a result of cutting Turn 2 on the original start, meaning he would line-up in third place for the next restart on lap 17. Pierre was sixth as the race restarted for a third time and still on hard tyres, with Yuki 12th and on the same mediums as Max.
Max used those tyres to great effect to take the lead into Turn 1 on the restart, while Pierre retained sixth and Yuki made an impressive restart to climb into ninth place. Unfortunately that’s as good as Yuki’s race would get as he was caught in an incident with Sebastian Vettel, damaging his front wing and earning a five-second time penalty that would limit him to 14th at the finish.
As the race continued, Max was embroiled in a thrilling fight with Lewis Hamilton, trying to keep his title rival at bay as the pair went wheel-to-wheel. On one occasion, both drivers went wide at Turn 1 while battling for position but Max was ordered to give up the lead, having been deemed to have left the track and gained an advantage.
In trying to give up the position, Max was then hit from behind by Hamilton, and was then harshly given a five-second time penalty for the original incident, despite later allowing the Mercedes to pass him.
Once second on the road on old medium tyres, Max safely brought the car home in second place for a result that leaves him tied with Hamilton heading into the final round of the season in Abu Dhabi next week.
Away from the chaos, Pierre drove a strong race and showed good pace throughout, closing down Daniel Ricciardo in the closing stages but having to settle for sixth place and another eight points that moves him beyond the 100-point mark for the first time in his career.
Both championships are still in play heading to the Yas Marina Circuit, with Max ahead due to the number of races he has won this season, and Red Bull needing to overturn a 28-point deficit to become constructors’ champions.