Max Verstappen’s chance for redemption: Saudi Arabia F1 GP talking points | F1

Verstappen’s takeover chance

It was a disappointing start to his title defense in Bahrain for Max Verstappen after he was forced to retire with three laps to go.

A suspected fuel pump issue was the reason for his early retirement which also affected his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, knocking the Mexican out of the Grand Prix on the final lap.

Until then, Verstappen had done his best to challenge the fastest Ferrari, passing Charles Leclerc three times before being passed again.

Although it wasn’t an ideal start to the season, Red Bull still started the season competitively and will be confident of a solid performance in Jeddah.

The RB18’s straight-line speed performance was impressive in Bahrain and with engine power being important in Saudi Arabia due to the long straights, Red Bull will take a chance.

Verstappen will also be aiming for redemption.

The Dutchman is hoping to get his season back on track as he is already 26 points ahead of Leclerc in the title chase.

It’s also been three months since the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and Verstappen’s jaw-dropping qualifying lap scene that unfortunately ended in the barriers of the final corner.

Without that error, Verstappen’s lap would have been one of the best in recent F1 history.

He will have a point to prove this weekend as he seeks to right the wrongs of the first race in Bahrain and last year’s spectacular first outing in Saudi Arabia.

A test of Ferrari’s title credentials

Ferrari returned to the top step of the F1 podium in Bahrain for the first time since 2019 with victory for Leclerc ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz.

It’s been a while for F1’s most successful constructor, enduring its worst season in over 40 years in 2020.

2021 was a positive step forward for Ferrari, finishing third in the constructors’ championship, but that Grand Prix win still hinted at that.

After a positive pre-season campaign, Ferrari’s pace seems to be genuine and they remain early favorites going into the opening phase of the season.

With the pace of development of this new generation of cars expected to be rapid, Ferrari will need to make the most of its current advantage as Red Bull improves its reliability, while Mercedes tries to get its own problems under control.

This weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is ​​an early test to see if Ferrari’s title credentials are genuine or if Bahrain was potentially unique given its edge over Red Bull and Mercedes.

Will Mercedes join the lead fight?

It was damage limitation for the reigning Constructors’ Championships as he walked away with a third and a fourth in the season opener.

Given his lackluster pace in practice and practice on Friday, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff was understandably happy with the big points picked up in Bahrain, but in terms of pure pace he was missing at least a half- second to Ferrari and Red Bull.

Porpoising has dominated F1 media headlines since pre-season testing began in February and is seen as the main cause of the W13’s lack of competitiveness.

Even with an entirely different track layout and smoother track surface, Hamilton doubts Mercedes is in a better position to challenge for victory this weekend.

“No, I don’t think so,” Hamilton said when asked if Mercedes will be better this weekend. “But of course we learned a lot from this week. Their [Ferrari] straight line speed as well as the Bulls were very quick on the straight and their cornering performance is quite different from us.

“So the car was very difficult to drive but it could always be worse. So hopefully for the next race we manage to find some improvements, but that’s a fundamental problem that will take a little longer I think. , to be resolved.

Mercedes will undoubtedly turn things around, but it’s probably too early to expect Hamilton or George Russell to win on pure performance.

More joy for Haas?

Haas had its best weekend since 2018 as Kevin Magnussen finished a remarkable fifth in Bahrain.

The American team’s decision to cancel last year in a bid to focus on the new generation of F1 cars proved to be a masterstroke as they were leading the pack in midfield.

Haas benefited from Ferrari’s significant power unit upgrade, so it was no surprise to see Alfa Romeo also up there in the hands of Valtteri Bottas.

Haas and Alfa Romeo were the best of the rest behind the top three teams, and they hope to continue that trend in Jeddah.

Behind them, Alpine and AlphaTauri will be hoping to find a few tenths to edge them out of the aforementioned Ferrari teams, while McLaren and Aston Martin will need a miracle based on their disappointing performances on Sunday.

Potential for chaos under the lights

With F1 regulations for the year making cars even heavier and reducing visibility with the introduction of wider tyres, we could have another chaotic Saudi Arabian GP this weekend.

The inaugural race in Jeddah was memorable with two red flag stops and an action packed duel between the two title contenders.

Ahead of the season, many drivers have already expressed concerns about visibility on street circuits with the new rules set for another test this weekend.

Verstappen commented: “Also with the tires they are a bit bigger, so the visibility is a bit different. I think on a track like [Barcelona] that’s less of a problem. When you go to street circuits, it’s going to be a bit more difficult.

Fernando Alonso also believes that it will be “a new challenge for everyone”.

“On some street circuits it’s maybe a challenge because we don’t have the same view from the cockpit, and the front tires are bigger and you have this stuff on them. We’ll see. I think it’s is a new challenge for everyone.

F1 could be set for another dramatic run in the spotlight.

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