Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021 Preview

F1 Formula One
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Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021 Preview

Here we take a look at this weekend’s Saudi Arabia GP with the World Driver’s Championship firmly in the balance, as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen leads Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton by eight points with two races remaining following back to back wins for the Brit at Brazil and Qatar, giving him a significant opportunity to become the first driver in the sport’s history to get eight World Driver’s Championships.

Last time out in Qatar, Hamilton lead from the start and never looked back, leading until the end of the race, whilst Verstappen recovered from a five-place grid penalty for speeding under double yellow flags as the Dutchman recovered from seventh to second-place, whilst Alpine’s Fernando Alonso completed the podium, which was the Spaniard’s first since 2014.

Sergio Perez missed out on the podium as the Mexican hunted down Alonso in the latter stages having done one extra pit stop than the Spaniard, but, a late virtual safety car fell into the two-time world champion’s favour. Red Bull now trail Mercedes by just five points in the Constructor’s Championship following Valtteri Bottas’ failure to finish the GP last time out.

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Qualifying Preview

Qualifying for the Saudi Arabian GP should be fascinating due to this being the first time that the sport has raced here, meaning that there are no historical results to look at.

The Jeddah street circuit is one that will push each driver firmly to their limit, as in sector one the track weaves in and out with plenty of tight and fast speed corners which perhaps favour Red Bull, before then becoming much more of a power-based track in sectors two and three which will likely tip the balance into Mercedes’ favour.

Hamilton’s last two victories have taken his title charge to within eight points from Verstappen and the Brit’s car looks as good as ever, holding huge straight-line speed advantages over the Red Bull as we saw in Brazil and Qatar. If the Brit is to take the Championship to the wire, then he will likely have to win this race due to the dominance that these two drivers have shown, as they finished far ahead of all of their competitors last time out.

With this track looking more power-based on paper, this could be another pole position for Hamilton, as he looks to step up his bid to overtake Michael Schumacher to become F1’s first-ever eight-time world champion.

Prediction: Pole Position: Hamilton. 2nd. Verstappen. 3rd. Bottas


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Race Preview: Red Bull vs Mercedes

As mentioned above, if this track is what it looks like on paper, then this could be a tricky one for Verstappen to navigate, as the Dutchman realistically knows that a win and a second-place finish in the final two races would be enough for him to win the World Driver’s Championship for the first time in his career.

Unless Red Bull pulls out a rabbit from the hat, then this could be another Hamilton victory that would make it a showdown in Abu Dhabi between the pair to fight out the 2021 World Driver’s Championship at a circuit which also favours Mercedes.

Meanwhile, for the Constructor’s Championship, the battle of Bottas versus Perez could be key, as mentioned above, the next two tracks favour Mercedes and with the Finnish drivers leaving at the end of the current season to Alfa Romeo, he will be desperate to have some good showings in his last couple of GP’s.

At this stage, it is hard to foresee a teammate of each of the driver’s outdoing the two championship protagonists, but if there is one that is more likely than the other, then you would have to go for Bottas, as he has proven his capabilities down the years for Mercedes.

Prediction: 1. Hamilton. 2nd. Verstappen. 3rd. Bottas

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Other Drivers to Look Out For

The race for third place in the Constructor’s Championship looks to be more or less a foregone conclusion as Ferrari now lead McLaren by 39.5 points due to some poor showings by the British Constructor in their last few races, as they have scored just four points in their last three races, whilst the Italian’s have managed 47 points.

Lando Norris has scored all of McLaren’s four points in their last three races and is hanging on to fifth-place in the championship by the skin of his teeth, as he has 153 points following a ninth-place finish in Qatar, seeing him now lead Monegasque driver Charles LeClerc by just one point following the former Alfa Romeo drivers scoring 24 points in the last three races.

Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz is also closing in on the Brit, as his former teammate at McLaren has had 145.5 points to his name and finished seventh in Qatar.

Ricciardo has failed to score points in four of his last five races, with the anomaly in the sequence being at the Circuit of Americas where he managed a fifth-place finish. The Australian will be desperate to improve on recent showings, although it may be too little too late for McLaren’s third-place hopes.

Pierre Gasly has possibly been the driver of the season, alongside the likes of Norris, as the 25-year-old has scored 92 points for Alphatauri, including four top-five finishes and will be looking to bounce back from 11th place in Qatar.

Finally on this list is the ever-impressive Alonso, whose podium at Qatar meant that he lines up next to Michael Schumacher and Nigel Mansell in becoming the third-ever driver in the sport to earn a podium past the age of 40. The Alpine driver managed to conserve his tyres in Qatar on a one-stop strategy and pulled off an unlikely third-place finish which as mentioned above, was the first time the 2005 and 2006 world champion had managed this since 2014 when he was driving at Ferrari, doing so in Hungary.

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