2022 F1 Race 2: Jeddah Corniche Circuit
Lights out on the second race of the season.
With less than five days between FP1 at Jeddah and the Bahrain Grand Prix, the struggles for Mercedes were expected to continue. Both chassis balance and nervous suspension kept Lewis Hamilton from putting in his best whilst having to treat the free practice sessions as testing rather than a warm-up for racing. His teammate George Russel faired slightly better but the 2021 Constructors World Champions still were long off their expected pace. Ferrari continued to show their prowess in practice with faster laps coming to the drivers on every session but the Racing Bulls were keen to prove they would put up a formidable challenge having left with empty pockets at the Bahrain Grand Prix after both cars suffered engine issues. Sebastian Vettel was missing from FP1, the German driver still suffering from Covid-19. Nico Hulkenberg once again raced for Aston Martin, although the team are still suffering from a lack of pace along with Mclaren and Williams meaning challenging for points would be unlikely.
Into qualifying and a last-minute set-up change for Hamilton hoped to cure his confidence issues with the car that had plagued his practice sessions. Unfortunately for him, it would see him only 16th fastest, out of qualifying in the first session since 2017, a blow to the team. Latifi would red flag the first qualifying session, mystified as to a loss of grip at the rear sending him into the barriers. Tsunoda was unable to set a time and so would start the Grand Prix from the back of the grid on Sunday. Redbull and Ferrari jostled for purple sectors as Kevin Magnusson fought his way through Q2 and Q3 to put his Haas 10th on the grid. Mick Schumacher was taken to hospital after a high-speed impact during Q2, he was checked over and will be ready for the next race in Australia, but would miss out on the Saudi Arabian GP. Alpine had a strong showing with a 5th and 7th place qualifying run with Ocon beating his teammate Alonso. George Russel was sandwiched between the Alpine's in 6th with Valtteri Bottas taking 8th in the Alfa Romeo. At the front it appeared Leclerc would take pole until Sergio Pérez put in one of the best qualifying laps of his career to take top spot, Sainz snapping up 3rd on the grid and current World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen taking 4th.
Early action is a near guarantee in Jeddah with a burst of acceleration taking the cars into a tight left-right. Sergio Pérez was keen to hold position at the front and after a strong launch put his car into the first corner ahead of the pack. Verstappen and Sainz jostled for position as the rest of the pack remained close for the opening laps thanks to the new car aerodynamics appearing to aid racing through the faster sections. Alpine would steal the show for several laps as teammates Alonso and Ocon battled for position, a great duel that the team appeared content to allow to continue. Eventually, the two calmed down as Bottas began to creep up behind them and looked if he could take advantage of the ever position swapping pink Alpine's. A dummy pit stop from Ferrari would see Sergio Pérez pulled into the pits, a decision he would almost immediately regret as Latifi hit a barrier, causing a safety car and seeing cheap pitstops from all around him. Hamilton was one of the few cars not to pit. racing for position and starting the race with hard tyres the team hoped another opportunity would arise later in the race. It would but to the ire of Mercedes the pit lane would be closed before Hamilton could take advantage, a late call from the team meaning he missed the opportunity to dive in as Ricciardo suffered engine problems and rolled to a stop at the start of the pit entry. Shortly after Alonso would also find himself out of the race through no fault of his own, another engine issue, the two-time World Champion had given us some great entertainment but wouldn't see any points for his racing prowess. Verstappen would take the lead and get into an exciting battle with Charles Leclerc. The on-track battle at the front was one of skill, deception, and thrilling action. Leclerc appeared to pull the same trick as he had in Bahrain, realising he was better to bide him time to fight rather than attempt to defend his position. The DRS zone became crucial and at one point a very early braking manoeuvre would outsmart the Dutchman and give Leclerc the advantage onto the main straight. In the end, the RedBull driver was able to craft a pass and make it stick. Verstappen winning his race of the season and Ferrari once again seeing both of their drivers stand on the podium. Perez took fourth, less than he deserved but still a great result that gets him some points on the board. Russel took fifth, a brilliant result for the Mercedes team with their current issues, whilst Kevin Magnusson was able to bring Haas more points with a ninth-place finish. The team that spent the whole year at the back of the grid last season must be starting to feel that their 2022 car can really fight for position this year. Hamilton snuck into the points with a tenth place finish, and in the end, just 13 cars completed the Grand Prix with a mix of reliability issues and crashes, all the drivers and their teams will now get two weeks to regroup as we head to Australia, returning Melbourne back to the race calendar after two years and three missed races.