Invincible Max Verstappen Makes It 9 in a Row

Jackson Wheeler
12 Min Read


Max Verstappen spearheaded another dominant Red Bull Racing 1-2 in Saudi Arabia as Ferrari debutant Ollie Bearman starred, while plucky Haas picked up a rare point.

Verstappen Continues Winning Ways

Max Verstappen continued his winning run with a comfortable triumph at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit on Saturday, ahead of Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez. It was the 56th victory of Verstappen’s career, and ninth in a row, as he hones in on the record of consecutive wins—10—that he only set himself in 2023.

“Overall, it was, of course, a fantastic weekend for the whole team,” said Verstappen. “For my side I felt really good with the car and it was basically the same in the race. Of course the last stint was a bit longer than we would have liked, but with the Safety Car you had to go for it, in the last few laps, also with those backmarkers, on cold tires, it was a little bit slippery, but we had good pace all around, we could manage it quite well with the gap also. So, overall, very, very pleased.”

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Team principal Christian Horner, left, and Max Verstappen celebrate Saturday’s win.

Off-track, Red Bull Racing continues to play roll forward in the shadow of controversy that has threatened to tear apart the leadership structure. While team principal Christian Horner has been cleared of inappropriate behavior following an internal investigation and team advisor Helmut Marko is believed to be facing a possible suspension of his own, some within the team are wondering if the distractions could break up the band that continues to play a winning tune.

Post-race, Horner was keen to play down the situation.

“There’s no tension, there’s no stress, you can see how relaxed he [Verstappen] is around the garage with everybody in the team and that’s translating to his performance on track as well,” said Horner. “So we don’t see any issues with Max.”

Horner nonetheless emphasized that “no individual is bigger than the team” before adding “Max is part of the team. Helmut [Marko] is part of the team. I lead this team and everybody has a key role to play in it. And you know, that’s it.”

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Weekend replacement Oliver Bearman scored points in his first career F1 race.

Rookie Super Sub Bearman Shines

Oliver Bearman spent last weekend toward the rear of the Formula 2 grid as his Prema Racing team struggled in Bahrain. Bearman and Prema remedied the situation in Jeddah as the 18-year-old Briton scorched to pole position for Formula 2’s Feature Race.

Only 18 hours later he was instead navigating Ferrari’s SF-24 through Jeddah’s streets around 10 seconds faster than his Formula 2 pole time, as the third-youngest Formula 1 driver in history, having been drafted in to replace Carlos Sainz, benched by appendicitis.

Bearman has been in line for a while to join the Formula 1 grid, having slotted into Ferrari’s Driver Academy in 2022. He narrowly missed out on that year’s Formula 3 title, and last year was sixth with four wins in Formula 2.

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Oliver Bearman raced like a veteran during his F1 debut race in Saudi Arabia.

Believed to be a candidate for a future ride with Haas, Bearman impressed not just with his speed but with his composure and maturity during a handful of practice runs.

In Jeddah, Bearman started a day behind his new Formula 1 rivals, had to get accustomed to a car he had never driven, and at an especially demanding circuit where confidence is required. Bearman made a couple of small mistakes and qualified an extremely credible 11th, missing Q3 by just 0.036 second.

Rivals were effusive in praise, with Lewis Hamilton labelling him “really impressive” and Fernando Alonso believing the youngster did “fantastically well.” Alonso, by the way, finished second at the 2005 Spanish Grand Prix, on the day Bearman was born.

In the race, Bearman started on Soft tyres, stayed out of trouble through the first stint, and kept a cool head to bag seventh place. The strategy worked in his favor—allowing him to jump Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton, who both opted not to pit during a Safety Car phase—but it was a very impressive debut.

“Everybody has noticed how talented he is and I guess it’s just a matter of time before he comes here in Formula 1,” said team-mate Charles Leclerc, who classified third.

Ferrari has made it clear that, assuming Sainz, who was gingerly back in the paddock for the race. is cleared for Melbourne, Bearman’s focus will be fully on his Formula 2 program.

“I don’t know what else I can do, because I don’t think I’ll be in F1 for the rest of the year,” said Bearman. “So that was my goal, to do a great showing this weekend. I think I did a decent job, so that’s alright. And yeah, that’s all I can do, to push in F2 and cross my fingers, that’s it.”

Bearman has fully underlined his credential as a candidate for a seat in 2025—not, obviously, at Ferrari, but certainly elsewhere on the grid.

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Nico Hulkenberg scored the first point of the season for Haas.

Tactical Haas Bags an Unexpected Point

Haas, pilloried in some quarters, is sixth in the Constructors’ Championship after two events.

A solitary point is not necessarily a huge accolade but with the sport’s 10 teams having almost divided into the top five and the bottom five, the lower half of the grid in which Haas finds itself is going to have to be opportunistic in 2024. That’s exactly what Haas was in Jeddah.

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Nico Hulkenberg, who scored 9 points last year, has one for Haas in 2024.

Lance Stroll’s early crash prompted the majority of the field to make their mandatory pit stop behind the Safety Car, but Haas kept Nico Hulkenberg out, and pitted Kevin Magnussen, with Hulkenberg slotting into 10th place, and Magnussen 12th.

Zhou Guanyu, in 11th, was also on Hulkenberg’s strategy—effectively making him a non-entity in the points finish—and Haas got Magnussen to play tactically.

Magnussen was dealt two 10-second time penalties, one for a collision and one for leaving the track and gaining an advantage, so knew his race was run. Magnussen put up a defensive effort in front of a train of cars—a train containing most of the lower half of the grid—to such an extent that Hulkenberg, in free air, was able to build a sizeable gap over the sister Haas.

The net result was that when Hulkenberg eventually pitted he resumed in 10th place, in front of the Magnussen-led train, and collected the final point.

Haas may only have one point, but that’s one point more than RB, Sauber, Alpine and Williams.

“Today was an amazing team effort and I’m so happy that it was from the great teamwork,” said Haas team principal Ayao Komatsu. “We were fighting for P10— one point—but against eight other drivers, so everything had to be perfect to take the opportunity. Today, Kevin got some penalties, but once we realized he was out of points contention, we made a great call and Kev drove fantastically to hold those guys back while setting a target lap time, and Nico drove faultlessly.”

Pain Continues at Alpine

You can’t spell Alpine without p-a-i-n, and if Bahrain was an indicator of a long season ahead, Saudi Arabia solidified such fears.

Alpine was three-tenths off next-slowest team Sauber during qualifying and Esteban Ocon mustered only 13th place in the race.

Ocon described Alpine’s pace as “a little bit better” than Bahrain but conceded that the A524 “didn’t feel nice to drive, there were a lot of issues here and there through the lap—in Bahrain there were issues but to drive the car didn’t feel as much of an issue.”

“We are just not quick enough to score points and that’s where we are at this moment in time,” said Ocon.

Pierre Gasly had a totally forgettable weekend as he suffered a gearbox issue on the formation lap, lost sixth gear, and then lost gear sync, meaning he had to retire the car. It is the only race-ending reliability issue suffered by the paddock across the opening two events, an impressive feat in itself, but leaves Alpine without an entire race’s worth of data on Gasly’s side of the garage.


F1 Saudi Arabia Grand Prix

Results

  1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 50 laps
  2. Sergio Perez, Red Bull, +13.643 seconds
  3. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, +18.639
  4. Oscar Piastri, McLaren, +32.007
  5. Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, +35.759
  6. George Russell, Mercedes, +39.936
  7. Oliver Bearman, Ferrari, +42.679
  8. Lando Norris, McLaren, +45.708
  9. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +47.391
  10. Nico Hulkenberg, Haas, +1:16.996
  11. Alexander Albon, Williams, +1:28.354
  12. Kevin Magnussen, Haas, +1:35.737
  13. Esteban Ocon, Alpine, +1 lap
  14. Yuki Tsunoda, RB, +1 lap
  15. Logan Sargeant, Williams, +1 lap
  16. Daniel Ricciardo, RB, +1 lap
  17. Valtteri Bottas, Kick Sauber, +1 lap
  18. Zhou Guanyu, Kick Sauber, +1 lap
  19. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, +45 laps
  20. Pierre Gasly, Alpine, +49 laps
Lettermark

U.K.-based Phillip Horton started covering Grands Prix while still at university and swiftly deemed that writing about Formula 1 and the behind-the-scenes machinations was much more engaging than reading centuries-old novels. Degree gained, he went on to cover the sport full-time from 2014 and is as intrigued and excited by the destinations Formula 1 visits during its lengthy annual world tour as the racing itself. Phillip joined Autoweek in 2021 and while he has just about learned to spell in American English he has yet to find anywhere in America that makes a proper cup of tea.

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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