Mercedes Team Principal, Toto Wolff has praised Lewis Hamilton for delivering a “dramatic” eighth win of the season in a epic 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Hamilton entered the race sat eight points behind Max Verstappen in the title fight but led from pole position until he pitted under the first Safety Car at end of Lap 10 following Mick Schumacher’s crash, which gave Verstappen the lead after he stayed out as the red flag was waved on Lap 13.
Verstappen consequently inherited a free tyre change and pole position for the first standing restart on Lap 15, where he deliberately ran wide through the opening two corners and shoved Hamilton wide upon re-joining the track to drop the Brit to third.
Further incidents further back caused a second red flag to be waved with Red Bull using the break to negotiate a soft penalty for Verstappen of two grid places on the second standing restart to start third behind Esteban Ocon and Hamilton.
Verstappen consequently got the lead on the second standing restart after passing Hamilton and Ocon in the first three corners on Lap 17, with Hamilton following through a lap later as the title rivals engaged in a game of cat and mouse.
Tensions boiled to a crescendo on Lap 37 as Verstappen again cut the opening two corners but later that lap, he deliberately brake checked Hamilton under the pretence of trying to move aside to “strategically” let Hamilton through whilst gaining the advantage into the third DRS Zone.
Hamilton consequently sustained front-wing damage but kept fighting after briefly slipping two-and-a-half seconds behind Verstappen, as Verstappen let him through briefly into the final corner of Lap 42 only for Verstappen to use his exit speed to repass Hamilton for the lead on exit.
Hamilton however managed to make the race winning overtake into that corner a lap later and sprinted away to victory, whilst Verstappen was slapped with two separate time penalties totalling 15 seconds by the stewards for his misbehaviour.
Wolff though was in praise of the stewards in Race Control for how they handled the “spectacular” race packed with incidents, despite enduring “frustrations” with the timing of the first red flag which he felt was “tough” but vowed to reserve full judgement until he reviewed the race in depth.
Hamilton added that he thought the race “was incredibly tough” despite his vast experience of racing as he focused on trying “to be as sensible” as he could be whilst mounting a “tough” attack and claiming the point for fastest lap as well as victory.
Valtteri Bottas meanwhile finished third after snatching the final podium spot from Ocon at the checkered flag in a tense finish, yet the Finnish driver felt that the race had “so many obstacles with the red flags and all the incidents,” to make it a difficult race.
Explaining what it meant to finish third in Jeddah, Bottas said: “I just kept pushing, it was tough to overtake today but I finally got to P3 on the final straight – it was such a nice feeling to get the podium that way.
“Esteban drove great today, he was difficult to pass but I hung in there for an exciting finish.”
Wolff therefore was proud of how Hamilton and Bottas handled the race as he added: “Both our drivers kept their cool heads, and kept pushing and pushing. Lewis drove so intelligently and with patience.
“Valtteri made a great comeback and to take P3 on his 100th race for Mercedes is just brilliant, a big haul of points for the team. At the end it’s all going down to the wire, that’s how the sport should be and we love it!”