2021 Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Preview

This weekend is set to see Formula 1 contest the penultimate Grand Prix of its 2021 season with an inaugural race in Saudi Arabia. It is also set to be joined in Jeddah by Formula 2.

The FIA Formula 2 championship was last in action at the Russian Grand Prix which saw Dan Ticktum win the first sprint race, the second be cancelled due to weather and the feature race won, from pole position, by Oscar Piastri.

Piastri leads the driver standings heading into the penultimate race weekend of 2021 and is 36 points ahead of second placed Guanyu Zhou. Completing the top three in the championship is Robert Shwartzman who is seven points behind Zhou, and therefore 43 points adrift of Piastri.

Shwartzman claimed third and then a fourth across the two races in Sochi, his home round. The Russian has a six point gap to fourth placed Dan Ticktum, who followed up his sprint race victory with a fifth place finish in the feature race.

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Heading into the weekend Max Verstappen heads the Formula 1 drivers’ championship, eight points ahead of title rival Lewis Hamilton. This is after Verstappen has finished second in the two races prior to this weekend, which Hamilton went on to win.

This weekend represents Verstappen’s first opportunity to clinch the drivers’ championship. There are a variety of scenarios that could see the Dutchman clinch the title but to put simply he needs to outscore Hamilton by 18 points this weekend. An example scenario of this would be Verstappen winning in Saudi Arabia and clinching the fastest lap while Hamilton finishes sixth or lower.

It is important to remember that Verstappen can be champion on countback as he has more victories (9) compared to Hamilton (7).

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Third in the drivers’ standings is Valtteri Bottas who is 140.5 points behind Hamilton and, more importantly, 13 points ahead of fourth placed Sergio Perez. This is after Bottas was forced into retirement at the Qatar Grand Prix while Perez finished fourth.

There is now a 37 point gap between Perez in fourth and Lando Norris in fifth, this is due to the latter once again only managing a minor points finish, last time out in Qatar. It also therefore means that Norris is only one point ahead of Charles Leclerc who goes into this weekend sixth in the championship.

Behind Leclerc is his teammate, Carlos Sainz, who is 6.5 points behind the Monegasque driver and 40.5 points ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in eighth.

A quick note on Fernando Alonso who secured his first podium finish in Formula 1 since 2014 at the Qatar Grand Prix, the Spaniard finishing third. Alonso is tenth in the standings, 15 points behind Pierre Gasly in ninth and 17 points ahead of teammate Esteban Ocon who is eleventh in the standings.

Alpine Renault A521 – Fernando Alonso” by Jaimie Wilson is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In the constructors’ championship Mercedes has a five point lead over Red Bull as the two battle it out for the 2021 title.

Scuderia Ferrari are third, 244 points behind Red Bull, but more significantly 39.5 points ahead of fourth placed McLaren. This is due to Ferrari managing to secure a 7-8 finish in Qatar while McLaren were only able to claim a points scoring finish of ninth between its two cars.

The gap between McLaren in fourth and fifth placed Alpine is 121 points heading into this weekend after the latter managed to claim a 3-5 finish in Qatar. It also means that Alpine are now 25 points ahead of sixth placed AlphaTauri, the latter having failed to score any points in Losail.

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It also means that the Faenza based team now have a 35 point margin to seventh placed Aston Martin after the Silverstone based team managed to secure a 6-10 finish last time out. It is Aston Martin’s first double points finish since the French Grand Prix and therefore means the British team are 54 points ahead of Williams after the Grove based team failed to score points.

Williams themselves retain a 12 point advantage over Alfa Romeo as they, along with last placed Haas failed to score any points in Qatar.

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