Bluff or no Ferrari bluff, the plan backfired: Max Verstappen won in Saudi Arabia

Oh to them, the twenty stretched out on the grid with the roaring engines, the vrum vrum about to have carte blanche on the Corniche circuit straight, in Jeddah, with nightfall to escape the heat of these places in the Middle East where the planet boils at high temperature and advises against men to wear dry suits, helmets and single-seaters heat up even more during the day while accelerating beyond three hundred kilometers per hour, but hey, whoever reigns in Formula 1 will not wonder further how high thermometers reach into countries with deserts inside.

It’s also unclear whether they’re deliberating further on the inherent grayness of the supreme car speed test in Saudi Arabia, a country that is at war in Yemen, is accused and blamed for the murder of a journalist critical of the regime, has a regime that has executed 81 people in a single day this year, and where an oil refinery was bombed less than 15 kilometers from the circuit and is owned by Aramco, one of the main sponsors of Formula 1 and one of the teams (Aston Martin) who there accelerate. This paragraph summarizes a scenario bathed in gray, even if at the dawn of green lights everything seems rosy.

When the 20 guys are ordered to ruthlessly press the cars right pedal, the antidote is reversed to get all those points on the priority shelf, the Grand Prix kicked off and there was no reason for ‘wow’. In the first half, Max Verstappen’s reluctance to dodge Carlos Sainz with the help of a push from Charles Leclerc to protect his line and, for the rest, it all started the way it started. At the time, Yuki Tsunoda was soon to drop out of the race, and later the fun really turned rosy.

Until Nicolas Latifi hit one of the track barriers and pulled the safety car to the track (lap 16), burning the differences between cars and letting everyone adjust strategies with tire changes, the only tickle of enthusiasm was the sparks between Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso, the Alpine teammates who are attacked for a few laps to injure the blood pressure on the team engineers as boxes.

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The Frenchman protected himself from the Spaniard, he was going to be overtaken and he returned the attempts to the former world champion. “Tell Esteban to defend like a lion,” Alonso said in another race last year when he needed the younger one to block an opponent and urged him, over the radio, to channel his inner jungle king. In Jeddah he was able to turn him and Ocon attacked him later, only stopping when Alpine told him to hold the position as soon as Valtteri Bottas caught them both as they were more focused on the fight than on acceleration.

Just before Latifi crashed his Williams into a barrier and the teams realized the potential to refine their plans, Ferrari radio heard a “pit to overcome», a kind of instruction for Charles Leclerc to go change tires and trust the jigajoga that others would do the same. Everything will have been a conspiracy with the gossip of others: Red Bull will have thought the same thing, the leader Sergio Pérez was also going to stop and when the Mexican turned to the boxesthe Monegasque inside the red car continued on his way.

Whether or not it is a bluffsucceeded.

Shortly after, the accident took place which took the safety car onto the track and Leclerc was already leading the race. It continued to do so for a long time, it took exactly 20 laps before the machines in Fernando Alonso’s Alpine and Daniel Riccardo’s McLaren almost telepathically conjured up malfunctions at the same time – and more, because the cars were slowly deflating and the drivers were advancing. .les at the pit lane entrance. This mutual attempt caused them both to find themselves almost parked on the driveway leading to the pits.

It was the 36th round. The yellow flag will last for five laps.

When he went green, Max Verstappen was glued to the rear of the Ferrari and the remaining laps were filled with a recital of attack, defense and fight back. The Dutchman and the Monegasque sprinkled the sparks of those who set off at full throttle on the tarmac on the straights, sometimes letting the car’s tires smoke with the late use of braking (they had one almost flat out, at the above the DRS line, not being the driver who overtook and who was not allowed to use the “turbo” in the following straight). On the last lap and after another yellow flag, it was so close that the Dutchman complained: “How did you manage to reduce the distance so much? It is unfair.”

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In the end, Red Bull’s superior speed would be the dividing advantage that won the race for the world champion (first points of the season, after not finishing in Bahrain) and Charles Leclerc regretting it, but with that Fair play, or knowing how to lose, or being nice or whatever phrase is appropriate to describe who congratulates the winner after so much mind-grinding on each other with hands glued to the steering wheels full of buttons and lights. “It was hard, we fought a lot in front, but it was a game of strategy. We still progressed a bit,” summarized Verstappen, before Leclerc admitted that Ferrari cars are “slower” in straight line.

There was the podium with champagne or a sparkling drink to imitate it, a jovial song to lull the not-so-great smiles of the three fastest (the third place went to Carlos Sainz) and the thing sent without delay. When the fireworks photo op was heard in Jeddah, the pilots had already evacuated the celebration platform. And the sky is painted with what is associated with the party where it is said that the pilots, for them, had abdicated from holding the race after the attack on the refinery next to the circuit.

Whoever is most vocal, critical and active in bringing Formula 1’s attention to causes beyond Formula 1 ended up in 10th place, oddly reduced to the minutia of a single point. Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton having had a slow start to the season, so reduced to one-time irrelevance in this race and appearing so little on screens, was almost a wheeled analogy for the way F1, as a whole , is able to shrink the shoulders for the relevant things, which matter and should always matter.

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