Winners and Losers from 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Another day, another race and the way he’s going, that impossible thought of a Max Verstappen clean-sweep this season just starts to get that little bit bigger.

Of course there are 22 races still to go in the 2024 season. That’s 22 times for something to go wrong with the strategy, or the weather or the car or the driver, but the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was the latest example of a driver in about as fine a harmony with his machine as F1 has ever witnessed.

Red Bull, for all its off-track dramas remains as sharp a race team as ever and the RB20 looks bullet-proof. There is seemingly no logical reason at the moment as to why Verstappen could not sweep the season – except maybe the very idea of it.

But someone is going to have to pull an almighty rabbit out of their hat, and fast.

This article has sometimes drawn criticism for not putting Verstappen as a ‘Winner’ when he has won the race – and it goes without saying that he is, but the object is to bring to your attention other stories from the weekend when Verstappen has put in a crushing display.

There are only so many times you can wax lyrical about the brilliance of the level on which he is operating at the moment without it getting boring.

So we start our Winners and Losers from the 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix with a history maker.

Winner – Oliver Bearman

It is funny that Oliver Bearman currently has six points and is in 10th place in the Formula 1 standings compared to 0 and a ranking of 22nd in F2 – his day job for not much longer.

The fact that Ferrari was willing to sacrifice an F2 weekend where he was pole for an effective free-hit to replace the appendicitis-stricken Carlos Sainz speaks volumes about how it rates Bearman, who provided some sort of meltdown, will be in F1 full-time in 2025.

11th in qualifying and seventh in the race was a fine return after a smart drive in Jeddah in which he kept his nose clean and pulled off a stunning overtake on Yuki Tsunoda into Turn 1 after the Safety Car restart.

This was about as good a stand-in performance as was possible given he’d never driven the car before FP3 and nearly bumped Lewis Hamilton out of Q2.

The 18-year-old is the 776th driver to start a Grand Prix and the third youngest of all-time behind Verstappen and Lance Stroll – the latter of whom had a pretty dreadful weekend.

There was little pressure on Bearman going into the weekend given his inexperience, but conversely, all the pressure in the world as he was entrusted with a Ferrari on an F1 weekend.

That test was passed with the ultimate flying colours.

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Loser – Mercedes

At best, Mercedes is currently fourth in the pecking order, having been jumped by both Ferrari and McLaren – although both of those teams still have areas on which it must improve also.

But this third attempt at a ground-effects car, and the one it should have brought in the first place in 2022, still leaves Mercedes nowhere.

Throughout practice, Hamilton griped that he did not have confidence in the rear and needed more stability through the high-speed sections. During the race, both McLarens he fought with were considerably faster through Sector 1, and it was only his defensive masterclass that held Oscar Piastri up.

Whilst Mercedes struggles to master one ground-effect concept, Red Bull is already fine-tuning its second while Ferrari seems to have finally got its ducks in a row with the SF-24.

It is difficult to see that changing next season as well owing to the large carry-over of the cars before the next rules reset comes in for 2026. The way it is looking, that could be Mercedes’ best chance of returning to race and title-winning ways.

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Winner – Kevin Magnussen

Now, a driver who cops a total of 20 seconds worth of time penalties for needless incidents and then who finishes 12th having not troubled the points himself usually has no business in being anywhere near the Winners section.

But Kevin Magnussen’s drive in Jeddah was outstanding and one of the very best of his F1 career.

It went like this.

During the Safety Car pit-stops, he pitted whereas team-mate Nico Hulkenberg did not, jumping up the order to run in the points.

Some passed Hulkenberg, including Bearman, but the end result was that a 10th place and one point was in the offing in Hulkenberg could somehow pull out a pit-stop on the likes of Yuki Tsunoda, Alex Albon and Esteban Ocon.

The pace of the Haas would not allow this, but in came Magnussen with a stunning act of race-craft that few on the grid, except maybe Fernando Alonso, would have been capable, or willing, to do.

Lap after lap after lap he held off Tsunoda by charging the battery through the twisty bits, driving as slow as he could, before dumping it all on the straight bits and being feisty on the brakes.

By the time Hulkenberg pitted, he emerged about five seconds ahead of Magnussen – who then promptly floored it and negated his 20-second penalty by taking 12th with only Albon getting ahead.

He didn’t get the reward of a point, but this was arguably Magnussen’s best race drive in F1 since his first start at the 2014 Australian GP – where he took second.

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Loser -Daniel Ricciardo

Oh dear.

It says a lot about Daniel Ricciardo’s race that even after Magnussen’s 20-second penalty was applied, he was still far, far behind.

It has been a troubled start to the season for the Australian, who is being out-performed by Tsunoda in the sister car and his hopes of taking that Red Bull seat from Sergio Perez begin to slip away.

He was at a loss to explain the qualifying deficit to Tsunoda who made Q3 while Ricciardo took 14th and his spin after clouting the Turn 1 kerb late on was something to expect of a rookie, not a driver in his 241st start.

There is serious work to do for Ricciardo, who must arrest this slide, with his entire reason for being in that RB is to show he is worthy of the Red Bull seat he should never have left. There is time, but the window is closing awfully fast.

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Winner – Sergio Perez

Ricciardo’s case in not being helped by what Perez is doing with the Red Bull.

He is enjoying a much-improved start to the season, perhaps having come to terms that he is not going to beat Verstappen over a season – exactly the same realisation that came to Valtteri Bottas and Rubens Barrichello once upon a time.

But he is delivering exactly what Red Bull want, finishing P2 to Verstappen’s P1 and being there to mop up if gremlins do strike the team leader.

Perhaps qualifying is a weakness, with Leclerc the fastest driver over a single lap on the grid, but the natural order in races at the moment is Verstappen, Perez, Leclerc all things being equal.

As long as Perez keeps that up, there is no reason for Red Bull to make a change, on that side of the garage anyway.

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Loser (of sorts)- Oscar Piastri

Finishing fourth should usually be a good result, and it is was about all that McLaren could have expected as the third-fastest team with a big straight-line speed deficit.

But could Piastri have challenged for a podium?

He was certainly in the mix in the opening stages, but his race was undone by spending almost 25 laps tucked up behind Hamilton’s gearbox, unable to find a way past and make it stick.

He never did pass the Mercedes as Hamilton finally pitted to free-up the Australian, but despite his race being ruined, it was still a relatively good performance.

Piastri is ultra-fast in high-speed corners and firmly did a job on team-mate Lando Norris throughout the weekend – who was very lucky not to be penalised for a jump-start.

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