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The penultimate race of the Formula One season takes place in Saudi Arabia – join The Roar from 4:30am (AEST) for a live blog of all the action.
Two races remain in this enthralling Formula One world championship as the sport arrives at the second of consecutive new circuits 2021.
Dubbed the fastest ever street circuit, the new Jeddah Corniche tracks boasts the most corners of any on the current schedule, as well as the second longest distance at 6.1 kilometres. However the speeds thus far are akin to Monza.
Eight points separate our title protagonists in Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton coming into this 50-lap grand prix and mathematically this is the Dutchman’s first opportunity to clinch the world championship.
If Verstappen outscores Hamilton by 18 points, he will be crowned the first ever Dutch world champion in Formula One. However that prospect looks difficult following Verstappen’s shock final corner crash while on course to set the fastest lap in Q3.
As a result, Mercedes locked out the front row, with consecutive poles for seven-time world champion Hamilton ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas, who had his own mechanical problems ahead of qualifying.
It remains to be seen if the damage to the rear end of Verstappen’s Red Bull will require a replacement of the gearbox. If so then that will incur a five-place grid penalty, which would really hurt his chances around a track that might see little overtaking.
The start will be crucial, with such a short run into the first corner and much overtaking not expected. Jockeying for position will come at great risk as well, given the margins for error are next to nothing.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc split both Red Bulls behind Verstappen and is highest placed as the best of the rest, should anything open up at the pointy end of the field. The Monegasque along with Pierre Gasly in the AlphaTauri both look strong by comparison to their respective rivals at McLaren and Alpine.
Though with the prospect of safety cars and truncated running, it could be a race in which anything can happen, thus survival and staying out of the walls will be crucial.
It is a big test for Verstappen then, with the world championship at stake and what could be a defining moment in the 24-year-old’s career in Formula One. Can the title battle stay alive heading into the final race?
Be sure to tune in on The Roar from 4:20am AEST for live blog coverage of the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Lights out: 4:30am (AEST)
Venue: Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Saudi Arabia
TV: Fox Sports
Online: Kayo Sports, Foxtel
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), 3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull), 4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), 5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull), 6. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri), 7. Lando Norris (McLaren), 8. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri), 9. Esteban Ocon (Alpine), 10. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo), 11. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren), 12. Kimi Räikkönen (Alfa Romeo), 13. Fernando Alonso (Alpine), 14. George Russell (Williams), 15. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), 16. Nicholas Latifi (Williams), 17. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin), 18. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin), 19. Mick Schumacher (Haas), 20. Nikita Mazepin (Haas)