F1 Saudi Arabian GP Notes: Verstappen Reaches No. 100; Ferrari Won't Rush Sainz and More

f1 grand prix of saudi arabia
F1 Saudia Arabian Notes: Ferrari Won't Rush SainzRudy Carezzevoli - Getty Images

Prospective circuit Qiddiya reveals its plans, Max Verstappen hits another milestone, and there’s another Fittipaldi on the podium.

Autoweek looks back on the race weekend from Jeddah.

No. 100 for the Champ

Max Verstappen’s success is such that fresh statistics are coming thick and fast.

Verstappen notched his 56th career F1 victory and his 100th podium finish in Formula 1 at the F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix late Saturday, becoming the seventh driver in history to achieve the feat. He is likely to soon leap Kimi Räikkönen (103) and Fernando Alonso and Alain Prost (both 106) in the category, though he is still some way away from Lewis Hamilton’s series-record 197.


When told about the achievement, in just his 188th, Verstappen joked: “It's 88 missed podiums! Of course, very happy with that, but I'm not really a guy looking at the stats, so I'm just happy to hit 100.”

f1 grand prix of saudi arabia
Carlos Sainz, right, was seen walking gingerly around the paddock after undergoing surgery.Kym Illman - Getty Images

Ferrari Won’t Rush Sainz

Ferrari won’t rush Carlos Sainz’s return from his appendix surgery in Jeddah. Sainz performed a herculean effort to drive in practice, having reported unwell on Wednesday for media day, having initially thought he was suffering from food poisoning.

Instead Sainz went to hospital in Jeddah for successful surgery and was released in time to gingerly attend Saturday’s race. Formula 1 has a rest weekend prior to the next event in Australia though drivers naturally need to travel earlier than usual due to the time zone shift.

“It’s a huge recovery, now we have to be focused on Melbourne, he needs to have a good rest this week and we’ll see next week,” said Ferrari Team Principal Frederic Vasseur.

If Sainz cannot participate then Ferrari will have Ollie Bearman, who is due to race in Formula 2 in Australi, on standby once more.

Qiddiya Reveals More Plans

Officials at Qiddiya have revealed more plans as well as the layout of the proposed Speed Park. The enormous sports, entertainment and leisure facility has been a long-term project in Saudi Arabia and is tentatively due to open in 2027, though no launch date has ever been set.

State-funded Qiddiya has been designed by ex-F1 driver Alex Wurz and renowned track specialist Hermann Tilke, and its centrepiece is set to be the first turn, dubbed "The Blade", a cantilevered section of track which will rise 70 meters, equivalent to a 20-story building. Qiddiya Speed Park, planned to have an overall elevation change of 108 meters, is set to have 21 corners, and will have the Tuwaiq mountains as a backdrop. Several Formula 1 drivers took to social media to laud Qiddiya’s plans in a piece of not-so-subtle promoted content.

f1 grand prix of saudi arabia
Boxer Anthony Joshua, center, makes the rounds in Saudi Arabia over the weekend.Peter Fox - Formula 1 - Getty Images

AJ Was in the House

Boxer Anthony Joshua made the short trip from Riyadh to Jeddah after his rapid victory over Francis Ngannou in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Joshua, a motorsport fan, now has a vested interest in Formula 1 after becoming part of the investment group which bought a minority stake in Alpine last year. AJ’s presence did little to improve Alpine’s fortunes, with the team failing to score a point.

Also present in Jeddah were soccer manager Jose Mourinho, singer Pharrell Williams, while more pertinently in Formula 1 terms Ferrari president John Elkann and Red Bull managing director Oliver Mintzlaff were also in the paddock. Despite the drone shows, the incessant fireworks and regular air displays, Saudi’s show of power has had little impact on race attendance, with the few grandstands erected around Jeddah’s circuit only partially full.

formula 2 championship round 2 jeddah feature race
Enzo Fittipaldi is off to a fast start in Formula 2.Joe Portlock - Formula 1 - Getty Images

Emerson Fittipaldi's Grandson Phenomenal in F2

Enzo Fittipaldi claimed an emphatic maiden Feature Race victory in the second round of Formula 2 in Jeddah. The main talking point was the absence of Ollie Bearman, thrust spectacularly into Formula 1 with Ferrari, having already taken pole position for Formula 2’s main event.

Fittipaldi was head and shoulders above the field on Saturday, surging to the front, via a superb two-in-one move into Turn 1. Dennis Hauger won the Sprint Race on Friday. Sauber junior Zane Maloney still leads the way after salvaging seventh position off the back of mechanical problems in qualifying, with the Barbadian 15 points clear of Fittipaldi in the championship.

America’s Aston Martin junior Zak Crawford narrowly missed out on a podium in the Feature Race, finishing fourth, having been outdragged to the line by Hauger.

f1 academy round 1 jeddah race 2
Doriane Pin was the star of the first weekend of F1 Academy racing.Clive Rose - Getty Images

Successful Start to F1 Academy

The second season of F1 Academy kicked off in Jeddah and the all-female single-seater category has strengthened its ties with Formula 1 this season, as each team is affiliated with a driver, and all rounds will take part at Formula 1 Grand Prix.

The exit of inaugural champion Marta Garcia means there will be a new name on the season-championship trophy come the end of the season, and it was Mercedes hotshot Doriane Pin who dominated the first weekend.

Pin claimed pole position and won both races—though there was a cruel sting in the tail. Pin did not realize Race 2 had ended and continued pushing for a lap, taking the checkered flag twice, and incurred a 20-second time penalty.

Alpine’s Abbi Pulling thus inherited the victory and with it the championship lead. It was a very harsh penalty imposed on Pin, who underlined her star quality on-track.