Max Verstappen wins late duel over Charles Leclerc to capture Saudi Arabian GP

Max Verstappen Leclerc Saudi
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JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — Formula One champion Max Verstappen overtook Charles Leclerc three laps from the end of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix for his first win of the season and 21st of his career on Sunday.

The race under floodlights was held two days after an attack on a nearby oil depot by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Leclerc was aiming for back-to-back victories after winning the season-opener in Bahrain from pole position last Sunday. But Verstappen overtook him on Lap 47 of 50 after some thrilling wheel-to-wheel racing between them in a repeat of the battle they waged in Bahrain.

Leclerc remains top of the standings after two races.

Carlos Sainz Jr. finished in third place to make it another podium double for Ferrari after he was second in Bahrain where Leclerc had brilliantly repelled three attacks from Verstappen, who retired right near the end of that race with teammate Sergio Perez.

Perez bounced back with a superb pole position on Saturday but finished fourth, while seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton could manage only one point for Mercedes in 10th place after starting 15th.

His teammate George Russell fared better in fifth, but Mercedes again looked off the pace.

Fernando Alonso fell out of the race with mechanical problems, as did Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas.

There only 18 cars taking the green flag as Yuki Tsnoda had an engine problem on the formation laps and was unable to start.

Haas F1 already had held out the entry of Mick Schumacher, who endured a wicked hit during qualifying Saturday. The son of seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher was airlifted to a local hospital for precautionary scans, but he was unhurt in the incident.

Mick Schumacher was back in the F1 paddock Sunday for interviews.

The race capped a turbulent weekend for F1, which was under heavy scrutiny for continuing its race weekend following an attack by rebels Friday on a nearby oil depot. The attack during the first practice Friday could be heard at the track and smoke could be seen billowing in the background of the circuit.

Drivers met several times on Friday for more than four hours discussing safety concerns and whether or not they should compete. F1 and the FIA, the ruling body for the series, assured the competitors that safety measures were in place.