After F1 drivers considered a boycott over the nearby explosions, the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association said it hoped the Saudi Arabian GP would be “remembered as a good race”.
Sunday at the high speed and treacherous Jeddah street circuit most certainly delivered.
“This was one of the best races I’ve seen in the last ten years,” said Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko.
World champion Max Verstappen emerged with the winner’s trophy after a long and intense wheel-to-wheel scrap with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, which proved that the all-new 2022 regulations have indeed delivered good racing.
“The drivers deliver what the rules promised,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said.
“We have seen two spectacular races, overtaking manoeuvres, mixed up starting grids and an extremely tight midfield.”
Dutchman Verstappen also appears to have refined his aggressive driving style over the winter, although he says it’s the ground effect cars that require different racing tactics.
“You have to plan the overtaking manoeuvres much more than before,” he said.
Former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher told Sky Deutschland that was refreshing to see, with Verstappen “understanding that he had to tackle his opponent differently”.
“It really was pure joy to watch,” said the German, who was speaking from Munich after leaving Saudi Arabia over Friday’s explosions.
“It was a duel on an equal footing and both of them know exactly what tricks to use against the other.”
Leclerc agrees that F1 has made a “clear step forward” with close-quarter racing, although he agreed with Verstappen that the new 18-inch tyres degrade quickly.
“The balance of the car is much more predictable,” he said. “Last year it was very difficult to understand whether you will lose the front or the rear.”
Marko thinks the difference from 2021 to 2022 is “unbelievable”.
“After last year we didn’t believe it could be any better, but that’s how it’s looking,” said the 78-year-old.
Dutch GP boss Jan Lammers, meanwhile, said F1’s new directors Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas also deserve some credit.
“What this organisation has been very good at is not only succeeding in making the races more exciting, but the new approach of the management of the race is also good,” he told NOS.
“No stupid decisions were made. Leclerc occasionally went over a line, some lights were not working, but there was no nit-picking. The racing was left to be very pure,” Lammers added.
McLaren boss Andreas Seidl concluded: “The big winners are Formula 1 and the fans.”