Max Verstappen won an intense racing battle with Charles Leclerc to claim his first win of the season at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver raced the Ferrari four laps before the end after two duels in a weather race.

The action was spotty and the two stragglers almost stalled at times as they attempted to take advantage of DRS overtaking zones.

But Verstappen passed him about 0.5 seconds after the decisive blow.

The two played in a league of their own with Carlos Sainz Ferrari and Red Bull Sergio Perez in third and fourth place.

George Russell was fifth for Mercedes, ahead of McLaren’s Alpine Esteban Ocon and Lando Norris.

Lewis Hamilton came back from 15th place and finished in 10th place.

The excitement capped a difficult weekend for top-flight F1, but the launchers and other unidentified veterans of Friday’s rocket attack on a nearby oil depot are unlikely to make the athletes in charge forget three uncomfortable days in the desert.

How did Verstappen win?

With just two races into the season, it already looks like this year could be distilled like the last into a two-horse race, with Leclerc replacing Hamilton as Verstappen’s main competitor.

Leclerc took the lead as Ferrari appeared to betray Red Bull to stop Perez, who had started from the pole and was driving the early lanes.

A radio call read, “Leclerc pushed to the pits,” but he stayed away when Perez returned to the pits. After the race, Leclerc said the team was willing to do the opposite with Red Bull, who said their plan had always been to do that lap. So Leclerc stayed out.

Ferrari’s plan was now to keep running and land with the extra speed Leclerc was hoping for.

But events helped Leclerc as Nicholas hit Latifi Williams and knocked out the ambulance on the next lap, giving Leclerc, Verstappen, and Sainz a “free” pit stop and dropping Perez to fourth, a place that would stay until the end.

Leclerc mastered the restart and kept the lead. Lap after lap was Verstappen’s track, about 1.5s behind, but Leclerc looked like he could stop him.

But the era of virtual reserve cars has changed to 12 laps to start the race, leading to a bizarre sequence of events as first McLaren Daniel Ricciardo and then Fernando Alonso’s alpine all-terrain accident at the pit lane entrance.

At the restart, Verstappen was suddenly on Leclerc’s heels and the Ferrari driver couldn’t pull away.

First, Leclerc attempted the same tactic he had used to win the first race of the season in Bahrain, which allowed Verstappen to push up at the end of a DRS overtake zone – at the last corner in Jeddah – so he could benefit from the support of the DRS. . into the hole right in the first corner.

It worked from lap 42 to lap 43, after which Leclerc set the fastest lap and tried to get ahead of Red Bull.

And the next time they both brake at the end of the corner – Verstappen locked all four tires – playing chicken with the DRS lanyard.

But Verstappen came back to him. At the end of lap 45, Leclerc made a mistake on the last corner and lost time.

On the next lap, they were together again in the last corner.

Verstappen clung to Leclerc’s rear, an overflowing jump slowed the Ferrari’s start and the DRS overtaking assistant did the rest, Verstappen departing with the final overtake of the race.