Sports Three things we learned from Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

JEDDAH: The more things change in Formula One, the more they stay the same. That is, on the track.

Off it, it is no exaggeration to say that recent weeks have been some of the most turbulent in the sport’s history.

When the fourth edition of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix takes place at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit on Saturday night, few people expect anything other than a victory for Max Verstappen.

It is as close to a sure thing in the world of sport as you can get.

Last season he won an astounding 19 out of 22 races, and 17 of the last 18, losing only in Singapore. Including last week’s season-opener in Bahrain, he is currently on a run of 18 wins from 19 races.

The best driver in the best car, F1 has never before seen such dominance.

Off the track, however, it’s a different story. Barely a day goes by without a scandal or revelation rocking the sport.

Formula One has in recent years become one of the most talked about sports in the world, rivaling even football for popularity, excitement and controversy.

One of the generators of a whole new generation of followers is the hit Netflix show “Drive To Survive,” which recently aired its sixth season ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

While a series about a championship season that finished last November was not expected to be packed with earth-shattering revelations, its makers could hardly have imagined the controversies and changes that would take place in the weeks leading up to the start of the 2024 campaign.

In a matter of days, their show became brutally outdated.

At the start of February, the sport was rocked to its foundations with the news that seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton would be leaving Mercedes to join Ferrari for the 2025 season. It was the biggest news in F1 for decades.

Days later, reports alleged that Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner had acted inappropriately toward a female colleague, accusations he has strongly denied.

But the controversy has refused to go away. The team’s parent company Red Bull GmbH announced an investigation into the matter and on Feb. 28 cleared Horner of any blame. But just 24 hours later, seemingly incriminating messages and images that had been exchanged between Horner and the employee were leaked anonymously to 149 members of F1 organizations, including the other nine team principals.

On social media, racing fans went into hysterics. All was not well at a team that only weeks ago could do no wrong.

Days before the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Verstappen’s father, Jos, was dragged into the controversy and the employee making the accusations was suspended.

Horner, meanwhile, cut a somewhat concerned figure at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit Paddock on Friday night.

At least on Saturday, he, Max Verstappen and the rest of the Red Bull team can escape to the one place they feel most comfortable: on the track.

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