Max Verstappen felt Red Bull "were on it" at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and thoroughly deserved their one-two. 

Reigning Formula One champion Verstappen started on pole after winning Saturday's sprint race and he took maximum points at Imola by winning and setting the fastest lap. 

He cut Charles Leclerc's championship lead from 45 points to 27. The Ferrari driver span out from third when trying to take the bonus point from Verstappen and ended up finishing sixth. 

That opened the door for Lando Norris to finish third, with Sergio Perez making it a first one-two for Red Bull since Malaysia in 2016. 

"It's always tough to achieve something like that but already yesterday and the day before, we were on it and it was looking like a strong weekend," said Verstappen. 

"Today, you never know with the weather how competitive you are going to be, but I think we did very well and this one-two is very deserved. 

"The start was very important but afterwards, judging the conditions and when to swap to the slick tyres, because in the lead you have to always dictate the pace, and it's always a bit more difficult initially, but everything was well managed." 

Perez defended brilliantly to keep Leclerc at bay after getting past him on the opening lap, though he was lucky DRS was not enabled until after he took a trip across the grass and gave the Ferrari a chance to close the gap.

"It was really intense! The fight since halfway through the race we were fighting, then it was all under control but then they start chasing us again with the stop and it was the fight again to warm up the tyres," said Perez. 

"The most important thing today is to not make mistakes, because with these conditions it was so tricky out there. To get a one-two in these conditions, I think it is a great result for the team. We've been so unlucky at the start. It's been so difficult for us. 

"I am very pleased to see everyone in my team smiling today." 

Norris said: "It was an amazing race. An amazing weekend.  

"I'm happy, the team deserves it. From where we were in race one to now scoring a podium, top job by the team. It's just hard work [from the team]. A lot of time of effort back in the factory and here at Imola. 

"It was a mixture of tricky conditions, but we've been able to capitalise on that as well. But I love these conditions, so I always do quite well. Just a mixture of hard work and a great weekend and it all pays off." 

Max Verstappen surged to victory in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and gained ground on Charles Leclerc, who had a costly late spin. 

Having given up on catching race leader Verstappen, Leclerc pitted from third for soft tyres in a bid to take the extra point for the fastest lap away from the Dutchman. 

However, the Ferrari driver lost control at the Variante Alta and sustained damage that forced him to pit again – enabling Lando Norris to take third. 

Leclerc dropped to ninth but recovered to sixth as his championship lead was cut by 18 points, with Sergio Perez making it a Red Bull one-two. 

Verstappen started on pole following his success in Saturday's sprint race and he never surrendered that position, though Leclerc slid down from second to fourth on a wet opening lap. 

The safety car was deployed after Carlos Sainz span out following contact with Daniel Ricciardo, who was nudged from behind by Valtteri Bottas at the Variante Tamburello. 

Leclerc got past Lando Norris on lap eight but was already six seconds adrift of Verstappen, with the Dutchman only building on his lead after changing for slick tyres on lap 20. 

Perez, who quickly regained second after losing out to Leclerc in the pits, produced some excellent defence to keep the Ferrari at bay despite a trip across the grass before DRS was belatedly enabled just after the halfway point. 

Leclerc set the fastest lap but ended up losing track position when he span into the barriers on lap 53, with Verstappen taking the extra point after changing to soft tyres. 

Ferrari's tyre strategy could be key to preventing Max Verstappen from cutting into Charles Leclerc's championship lead after Red Bull's reigning world champion triumphed in the sprint at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Having been passed by Leclerc at the start, pole-sitter Verstappen ensured he will start Sunday's 63-lap race first on the grid after overtaking Leclerc on the penultimate lap of the 21-lap sprint.

Leclerc and the raucous home Ferrari fans were denied a victory to cheer as his right front tyre grained in the closing laps, Verstappen taking advantage by sweeping around the outside into Tamburello.

It meant Verstappen collected eight points while Leclerc took seven to extend his championship lead to 40 points, with Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz his closest challenger after finishing fourth behind Red Bull's Sergio Perez in third.

Ferrari, like most of the grid, were on the soft tyres for the sprint, but Leclerc is unsure what compound they will initially select on Sunday after his fast start resulted in that critical degradation.

He told Sky Sports: "I pushed hard at the beginning to try not to be too vulnerable with Max having the DRS behind and I felt like I paid the price of doing that at the end of the race.

"It felt also like they had maybe something more today and he kept it until the end of the race and overtook me when it mattered.

"We'll work on ourselves for tomorrow and try to maximise our package and hopefully the same start as today without the degradation that we had at the end.

"I think with today's data it will help us make the right decision for tomorrow, but whether we will go for the hard compound or not I'm not sure yet."

Only three drivers went with the medium compound for the sprint, including the Haas drivers of Kevin Magnussen (eighth) and Mick Schumacher (10th), both of whom had impressive pace in the final laps.

And Verstappen conceded he may not enjoy the same fortune on Sunday with the harder compounds set to play a more prominent role.

"The start was very bad. I don't know exactly what happened or why it was so bad, just too much wheelspin," he said at the post-race presentation.

"After that we had to stay calm. It initially looked like Charles was having a bit more pace but I think he ran out of tyres and we could close the gap and go for the move into turn 2.

"I know tomorrow it might be again a bit different, but for sure today it worked out for us to be on this compound, so I'm very happy to have a clean sprint race in the end.

"I'm happy about today, but I know it might be different tomorrow with those other tyre compounds coming into play."

Max Verstappen recovered from a slow start to Saturday's sprint race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix to prevail and ensure he will start Sunday's race in first.

The Tifosi at Imola are hoping for a weekend-long celebration amid Ferrari's resurgence, led by Charles Leclerc, in 2022.

He was on course to give them something to cheer in the sprint, getting past pole-sitter Verstappen and, for most of the 21 laps, looking set to claim the maximum eight points.

But Leclerc's front right tyre grained in the final laps as Verstappen closed quickly in an impressive Red Bull, the reigning world champion retaking the lead on the penultimate lap to claim victory.

Leclerc extended his championship lead to 40 points as Mercedes' George Russell finished outside the eight points places on another dismal day for the Silver Arrows, while Ferrari's Carlos Sainz moved into second in the drivers' standing as he took fourth behind Red Bull's Sergio Perez.

An abundance of wheelspin at the start saw Verstappen surrender top spot to Leclerc and he was not close to the Ferrari at a safety car restart following a collision between Pierre Gasly and Zhou Guanyu.

But, as Leclerc's right front faded, Verstappen struck a blow for Red Bull as he got himself within a second at the DRS zone on the start-finish straight and swept around the outside of the Ferrari into the Tamburello chicane.

Perez got himself up from seventh to third while Sainz improved from 10th to fourth after his crash in qualifying, with the McLarens of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo claiming fifth and sixth.

The final points places went to Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas and Haas' Kevin Magnussen, with Russell and Lewis Hamilton non-factors who will start 11th and 14th respectively.

A frustrated Lewis Hamilton said "each weekend is a rescue" after Mercedes' dismal start to the Formula One season continued with a disappointing qualifying session ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Hamilton finished 13th during an incident-strewn, weather-affected afternoon at Imola on Friday, missing out on Q1.

Mercedes team-mate George Russell, meanwhile, will be in 11th for Saturday's sprint race, which Max Verstappen will start at the front of the grid.

It is the first time Mercedes have had both cars fail to progress from Q2 since the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix.

They were unfortunate, with Ferrari's Carlos Sainz crashing as rain started to fall to end the session prematurely, though it seemed unlikely the Silver Arrows would have made it into Q3 regardless.

Mercedes sit second in the constructors' standings after the opening three races of the season but are 39 points adrift of leaders Ferrari, whose championship-leading Charles Leclerc will start alongside Verstappen on the front row on Saturday.

Red Bull, meanwhile, are just 10 points behind Mercedes, and Hamilton lamented a difficult day on the track.

"It wasn't a great session," the seven-time world champion told Sky Sports. "Came here with optimism and everyone is working hard at the factory, but it is disappointing.

"I think we underperformed as a team today. There are things we should have done, but we didn't. We will work as hard as we can to move up in the sprint race.

"We will just keep working. It is what it is. Each weekend is a rescue."

Reigning champion Verstappen, meanwhile, secured his first pole position of the season, albeit he needs to maintain that in the sprint race to start at the front on Sunday.

He said: "It was tricky out there with the dry/rain. It was very slippery. It was hectic, a long qualifying but of course in the end happy to be here. It is an amazing track and it really punishes you if you make a mistake.

"I am really pleased with pole. It will be different weather at the weekend but a good start.

"Our first three races didn't go to plan, but we will try to have a good weekend here."

Lando Norris spun into the barriers to end Q3 – and the session as a whole – early, but the McLaren driver will start in third place on Saturday.

"I am happy I am top three which is quite a surprise for us," Norris said. "There was a chance at least for us to go forwards even more. The car was feeling good and I was feeling confident. A shame it ended like that, but I am happy.

Leclerc, meanwhile, rued making an error in Q3 as he had to settle for second.

"It was very tricky, especially on the slicks. There were quite a lot of wet patches, and it was all about putting the laps in and waiting for Q3 to put it together," Leclerc explained. "It is frustrating because when it counts in Q3 I made the wrong choice."

Carlos Sainz has penned a contract extension with Ferrari to take the Formula One driver through the end of the 2024 season.

The Spaniard, who originally joined the Italian outfit for the 2021 season and finished fifth in last year's world drivers' championship with a best finish of second at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Following a bright start to the new campaign, he has now been handed a renewed deal to take him through the next two years.

"I am very happy to have renewed my contract with Scuderia Ferrari," Sainz said upon confirmation of his extension on Thursday. "I have always said that there is no better Formula 1 team to race for.

"After over a year with them, I can confirm that putting on this race suit and representing this team is unique and incomparable. 

"My first season at Maranello was solid and constructive, with the whole group progressing together. The result of all that work has been clear to see so far season."

In his first season at the team, Sainz posted four podium finishes – double what he had achieved across the six seasons prior in F1.

Back-to-back finishes on the steps across the first two races of the new campaign, before a retirement in Australia, means he sits third in the drivers' standings so far this term.

He is still chasing a maiden win, however, and sits seventh on the all-time list for most races without a victory in the sport, with 144 under his belt.

"I feel strengthened by this renewed show of confidence in me and now I can’t wait to get in the car, to do my best for Ferrari and to give its fans plenty to cheer about," Sainz added.

"The F1-75 is proving to be a front-runner, which can allow me to chase my goals on track, starting with taking my first Formula 1 win."

Sainz will hope to make it three podium finishes in four races when he heads to Imola this weekend for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen says Red Bull are "already miles behind" after the reigning world champion suffered a second DNF of the 2022 Formula One season at the Australian Grand Prix.

The Dutchman had sat second throughout the race at Albert Park and had closed the gap on eventual race winner and championship rival Charles Leclerc amid a safety car deployment.

But a mechanical failure saw him forced to retire once again after he also failed to see out the season opener in Bahrain, with the Ferrari of Leclerc leading home from Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez and Mercedes' George Russell.

It is the second time in three races Verstappen has been blighted by problems beyond his control, and he bemoaned that he cannot think about defending his crown right now.

"We're already miles behind," he stated. "I don't want to think about the title fight, I just want to finish races.

"It's frustrating and unacceptable. These kinds of things if you want to fight for the title cannot happen."

Team principal Christian Horner voiced his own disappointment to Sky Sports afterwards too, adding: "We don't know what the issue is yet. I don't think it is engine related.

"I think it might be a fuel issue but we need to get the car back and look at exactly what has happened.

"[It's] desperately frustrating. We didn't have the pace to race Charles today. They were in a league of their own but frustrating not to bag those points."

One beneficiary of Verstappen's exit was Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, with the seven-time world champion completing a second-row lockout for the Silver Arrows after his struggles this year.

"We definitely didn't expect to be third and fourth," the Briton added to Sky Sports. "George did a great job today. We'll take these points and keep pushing.

"I couldn't fight for third as the engine kept overheating. I had to back off. We bagged as many points as we could for the team and that's great."

Charles Leclerc saluted his team's work across the Australian Grand Prix, as the Ferrari driver claimed his second win of the 2022 Formula One season in Melbourne.

The Monegasque led from pole throughout to claim victory in the third race of the year, driving a masterfully composed race out in front at Albert Park.

With presumptive title rival Max Verstappen forced into a DNF behind him with another mechanical failure, Leclerc has now opened up a 46-point gap on the reigning world champion.

Even before then, Leclerc had looked comfortable in the lead, and he was quick to pay tribute to his crew back in the Ferrari garage for helping him take his game up a level.

"It's the first win where we have controlled the gap," he stated. "Honestly, what a car today. Of course, I did a good job all weekend, but it was not possible without the car.

"Especially in the race pace, we were extremely strong. [The] tyres felt great - from the first lap to the last lap, we were managing the tyres extremely well. I am just so happy."

Leclerc was forced to navigate both physical and virtual safety car restarts throughout, and almost lost his place to Verstappen when the former came in midway through the race.

"It was very difficult, especially the safety car restart," he added. "I thought it was going to be difficult to keep the first position, but then we managed to do so.

"We are only in the third race, so it is difficult to think about the championship, but we have a very strong car, a very reliable car.

"That makes me smile after the last two years, which have been difficult for the team and myself, so it is great to be back in this position."

Red Bull's Sergio Perez came home second to capitalise on team-mate Verstappen's latest car woes, and the Mexican was muted on the missed chance to lock out the rest of the podium.

"That race was a bit tricky," he added. "We were a bit unlucky losing positions with the safety cars which we recovered later. It would've been great to have a double podium, but we lost Max."

Mercedes' George Russell was the biggest beneficiary of both the safety car and Verstappen's withdrawal, with the Briton edging team-mate Lewis Hamilton for his first podium of the year.

"We have got to be in it to win it and capitalise on others' misfortune," he added. "Obviously we got lucky today twice, but you have got to take it.

"We are never to give up. We have got to keep fighting. This weekend we were a long way behind our rivals but here we are standing on the podium."

Charles Leclerc extended his championship lead by winning the Australian Grand Prix and Max Verstappen retired for the second time in three races on Sunday.

Ferrari driver Leclerc led from start to finish at Albert Park to secure his second victory of the season, with Sergio Perez finishing second and George Russell third.

World champion Verstappen pulled over on lap 39 of 58, while Leclerc's team-mate Carlos Sainz - who started the day second in the driver standings - spun off early in the race after starting back in ninth spot.

Leclerc got off to a good start and Lewis Hamilton moved up from fifth to third behind world champion Verstappen.

The safety car was deployed when Sainz found himself in the gravel after losing control on lap three, with Leclerc extending his advantage as Perez used the DRS to overtake Hamilton.

Verstappen pitted for hard tyres on lap 19 and the safety car was out again when Sebastian Vettel retired, giving Russell the opportunity to pit and remain in third place.

Leclerc fended off Verstappen when the race restarted and that was as close as the Dutchman came to taking the lead before he pulled over due to another issue with his Red Bull.

Monegasque Leclerc was untroubled, easing to a second win in three races and put the icing on the cake by clocking the fastest lap.

Leclerc finished over 20 seconds ahead of Perez, with Russell securing a podium spot and Hamilton crossing the line in fourth spot.

Max Verstappen admits he is still finding it a "struggle" to drive his Red Bull after being pipped to pole for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix by Charles Leclerc.

Championship leader Leclerc outpaced Verstappen with his final lap of a dramatic qualifying session in Melbourne on Saturday to ensure he will start at the top of the grid.

The Ferrari driver, who has finished first and second in the opening two races of 2022, posted 1:17.868 late on in Q3 to finish 0.286s ahead of Verstappen.

"It feels great and very happy to be starting on pole," Leclerc said. "Again, we were quite surprised by our pace in qualifying, so we will see what happens.

"Overall, I'm very happy because it's a track where I've always struggled in the past and I've struggled this weekend.

"You probably couldn't see from outside because we were quite fast, but I was struggling quite a lot with mistakes, being inconsistent.

"I really worked on that to try to put a good lap together in Q3. I knew it was just all about putting it together and I managed to do it in Q3, so I'm very happy."

Verstappen was edged out by Leclerc in a thrilling Saudi Arabian Grand Prix two weeks ago and is third in the drivers' standings, with Carlos Sainz occupying second place.

Leclerc's Ferrari team-mate Sainz will start Sunday's race down in ninth, however, after being caught by red flags that were brought out following a crash for Fernando Alonso.

Red Bull's Verstappen will therefore have a chance to climb the standings this weekend, but the Dutchman is not entirely pleased with how the weekend has gone thus far.

"I would have hoped to start first, but we have to accept where we finish, but the whole weekend has been a bit tricky for me," he said.

"I've never really found a stable grip whether it's front or rear and that's just not nice. For me, that's really been the case all year.

"I've never found a comfortable balance where I could attack corners, especially in qualifying and that's a big limitation – it's something very new for me in the last three years.

"Of course, I'm talking like I'm P18, but I think we have a lot of potential in the car we're not showing and I think that's a bit of a shame.

"But I expect it to be tight [on Sunday]. Maybe Ferrari will find something, but I hope not and hopefully we can have a good battle again."

 

Despite his complaints, it is Verstappen's first front row start at Albert Park as he seeks just a second podium finish in six appearances Down Under.

Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez finished third in qualifying, though that will be reviewed as he is under investigation.

That is due to the Mexican failing to slow for double waved flags after Lance Stroll inadvertently turned into Nicholas Latifi, with both drivers blaming each other for the crash.

Perez, who could only finish four in Jeddah last time out after claiming pole – the first Mexican to ever do so – was more upbeat than Verstappen.

"It felt good. Q1, Q2 things were going good. With all the red flags, it's always very hard to keep the momentum going," he said.

"I regret a bit the decision to go into Q3 with our strategy on the tyres, but I think P3 is a decent start for tomorrow."

Elsewhere in Saturday's qualifying session, Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, who has taken a record eight poles in Australia, finished fifth, narrowly behind McLaren's Lando Norris.

Ferrari star Charles Leclerc insisted rivals Red Bull hold the advantage heading into the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Leclerc's Scuderia have opened up a 40-point lead in the constructors' championship after two races, with the Monegasque driver and Red Bull's Max Verstappen claiming one win apiece across Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Ferrari pair Leclerc and Carlos Sainz are also first and second in the drivers' championship, but the former is expecting a tough challenge at the redeveloped Albert Park in Melbourne.

Formula One returns to Australia for the first time in two years, with the track modified to make it much faster than it used to be, which Leclerc feels will not work in Ferrari's favour.

"Overall the track characteristics here are not fitting very well with our [car], but everything is to play for," Leclerc said.

"I still think we will be in the mix – it will still be very close."

Leclerc boasts a 12-point lead over team-mate Sainz in the drivers' standings, having secured victory in Bahrain and second in Jeddah, and reigning champion Verstappen sits a further eight back.

But Leclerc reiterated that Red Bull will be the favourites on Sunday, given Verstappen's team appear the leaders on straights and Albert Park has removed a chicane while widening some corners.

"I think the old one would have suited us better," he added. "But it is the way it is and we will try to maximise everything as always, and hopefully Imola [after the Australian GP] will be a track that suits us a little bit better.

"It is not like it is going to be a big gap. If we do the perfect job, everything is possible."

Sainz echoed Leclerc's sentiments as he labelled Red Bull the favourites.

"Our car has been strong in all the circuits we have been to so far, but it's true in Jeddah, with more straight-line [speed], the Red Bull looked like the better car and [had] the better balance in terms of top speed and corner speed," Sainz said. 

"So, given how long the straights have become here, maybe they are a bit more up for it. But I think we can still do a good job."

While Ferrari appear concerned with the modifications in Melbourne, DRS strategy is also expected to play a significant role in the third race if the opening two are anything to go by.

Leclerc has attempted to utilise the DRS overtaking aid in both those races, letting Verstappen through before the detection points and then benefiting in overtaking zones, and he expects a similar tactical battle to follow again.

"We have seen in the past two races this strategy with DRS, and I am pretty sure we will see it even more here, because basically all the straights have a DRS zone, so overtaking will be a thing and clever racing can make a big difference here," he said.

Two races into the 2022 Formula One season, a new era of regulations and while it is evident to see that Ferrari and Red Bull have started the strongest, Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen seem to be relishing the duel.

It is currently one race apiece for Leclerc and Verstappen, but both the former's win in Bahrain and the latter's in Saudi Arabia have been characterised by hard but fair wheel-to-wheel racing.

Coming into this weekend's Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, Ferrari's strength this season can be seen in the fact they have opened up a healthy 40-point buffer in the constructors' championship after only two races.

Leclerc and Sainz are also first and second in the drivers' championship, with the Monegasque's respective first and second place finishes coupled with bonus points for the fastest lap in the opening two races.

Following a tightly contested race in Saudi Arabia, Leclerc and Verstappen were revelling in the opening battles for the championship.

"It wasn't enough today, but my God, I really enjoyed that race," Leclerc said. "Every race should be like this."

Especially in comparison to how sour the relationship became between him and Lewis Hamilton as they fought for the title in 2021, Verstappen is also enjoying the hard but fair racing.

"It was really tough, but a good race," the world champion said after his Saudi win. "We were both battling hard at the front. We just tried to play the long game."

 

Mercedes' lack of pace working against Hamilton  

Meanwhile, Mercedes have endured a difficult start to the 2022 season, claiming third and fourth thanks to Red Bull DNFs in Bahrain before a fifth and 10th place finish in Saudi Arabia, well off the pace at the front.

Their troubles with speed and managing downforce in relation to their heavy porpoising is difficult for any team, let alone one with expectations of drivers' and constructors' championships.

With that all in mind, Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton has taken eight pole positions at Albert Park, tied with two other drivers for the most ever in F1 at a single track – Michael Schumacher at Suzuka and Ayrton Senna at Imola are the other two, while Hamilton also holds eight at the Hungaroring.

 

No home race advantage for Aussies

McLaren's poor start to the season could only serve to compound matters for Daniel Ricciardo at his home race.

No Australian driver has ever won, taken pole position or reached the podium in 35 editions of the Australian GP.

Ricciardo (2016, 2018) and Mark Webber (2010) only managed to secure fastest laps and mere points finishes.

 

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 45
2. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 33
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 25
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 22
5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 16

Constructors

1. Ferrari 78
2. Mercedes 38
3. Red Bull 37
4. Alpine 16
5. Haas 12

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes Ferrari are a challenger for this year's Formula One drivers' and constructors' titles, despite Max Verstappen's victory at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Following his DNF in the season opener in Bahrain, Verstappen bounced back to claim the 25 points in a tightly contested race.

With Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz on the podium in both races, however, Ferrari have opened up an early 40-point lead in the constructors' championship. Leclerc has also added to his respective first and second-placed finishes with two bonus points from fastest laps.

According to Horner, it is a sign of their legitimacy and strength this season.

"Ferrari have got a great car, they've got great drivers," he told Sky Sports. "It was a really tough battle. If that's what we're set for the rest of the season... from what we've seen in the first two races, it's been epic.

"They're all competitive teams. Ferrari are a big team, they've been a sleeping giant for a couple of years. They've got great strength in depth. It was just a great motor race. We enjoyed it, it was good hard racing between the drivers, and let's see what happens in Australia."

In the second consecutive race this season, Verstappen and Leclerc were locked in a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle, with the defending champion seeing off the Ferrari challenge in Jeddah this time.

Horner praised the reigning world champion's race management, with Verstappen well placed to hold off Leclerc's late charge, while also saving some words for fourth-placed pole-sitter Sergio Perez.

"It was a very patient race from Max," Horner said. "He looked after the tyres for the end of the race there, and then after the last safety car, he really went for it.

"[Sergio] has driven brilliantly all weekend. He got that pole, his race pace was great, and he's just got unlucky with track position with the safety car. We've seen that happen sometimes."

The F1 season resumes in April with the Australian GP in Melbourne.

Mattia Binotto enjoyed "a great spectacle" as Charles Leclerc battled with Max Verstappen in Jeddah – despite Ferrari coming off second best.

For the second week running, Leclerc and Verstappen were at the forefront of the race.

This time, however, Verstappen's Red Bull did not fail on him, allowing the defending champion to earn his first win and points of the season in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

As in Bahrain, where Verstappen had failed to make his passes stick, Leclerc initially looked to have a tactical edge, braking in front of the DRS line to beat his rival on the straight on one lap before nipping in front when the Dutchman attempted to do the same the following time around.

Eventually, however, Verstappen worked it out, getting ahead and staving off a last-gasp challenge to cross the line first.

Ferrari team principal Binotto was unable to celebrate successive victories following the Bahrain one-two but again had two cars on the podium, with Carlos Sainz in third, and simply enjoyed seeing Leclerc in position to challenge Verstappen.

"Red Bull and Max did a fantastic race. I think Max drove very well," Binotto told Sky Sports.

"It has been a great spectacle to see those two guys battling for the first positions. It has been a great – not good but great – race. I think it's what we're looking for.

"For us to be competitive, to be there, to fight, it was at least our objective to start the season. We can be very pleased. In two races, from 88 points total available, we scored 78, so this can only be a good start to the season.

"I think [Leclerc] drove very well, and he's very smart, and those two guys are very strong.

"He's got a lot of talent and he's proven again that he can fight with Max at the level. They've been fighting since when they were kids, and now they're fighting here at the first position in F1.

"It's very, very good for F1, a fantastic start to the season."

Max Verstappen hailed the race pace of his Red Bull after snatching victory in a gripping tussle with Charles Leclerc at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The Dutchman edged out the Ferrari of Leclerc to deny the Monte Carlo racer consecutive wins after his victory in Bahrain, where Verstappen failed to finish.

Verstappen passed Leclerc for the lead with just a handful of laps to go on Sunday after sitting behind him all race, initially in third and then second after Sergio Perez dropped down the field.

It meant the 24-year-old earned his first points of the season as he aims to become a two-time world champion, and speaking afterwards, Verstappen admitted he was glad to have got off the mark.

"It was really tough, but a good race," the Dutchman said. "We were both battling hard at the front. We just tried to play the long game.

"They were really quick through corners, and we were really quick on the straight. The tyres were wearing out quite quick.

"You could see by the end we had a little bit more pace. I tried to get by, it wasn't easy, they were playing smart tricks in the last corner, but eventually I managed to get ahead.

"Even after that, he was constantly in the DRS. [I'm] really happy we finally kick-started the season."

Leclerc, who had looked poised for his second win as many races, took time to congratulate his opponent and point to the thrill of the jostling for first place.

"It wasn't enough today, but my god, I really enjoyed that race," Leclerc said. "Every race should be like this. It was fun.

"We had two very different configurations. We were quite quick in the corner, but slow in the straights. It was extremely difficult for me to cover Max in the straight. He did a great job, it was a fun race."

The Ferrari driver felt the race only reinforced the respect the pair have for each other, adding: "It's always been there, especially when you finish a race like this on a street track.

"We've been pushing like I've rarely pushed before, we take risks. Of course there's respect."

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