Saudi Arabian GP red-flagged twice after early crashes

Formula 1's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was red-flagged twice within 16 laps on Sunday following several crashes, with four drivers out of the race.

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With pole position man Lewis Hamilton having led away from the start, the race had passed without much incident before Schumacher's smash.

The Haas driver lost control of his car on the entry to Turn 22, and spun into the barriers on the outside of the circuit.

The crash triggered an immediate safety car, with Hamilton and his teammate Valtteri Bottas pitting from the front.

But third-placed Max Verstappen, who has a chance of winning the world championship at the Jeddah track, elected to stay out after being delayed on his way into the pits by Bottas ahead of him.

Red Bull's decision to keep Verstappen out appeared to have badly compromised his chances for the win, but the decision paid off handsomely moments later when F1 race director Michael Masi brought out a red flag shortly afterwards.

F1's red flag rules allow drivers a free tyre change for the restart, which means Verstappen will start from pole position with a fresh set of tyres.

Hamilton expressed his frustration over the team radio about Masi's decision to bring the red flag out, after feeling that the barriers could have been repaired without needing the race to be stopped.

The barrier repairs took little more than 10 minutes with the race set to restart 18 minutes after the red flag was brought out.

On the lap 16 restart chaos erupted again as Red Bull's Sergio Perez was spun around by the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, while Haas driver Nikita Mazepin smashed into the back of Williams' George Russell, who was trying to take avoiding action. 

During the second standing start Hamilton took over the lead from Verstappen, only for the Dutchman to retaliate in Turn 1, although he did cross the white line in doing so.

Hamilton had to take avoiding action and dropped back to third behind Alpine driver Esteban Ocon, who had benefitted from not pitting under the first safety car.

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