F1 Saudi Arabian GP Results: Red Bull Dominates Again
Red Bull Racing maintained its impressive start to the 2023 Formula 1 season in Saudi Arabia – though this time it was Sergio Perez who led home World Champion Max Verstappen. Autoweek rounds up the talking points from the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
Perez leads home Verstappen
It was a comfortable night in the end of Sergio Perez. Red Bull’s pace advantage around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit was such that he was able to breeze past Fernando Alonso – having lost out on the opening lap – and from there he opened and preserved a buffer to his closest challengers. Key to the outcome of the race was the driveshaft failure which beset team-mate Verstappen during qualifying. The World Champion had been unbeatable throughout the trio of practice sessions but the failure in Q2 meant Verstappen started only 15th on the grid. Such was the performance of Red Bull’s RB19 that Verstappen gradually picked off rivals one by one – aided by a Safety Car period which reduced a deficit to Perez that peaked at 20 seconds – to hold second place by mid-distance. The gap between the pair hovered around the five-second mark for much of the remainder of the race, amid Verstappen’s concerns regarding another potential driveshaft issue, and Perez duly led home his team-mate for Red Bull’s second 1-2 of the season.
Verstappen holds a slender one-point buffer over Perez in the championship on account of setting the race’s fastest lap. That caused the only bone of contention post-race, with Perez having been under the impression that the drivers were keeping a certain pace in the last two laps – when Perez had the fastest lap – before Verstappen posted the best effort on the final lap.
“They told me to keep a certain pace and they told me I had the fastest lap and to keep a certain pace,” said Perez. “So I thought that communication was the same to Max. It’s something we need to review because I got certainly different information and I just couldn’t push there in the end.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner affirmed that both drivers were informed they had free rein to push for fastest lap, before going on to laud his team’s job across the opening pair of events.
“It’s been the best start to a season that we’ve ever had, we’re only two races in, but to have had two 1-2 finishes and be one point off a maximum score, I don’t think we could have ever dreamed about that coming into the season,” said Horner.
Red Bull already has 87 points from the opening two rounds and its closest challenger, Mercedes, is only on 41. You can bet the house on the trophies staying in Milton Keynes this year.
Alonso’s time penalty creates post-race mess
Formula 1’s governing body and its stewards managed to cover themselves in glory by adding a sour note to a race that had hardly been a thriller. Fernando Alonso was correctly handed a five-second time penalty after being slightly out of his grid box at the start and that was served during his pit stop. But shortly after third-placed Alonso celebrated the 100th podium of his career he was hit with a 10-second time drop due to the original penalty being incorrectly served. It was judged that Aston Martin’s mechanics had interfered with the car before the five seconds was up, which is a breach of the rules. But there was no note of an investigation during the following 35 laps. Alonso finished five seconds in front of George Russell, meaning he dropped behind the Mercedes driver once the penalty was applied, but was adamant post-race he would have opened a 10-second window had he known there was a sanction coming.
“Today is not good for the fans when you have 35 laps to apply the penalty and inform about the penalty and you wait after the podium,” said Alonso. “There is something really wrong in the system, it’s the way it is, I feel sorry for the fans, but I really enjoyed the podium, I took the trophy, I have the pictures, I celebrate with the champagne and now [scoring] 15 or 12 points doesn’t change much for me. But it is a little bit sad for the FIA yes.”
The penalty was good news for Russell and Mercedes, with silverware an unexpected development so early in the season, while Lewis Hamilton backed up his team-mate by taking fifth – even if he is still struggling with the W14.
“I still don’t have the confidence in the race but I am doing my best with it,” said Hamilton. “There's lots of positives to take from this weekend. It will be up and down throughout the first few races.
“Hopefully we can get some upgrades ASAP and try to close that gap to the Astons.”
Ferrari’s miserable start rumbles on
Ferrari’s underwhelming start to the 2023 season continued in Saudi Arabia. Charles Leclerc qualified second, albeit some way adrift of Perez, but after being relegated to 12th on the grid due to an engine change was able to take only seventh. That was only one spot behind team-mate Carlos Sainz, who started fourth, but was overhauled by Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.
“The last stint on the Hard [tires] proves that we are not where we want to be,” said Sainz. “We still degrade more than the Mercs, we still degrade more than the Astons, and we lack a bit of race pace. After Friday [practice] and before the weekend I thought we had a chance to be the second force here in Jeddah but I think that second stint on the hard proves we still have a lot of work to do. That we have a weakness in the race, that we need to wait for developments to come to see if we can improve that weakness.”
A downbeat Charles Leclerc said that “we didn’t have the pace to challenge for much better today” and “the pace is just not good enough.”
Sainz explained that he was “honestly not leaving much on the table in the first part of the stint and the [Red Bulls] are just flying, compared to anyone else. Red Bull is really, really dominant right now.”
Sainz is optimistic that Ferrari can bring upgrades to help remedy the situation but on Sunday night it looked like being a long season for the red team.
McLaren has another lackluster race
McLaren suffered another dismal race in Saudi Arabia – from a race that had initial promise on one side of the garage. Rookie Oscar Piastri was excellent in qualifying to secure eighth place but on the first lap he brushed Alpine’s Pierre Gasly as they rounded Turn 2. The contact was only minor, and a typical first-lap skirmish, but was sufficient for Piastri to require repairs. To exacerbate the situation for McLaren Lando Norris – who started on the back row after lightly tagging the wall in Q1 – picked up front wing damage after striking the debris and also had to pit for repairs. That left the McLaren drivers at the back of the field and, in an average car with a straight-line speed deficit, their race was already run.
“We went onto the mediums, then they dropped off, but it’s too difficult to overtake, we’re not quick enough in the straights as well, so it was a tough one,” said Norris. “It was a bit worse in the race than we were hoping for, we struggled in the dirty air too much. Nothing new, just confirmation of what we have and what we struggle with.”
Piastri, who eventually classified in 15thplace, outlined that “there was some good racing at the end, which was nice and obviously I did a long stint on the Hards, so it’s good to get a bit of learning for the tyres but overall, it’s not what we were looking for tonight.”
The result leaves McLaren at the foot of the Constructors’ Championship with only AlphaTauri having also failed to score so far this year.
Magnussen puts Haas on the board
Kevin Magnussen put Haas on the scoreboard for 2023 with a resilient drive to 10thplace. Magnussen suffered a downshift issue in qualifying, along with brake woes, but still bagged a reasonable starting position of 13th and from there moved up to 11th, leaving him primed to chase down AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda. Magnussen eventually made an overtake stick in the closing laps to sneak into the top 10.
“A point means a lot,” said Magnussen. “We were able to have a good race, get a good start, manage the tires well – especially on the hard compound when I was on older tires than Tsunoda and actually had less degradation. I was then able to get past him at the end, and we managed to get a point.”
Haas boss Guenther Steiner praised the team for “performing flawlessly all weekend” and carried an optimistic mood.
“As I said after Bahrain, I didn’t really know where we were with the car, but we now know where we think we are,” he said. “We’re in the mix, we’re actually pretty good I think – it’s all coming together.”
Nico Hulkenberg was 12thin the sister Haas, a few seconds behind Magnussen, and was encouraged to run a full race in the VF-23 after early damage in Bahrain distorted his analysis.
“On one hand I’m disappointed I missed out on a point, but on the other hand I’m very pleased that I completed the race and we’ve learned a lot,” said Hulkenberg. “The underlying positive news is that we’re competitive. It was difficult to judge in Bahrain with damage, but here today we’re definitely competitive in the midfield and that makes me happy.”
F1 Saudi Arabian GP Results
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