Sergio Perez took an impressive victory at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, ahead of his team-mate Max Verstappen in the second round of the 2023 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.
The Mexican took an impressive pole position on Saturday, albeit helped by an issue for Verstappen in Q2 but the race had it challenges with Pérez under serious pressure from his team-mate following a safety car due to the retirement of Lance Stroll.
Fernando Alonso once again finished behind the Oracle Red Bull Racing pair but he wasn’t to be on the podium after he was demoted down to fourth place behind George Russell after receiving a penalty.
However, Red Bull once again showed they have the car in 2023 to dominate, while Pérez’s performance will give the Mexican confidence that he can contend against his team-mate in the Drivers’ Championship. Team orders, however, at Red Bull will need to be dealt with behind closed doors, with both drivers seemingly ignoring the pit wall and going for fastest lap in the closing laps.
Damage Limitation for Mercedes
Despite an awful lot of conversation about the performance of the newly developed W14 and the lack of pace for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team. The German team had a good race finishing third and fifth, only behind the Red Bull’s and Alonso.
Russell, who started third on the grid, had a fairly uneventful race in Jeddah and maximised the number of points he could have got with only Championship leader passing him. The Kings-Lynn born driver thought he was in with a chance for a podium after the end after a potential ten second penalty for Alonso. Shorly after the end of the race, Alonso was given a ten second penalty which saw him demoted behind Russell, for the British driver to get onto the podium for the first time in 2023.
Lewis Hamilton had a more eventful race than his teammate, with the seven-time world champion starting on the hard tyre, putting him at a disadvantage for the race start. The Brit was able to keep Pierre Gasly behind him in the first ten laps of the race, but on slower tyres, he was unable to defend from Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, who were making their way through the grid after starting further back due to issues before the race.
Despite not being in a position for race wins and podium finishes, Mercedes were able to maximise the points they could reach and to finish ahead of both Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. is a good achievement.
McLaren Pain Continues
McLaren F1 Team endured yet another Sunday of pain, with Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris both finishing outside the points and unable to even battle for the last few World Championship point spots.
Piastri qualified really well on Saturday and started the race in eight but the Australian rookie picked up front-wing damage at the start meaning he had to pit on just the second lap, which coupled together with a large majority of the grid gaining a free pit stop under the safety car ruined his race. Norris’ race didn’t go much better either, the British driver started in nineteenth after hitting the wall and having to abandon his efforts in qualifying and similarly to his team-mate, he picked up damage at the start, meaning he had to pit for a new front wing just a lap after Piastri.
Andrea Stella and the McLaren hierarchy will be hoping for a much-improved performance in Australia, with the team rock bottom of the World Championship.
What Happened Elsewhere?
Scuderia Ferrari had a weekend to forget with the Italian team finishing as low as sixth and seventh after they seriously suffered from the timing of the Safety Car with both Leclerc and Sainz pitting a few laps before Stroll’s mechanical issue. The result moves Ferrari down to fourth in the Constructors Championship, behind both Aston Martin and Mercedes, who they would have been hoping to beat round the streets of Jeddah.
The race brought a good return for BWT Alpine F1 Team, with the French team maximising their points-scoring potential at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. Both Esteban Ocon and Gasly managed their races well to finish eighth and ninth at the chequered flag. Ocon started sixth but with the pace of Leclerc, Hamilton and Verstappen behind, the French driver will be happy with his work and his first points of the season.
The final points position saw a battle between Kevin Magnussen and Yuki Tsunoda. The former ended up bringing home the first points of the season for Haas F1 Team but it was a thrilling battle, with both drivers giving it their all for the final world championship point. Although it is early in the season, Tsunoda would have been hoping for an early points finish with the Japanese driver under some pressure due to his F1 contract expiry with Scuderia AlphaTauri at the end of the current season.
Tsunoda’s rookie team-mate, Nyck de Vries would have been hoping for better race pace but unfortunately for the Dutch driver, he was unable to get his second points of his Formula 1 career after scoring points in his first and only race in the 2022 season with Williams Racing after replacing Alex Albon due to illness. The Dutchman will be hoping for a better qualifying to set up his race in Australia.
Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake remain pointless in the championship as they saw Guanyu Zhou finish thirteenth behind the Haas of Nico Hülkenberg, despite showing good pace at points. Valtteri Bottas once again failed to score points and would have been extremely disappointed with his race, finishing last of the runners on track after a late stop onto the soft tyre to try and push for the fastest lap attempt.
Despite showing potential over the course of the weekend, Williams were unable to score points and Albon unfourtantely couldn’t finish the race due a brake failure he reported on lap twenty-seven of the grand prix. There was positive to take out of the race though for James Vowles, which was once again the impressive performance of Logan Sargeant. Albeit, he dropped back before the end of the race, he was in the mix of the fight for twelfth before he lost quite a bit of performance on the medium tyre in the last ten laps. However, he can be proud of his performance.
Formula 1 heads to Australia for the next round of the championship in two weeks’ time, and Red Bull will be everyone’s team to beat around Albert Park.