Formula 1

2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – What the Team Principals Said after the Race in Jeddah

8 Mins read
Credit: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Race two of the 2024 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season is in the books, and we had a familiar result at the front of the field as Max Verstappen took a ninth consecutive win, and the nineteenth in the past twenty races.

There were stories up and down the grid, with Oracle Red Bull Racing taking a second consecutive one-two finish, while Oliver Bearman played a starring role on his Grand Prix debut having only been called up from FIA Formula 2 on Friday morning to replace the unwell Carlos Sainz Jr. at Scuderia Ferrari.

There was also an amazing defensive drive from MoneyGram Haas F1 Team’s Kevin Magnussen, who held up four cars for lap after lap to allow team-mate Nico Hülkenberg to score his first point of the season.

Here is what those on the pit wall had to say after the conclusion of Saturday evening’s race under the floodlights at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

Christian Horner – Team Principal, Oracle Red Bull Racing

#1 – Max Verstappen, #11 – Sergio Perez

“Today was a very well executed race, the only mishap we had was the unsafe release, but Checo had enough in hand to keep that second place and Max was clinical throughout to win again. The cars performed brilliantly all weekend and the drivers have done their part to deliver us a second one-two of the season already.

“I think you can see that the Team is operating at an incredibly high level, trackside and back home in Milton Keynes, we’ve carried that momentum from last year and that is testament to a lot of hard work from everyone. The RB20 was an aggressive evolution from the RB19 for us but after a dominant display in Bahrain, we’ve come to another circuit and it’s performed well again.

“In Melbourne we will have another, very different challenge, so let’s see how we perform. We have started the season in the best possible way we could and the whole Team now want to continue this form into the remainder of a very long season.”

Frédéric Vasseur – Team Principal, Scuderia Ferrari

#16 – Charles Leclerc, #38 – Oliver Bearman

“With Charles today, I think we paid the price a little bit in the first part of the race of not being in clean air. Unfortunately, after the pit stop, he lost time with Lando Norris and so he was unable to get close enough to Sergio Perez to try and make the most of the five second penalty handed out to the Mexican.

“Overall, Charles produced a solid race and when he had a clear track ahead of him he was able to match the pace of the Red Bulls to the extent that he set the fastest lap at the very end. We have to put our rivals under pressure if we want to beat them and today, we didn’t manage it. The good news is that we have made progress in terms of the tyres and had minimal degradation.

As for Ollie, I didn’t have any specific expectations given the circumstance that led to him being in the car. And yet, he managed these two days amazingly well, almost like a veteran. There were no problems with his start or at the pit stop, things that were all new to him. He was always calm and precise with his feedback over the radio and gradually his confidence in the car grew so that towards the end he managed to keep two great drivers, Lando (Norris) and Lewis (Hamilton) behind him.

It was nice that Carlos was able to join us at the track today, just over 24 hours after his operation and we hope he will be able to race in Australia. If nothing else, this weekend has taught us that, if the need arises again, we have a reserve driver who is very much up to the task.”

Oliver Bearman had a superb debut Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia – Credit: Zak Mauger / LAT Images

Andrea Stella – Team Principal, McLaren F1 Team

#81 – Oscar Piastri, #4 – Lando Norris

“Another strong result here in Saudi Arabia. Oscar drove very solidly throughout the weekend and today he capitalised on the strong qualifying yesterday, finishing fourth and driving a faultless race, with some close but clean fights. 

“With Lando, we decided to split the strategy as a team at the Safety Car, which could have put us in a very rewarding situation in the event of another Safety Car or a red flag, which is not infrequent here in Saudi, and so definitely worthwhile taking this opportunity. Unfortunately, there was no further Safety Car or a Red Flag which meant Lando potentially lost a couple of positions compared to where we could have finished. Nonetheless, it was still a strong result and very good driving by Lando. 

“We take the positives from the first two races with the knowledge it will be a battle of development throughout the season. We are pleased to be so close to a podium finish and know where we have to keep working and improving the car.”

Mike Krack – Team Principal, Aston Martin Aramco Formula 1 Team

#14 – Fernando Alonso, #18 – Lance Stroll

“A strong drive from Fernando and 10 points for the team. Both drivers were under a lot of pressure at the start and had to push very hard for position. Unfortunately, a small mistake from Lance came with a high price. This is an unforgiving street circuit and all that matters in such situations is Lance is OK.

“A big thank-you to everyone in the team for their hard efforts – it has been a busy three weeks in the Middle East. Overall, we have made a positive start, have lots of data to take back to Silverstone, and are already focusing on the next race.” 

Fernando Alonso started fourth and finished fifth in Jeddah – Credit: Aston Martin Aramco Formula 1 Team

Toto Wolff – Team Principal & CEO, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team

#63 – George Russell, #44 – Lewis Hamilton

“Today was not a good day for us. It is clear that we are struggling with the car in the high-speed corners. We are competitive elsewhere but in three corners here, we were losing about half-a-second. It was therefore incredibly difficult for the drivers to attack with.

“We tried something different on the strategy but unfortunately, with the low levels of degradation we saw across the field, it didn’t work out for us. Congratulations must go to Ollie Bearman; he jumped in the car at such short notice and drove a great race, particularly in that final stint. It shows just how high the level is in Formula 2.

“There is so much learning we can take from these first two race weekends. We need to get our heads down to analyse, understand and improve. It’s clear that we’ve got a lot of work to do but these tough days make you better. Everyone is committed to getting the car into a better place and we look forward to coming back stronger in Australia.”

Ayao Komatsu – Team Principal, MoneyGram Haas F1 Team

#27 – Nico Hülkenberg, #20 – Kevin Magnussen

“Today was an amazing team effort and I’m so happy that it was from great teamwork. We were fighting for P10 – one point – but against eight other drivers, so everything had to be perfect to take the opportunity.

“Today, Kevin got two penalties, but once we realized he was out of points contention, we made a great call and Kev drove fantastically to hold those guys back while setting a target lap time, and Nico drove faultlessly.

“It was a huge team effort, congratulations to everyone, and I’m really looking forward to the next race.”

Nico Hülkenberg recovered from breaking down in Qualifying to score Haas’ first point of 2024 on Saturday – Credit: Zak Mauger / LAT Images

Dave Robson – Head of Vehicle Performance, Williams Racing

#23 – Alexander Albon, #2 – Logan Sargeant

“Today was one those incredibly frustrating races. Alex had a superb start and was ahead of the Ferrari but got caught in traffic at T1 and, crucially, lost a place to Magnussen. Most of the field pitted when the safety car came out and when Alex made a pass on Magnussen shortly after the race start, he was unfairly impeded which Magnussen was penalised for, but it cost us several places and caused damage to the front wing end plate. Despite the damage, Alex was able to attack and overtake several cars, but was unable to take the final points-scoring position due to the sensible team play made by Haas.

“Logan raced well today and was part of the same pack of cars as Alex for the majority of the race. His pace was strong, but he suffered with slightly higher tyre degradation than Alex in the final stint.

“Although we are frustrated to have finished just outside of the points, there are positives from today, including the basic race pace of the FW46.

“We have learned a lot over the last couple of weeks in the Middle East and the team can now regroup back in Europe before heading to Australia for the third round of the Championship. Melbourne is always one of the highlights of the season and we are looking forward to building on the work done in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.”

Bruno Famin – Team Principal, BWT Alpine F1 Team

#31 – Esteban Ocon, #10 – Pierre Gasly

“We said it was going to be a tough start to the season and it has been a very difficult first few weeks with the test and two Grands Prix. Even if we have upgrades coming, we need to understand our lack of performance. And, today, we have to investigate the gearbox problem, which cost Pierre valuable track time.

“There is only one thing we can do and that is to continue working hard all together to improve the current situation that we are in. Credit to the factories in Enstone and Viry and to the trackside team for their fantastic mindset and tenacity to improve quickly our current performance level. Next stop, Australia.”

Esteban Ocon was Alpine’s only finisher in Saudi Arabia after Pierre Gasly retired on lap one – Credit: BWT Alpine F1 Team

Laurent Mekies – Team Principal, Visa CashApp RB

#22 – Yuki Tsunoda, #3 – Daniel Ricciardo

“It was a very disappointing result for the team today after a lot of good work during the weekend. Yuki was fighting for what could have been a P10 finish. He was then passed by Magnussen, who cut the track to do so and then slowed down the whole pack to let his teammate open a gap to pit in front of all of us. It made the penalty imposed on Magnussen meaningless, as it destroyed Yuki’s race.

“It was a disappointing finish after a very good qualifying yesterday. Daniel’s race was compromised by a very long pit stop during the double stack under the Safety Car. He then drove a large part of the race in heavy traffic.

“In an ultra-tight midfield, you fall off very quickly as soon as you don’t get everything perfect, and the race was certainly not perfect for us. We’ll continue working hard in Faenza and Bicester, and the team is looking forward to resuming the fight in Melbourne.”

Alessandro Alunni Bravi – Team Representative, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber

#77 – Valtteri Bottas, #24 – Zhou Guanyu

“Today marked a rather disappointing outcome for our race, despite the reasonable pace shown by both drivers. Valtteri had a good start, but yellow lights signalling a potential stalling car forced him to brake, resulting in a loss of a few positions.

“Taking advantage of an early Safety Car, and considering his soft compound tyre start, we opted for an early pit stop. Unfortunately, we struggled to find the optimal operating window for the hard compound tyres to perform at their best.

“Zhou’s race was characterised by a consistent and good performance. Choosing to keep him out during the Safety Car phase allowed him to fight with Kevin [Magnussen] and Nico [Hülkenberg] for points. Regrettably, we faced an issue during the pit stop: it was similar to last week’s in Bahrain, not the fault of any of our mechanics but something that requires thorough investigation. This setback placed Zhou at the back of the field, yet he persisted, showcasing good pace on the soft compound tyres.

“In a highly competitive midfield, we can’t afford any minor issue and must extract 100% of our performance. We’re looking with confidence towards the next race in Melbourne to be fighting for points once again.”

For a second consecutive race, one of Sauber’s drivers suffered a slow pit stop, this time Zhou Guanyu, ending his chance of points – Credit: Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber
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