Saudi Arabia F1 GP results: Red Bull dominate again
Red Bull Racing continued their impressive start to the 2023 Formula One season in Saudi Arabia – although this time it was Sergio Perez who guided home world champion Max Verstappen. Autoweek rounds up the talking points from the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
Perez leads Verstappen home
It was a cozy night at the end of Sergio Perez. Red Bull’s pace advantage at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit was such that he was able to overtake Fernando Alonso – after losing on the first lap – and from there opened and maintained a buffer on his closest rivals. The decisive factor for the result of the race was the failure of the drive shaft, which affected team-mate Verstappen in qualifying. The World Champion was unbeatable throughout the trio of practice sessions but failing to do so in Q2 meant Verstappen had only started 15thth on the grid. Such was the performance of Red Bull’s RB19 that Verstappen gradually eliminated rivals one by one – aided by a safety car period that reduced a gap to Perez that culminated at 20 seconds – to halve for second place to keep track. The gap between the two hovered around the five-second mark for the remainder of the race amid Verstappen’s concerns over another potential driveshaft problem, and Perez duly guided his teammate home to Red Bull’s second 1-2 of the season.
Verstappen has a small one-point buffer over Perez in the championship for setting the fastest lap of the race. That was the only bone of contention after the race, as Perez felt the drivers would maintain a certain pace for the last two laps – when Perez had the fastest lap – before Verstappen showed the best performance on the final lap.
“They told me to keep a certain pace and they told me I had the fastest lap and I should keep a certain pace,” Perez said. “So I thought the communication for Max is the same. It’s something we need to check because I certainly got other information and just couldn’t get any further in the end.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner confirmed both drivers were informed they had free reign to push for the fastest lap, before praising his team’s work in the first two races.
“It was the best start to the season we’ve had, we’ve only been in it for two races but to have two 1-2 finishes and be a point off the top score I don’t think we could have ever done that dreamed of that coming into the season,” Horner said.
Red Bull already have 87 points from the first two rounds and their closest rival Mercedes is just 41. You can bet the trophies will stay in Milton Keynes this year.
Alonso’s time penalty causes post-race chaos
Formula 1’s governing body and its stewards managed to cover themselves in glory by putting a bitter note on what was hardly a thriller race. Fernando Alonso was correctly given a five-second time penalty after being slightly outside his starting pits at the start and it was served during his pit stop. But shortly afterwards, third-placed Alonso celebrated his 100th birthdayth Podium finish of his career, he was hit by a 10-second time loss due to the original penalty being served incorrectly. It was decided that Aston Martin’s mechanics had intervened on the car before the five seconds had elapsed, in violation of the rules. But in the following 35 rounds there was no hint of an investigation. Alonso finished five seconds ahead of George Russell, meaning he fell behind the Mercedes driver after the penalty was imposed, but he was adamant he would have opened a 10-second window after the race had he would have known that a sanction was imminent.
“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. “Something is wrong in the system, it is, I’m sorry for the fans, but I really enjoyed the podium, I lifted the trophy, I have the pictures, I’m celebrating with the champagne and now [scoring] 15 or 12 points doesn’t change much for me. But it’s a bit sad for the FIA, yes.”
The penalty was good news for Russell and Mercedes, as Silver was an unexpected development so early in the season, while Lewis Hamilton supported his team-mate with fifth place – albeit still struggling with the W14.
“I still don’t have the confidence in the race, but I’m doing my best,” said Hamilton. “This weekend can take away a lot of positive things. There will be ups and downs in the first races.
“Hopefully we can get some upgrades as soon as possible and try to close that gap with the Astons.”
Ferrari’s miserable start continues to rumble
Ferrari’s stunning start to the 2023 season continued in Saudi Arabia. Charles Leclerc qualified second, albeit slightly behind Perez but after being relegated to 12th placeth could only take seventh place on the grid due to an engine change. That was just one place behind teammate Carlos Sainz, who started fourth but was passed by Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.
“The last stint on the Hard [tires] proves we’re not where we want to be,” said Sainz. “We’re still breaking down more than the Mercs, we’re still breaking down more than the Astons and we’re lacking a bit of race pace. After Friday [practice] and going into 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 track proves we still have a lot of work to do. That we have a weakness in the race, that we have to wait for the developments to come to see if we can improve on that weakness.”
A dejected Charles Leclerc said that “we didn’t have the pace today to get much better” and “the pace just isn’t good enough”.
Sainz explained that he “honestly didn’t leave much on the table in the first part of the stint and the stint [Red Bulls] fly easily compared to everyone else. Red Bull is really, really dominant at the moment.”
Sainz is optimistic Ferrari can bring upgrades to improve the situation but on Sunday night it looked like a long season for the red team.
McLaren has another lackluster race
McLaren suffered another dismal race in Saudi Arabia – from a race that initially showed promise on one side of the pits. Rookie Oscar Piastri was superb in qualifying to secure eighth place, but clipped Alpine’s Pierre Gasly on the first lap as they rounded Turn 2. Contact was minor and typical first-lap skirmish, but it was enough for Piastri to have repairs made. To compound the situation for McLaren Lando Norris – who started from the back row in Q1 after slightly touching the wall – suffered front wing damage after hitting the debris and also had to pit for repairs. That left the McLaren drivers at the back of the field and in an average straight line speed deficit car their race was already done.
“We went to the middle track, then they went off, but it’s too difficult to overtake, we’re not fast enough on the straights either, so it was difficult,” said Norris. “In the race it was a bit worse than we had hoped, we fought back too much in the dirty air. Nothing new, just a confirmation of what we have and what we are struggling with.”
Piastri, who eventually classified himself in 15thst place, explained: “There were some good races at the end which was nice and of course I did a long stint on the hards so it’s good to learn a bit about the tires but overall it’s not that what we were looking for tonight.”
The result leaves McLaren at the foot of the Constructors’ Championship, with only AlphaTauri also not scoring so far this year.
Magnussen brings Haas on the board
Kevin Magnussen put Haas on the 2023 scoreboard with a resilient drive to 10thLocation. Magnussen had a downshift problem in qualifying, along with braking issues, but still managed to get a reasonable starting position of 13th and from there to the 11thth, which prepares him to hunt down AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda. Magnussen eventually made a passing stick on the final laps to sneak into the top 10.
“A point means a lot,” said Magnussen. “We were able to race well, get a good start, the tires handled well – especially on the hard compound when I was running on older tires than Tsunoda and actually had less wear. In the end I was able to get past him and we got a point.”
Haas boss Günther Steiner praised the team for “no mistakes throughout the weekend” and carried an optimistic mood.
“Like I said after Bahrain, I didn’t really know where we were with the car, but now we know where we are,” he said. “We’re in the mix, we’re actually pretty good I think – it all comes together.”
Nico Hulkenberg was 12ththin the Haas sister, a few seconds behind Magnussen, and was encouraged to put in a full race in the VF-23 after early damage in Bahrain skewed his analysis.
“On the one hand I’m disappointed that I missed a point, on the other hand I’m very happy that I finished the race and that we learned a lot,” said Hulkenberg. “The underlying positive message is that we are competitive. It was difficult to judge in Bahrain with damage, but we’re definitely competitive here in midfield today and I’m happy about that.”
Saudi Arabia F1 GP Results
- Sergio Perez
- Max Verstappen
- George Russell
- Fernando Alonso
- Lewis Hamilton
- Carlo Sainz
- Charles Leclerc
- Esteban Ocon
- Pierre Gasli
- Kevin Magussen
- Yuki Tsunoda
- Nico Hulkenberg
- Zhou Guanyu
- Nyck de Vries
- Oskar Piastri
- Logan Sargeant
- Lando Norris
- Valtteri Bottas
- Alexander Alban
- lance walk