Race Report: Perez wins Saudi Arabian GP

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 19: Race winner Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 19, 2023 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202303190558 // Usage for editorial use only //

If Bahrain was any indicator, you’d be right in suspecting that Red Bull Racing is the team to beat in 2023 and so they proved, in the Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, that they are indeed a team at the top. Having said that, you might not have expected to see Sergio Perez to be on the top step for his 5th F1 win of his career.

Max Verstappen struggled on Saturday with his driveshaft and this left him starting down in 15th. This left pole-sitter, Sergio Perez, carrying the banner for Red Bull and after briefly losing the lead on the first lap, he regained the lead and led for the rest of the race.

Sergio came home in first ahead of his teammate, Max, but lost out on the fast lap point when Verstappen nipped it on the last lap of the race. The Red Bulls were followed home by Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso in 3rd.

Win

A big win for Red Bull who not only secured another 1, 2 but managed to have enough pace to see Max recover from 15th to 2nd despite continuing driveshaft issues. A very inspired drive by both drivers and Fernando Alonso predicted Max would be up to P2 by lap 25…and he was! Spot on prognostication from Alonso.

A win for George Russell who ignored team orders to let teammate Lewis Hamilton by as he was on softer tires and that move meant he was in position to take the 3rd place due to a post-race penalty for Fernando Alonso. George responded to his team’s calls to cede the position by simply driving away from Lewis and pulling out enough of a gap so Lewis couldn’t stay close (DRS) and give consideration to switching the order. That, my friends, is what a champion or an aspiring champion would do. It’s what Lewis did at McLaren and it is what George should have done in order to knock Lewis’s feet off the desk and start to establish his presence at the team.

A win for Mercedes in general who have really struggled both last year and at the first race of the season in 2023. Sure, they are off the pace from Red Bull but they currently are tied for 2nd in the constructor’s championship with Aston Martin and both teams are ahead of Ferrari. The car may be a handful but they are responding and upgrading and the drivers are delivering. All in all, this team is clawing performance from a car that isn’t that interested in providing it. That’s big for all of the team.

I had high expectations for Alpine but after Bahrain, I was very concerned. This weekend saw Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly in P8 and P9 and while that’s not at the sharp end of the grid, perhaps it is progress that can be built upon.

A big win for Sky Sports F1 by having Bernie Collins on their crew. She added so much more relevant and contextual information to the show than others and gives us a team strategy perspective that they didn’t have before. They have drivers like Martin and Ant and broadcast professionals like Rachel or Ted but no team specialists in strategy so this was a big addition to the cast.

Fail

A win for Aston Martin that turned into a fail as the team incorrectly served the 5s penalty Alonso had for lining up in the starting grid incorrectly. And like Ocon in Bahrain, they gained another 10s penalty after the race for the rear jack touching the car prior to the penalty being served according to Sky Sports F1. This moves Alonso down to 4th ahead of Hamilton and it hands Russell 3rd place despite Alonso enjoying the podium celebration. The team also retired Lance Stroll’s car on track for a DNF. A spotty weekend for the team with issues to iron out but they are still second in constructors and they have a lot of pace so onward and upward.

A fail for Ferrari who looked as harried and hobbled as they were in Bahrain. Running their engines lower, taking grid penalties with replaced parts for Charles Leclerc with Carlos Sainz and Leclerc in P6 and P7 respectively is not a good look. This team has issues and to be fair, several teams are struggling with reliability issues at this point and you wonder if Red Bull’s new powertrain design isn’t a part of their teething pain as a new constructor/manufacturer.

A fail for Lando Norris who hit the wall in qualifying and put himself at the back of the grid for Sunday. Both McLaren’s had wing damage at the start and boxed for new ones early on. This left them fighting at the back of the grid with Logan Sergeant beating Norris to P16. Going from 4th in constructor’s title to this is very painful but kudos to Logan for a spirited fight in only his second race.

A fail for Williams and their brake system that neutered any chance of Alex Albon nipping a point. Despite the tough race, this team is moving in the right direction with James Vowles there.

A fail for Alfa Romeo and Alpha Tauri as both the Alpha iterations failed to score points.

WTH

DRS. I’m not sure but my hunch is that Adrian Newey and Red Bull have found a way to make their DRS very powerful given how quick Max was able to dispatch other very competitive cars. I wouldn’t put it past Adrian to really find the perfect DRS solution but it also wouldn’t surprise me to see the FIA take a deeper look into it and make regulation changes or neuter the DRS zones to accommodate. Remember last year with all the messing around with MAx’s rear wing and wing issues? They were working on it and this year they got it right.

I tried to watch a bit of ESPN’s new Countdown pre-race show…I can’t even. I think the challenge here is to hire a few people who have watched a season or two and DTS and make them your broadcast crew. That probably works well for new fans but it’s like drinking castor oil for veterans. Statements like Perez is best defender on grid (he is terrific)…have you ever seen Lewis defend? How about Max or Alonso? Ocon will put you completely off your game. Perez is awesome at it but many on the grid are. That’s the challenge I have with a lot of the new F1 content, it’s all opinion without precedent or historical context.

That’s a really nice looking trophy even if the band couldn’t find the right key for the national anthem. What about those drones? That was impressive with the countdown clock. Also, I was wondering if Martin was going to make a comment about slapping people to Will Smith.

Not sure the SC was needed given location of car and that hampered a few folks races including Ferrari but then I’m biased.

Pirelli Report:

  • Red Bull sealed its second one-two of the season in Jeddah, with Sergio Perez winning the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix ahead of his team mate Max Verstappen. Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso followed the Dutchman over the line but dropped to fourth after a 10-second penalty, promoting Mercedes driver George Russell onto the podium. All four used P Zero White hard C2 tyres for their final stints.
  • The night race took place with asphalt temperatures between 29 and 31°C, while ambient temperature remained consistent at 26°C: lower values than those previously seen in FP2 and qualifying.
  • The three podium finishers used identical strategies, making their pit stops on the same lap. Perez, Verstappen, and Russell all swapped from their P Zero Yellow medium C3 starting tyres to the hard tyre on lap 18, under the safety car.
  • Only four drivers, all from different teams, chose to start on a tyre other than the medium. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris both selected the P Zero Red soft C4, while Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and Logan Sargeant (Williams) went for the hard.
  • Max Verstappen set the fastest lap on the hard tyre (1m31.906s) while Lewis Hamilton was the driver who covered most laps on the medium: 32. Hamilton also set the fastest lap for the medium compound, 1m32.941s. Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas established the quickest benchmark for the soft compound, which was a 1m34.384s.
  • No fewer than seven drivers set their best lap times of the race on the final lap, with the hard tyre. These included Verstappen – who also set the overall fastest lap, giving himself the extra point that allowed him to stay in the lead of the championship – as well as Alonso and Russell, fighting hard for the final podium place.

Race Results: Alonso drops to 4th with penalty

PosNameCarLapsLaps LedTotal TimeFastest LapPitstopsPts
1Sergio PérezRed Bull5001h21m14.894s1m32.188s125
2Max VerstappenRed Bull500+5.355s1m31.906s119
3Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-Mercedes500+20.728s1m32.24s115
4George RussellMercedes500+25.866s1m32.433s112
5Lewis HamiltonMercedes500+31.065s1m32.941s110
6Carlos Sainz Jr.Ferrari500+35.876s1m32.822s18
7Charles LeclercFerrari500+43.162s1m33.056s16
8Esteban OconAlpine-Renault500+52.832s1m33.222s14
9Pierre GaslyAlpine-Renault500+54.747s1m33.392s12
10Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari500+1m04.825s1m33.374s11
11Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPT500+1m07.494s1m33.931s10
12Nico HülkenbergHaas-Ferrari500+1m10.588s1m33.78s10
13Guanyu ZhouAlfa Romeo-Ferrari500+1m16.06s1m33.894s20
14Nyck de VriesAlphaTauri-Honda RBPT500+1m17.478s1m33.609s10
15Oscar PiastriMcLaren-Mercedes500+1m25.021s1m34.287s10
16Logan SargeantWilliams-Mercedes500+1m26.293s1m34.469s10
17Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes500+1m26.445s1m34.122s20
18Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-Ferrari490+1 lap1m34.384s30
Alex AlbonWilliams-Mercedes270DNF1m35.567s20
Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes160DNF1m35.14s10
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The Captain

I’m sure Paul can speak to this but I kinda feel like the teams need to have a completely different procedure for handling a pit stop with a penalty. It looked like during the penalty stops for both Alpine last week and Aston’s this week, the pit crews sprinted towards the car and their positions like they would during a normal stop, but then of corse someones muscle memory takes over and they start to do the thing their not supposed to do yet. Maybe having a completely different procedure where they calmly approaches the car for a penalty stop.… Read more »

Worthless Opinion

I’m not sure it is so simple, I think what it says is they can’t begin work on it and the question is whether having the jack touching but not lifting the car is beginning work. But I bet you know the regs better than I do. Apparently better than the FIA also maybe.

J T

It’s really refreshing to see F1TV make a big step up in the quality of their commentary this season. DC is truly one of the best. Thank god I don’t have to suffer through David Croft’s drivel anymore.

OldskoolNige

So Alonso lost 3rd, then gained third back – he deserved the position in the end… Apparently GPS said Stroll was on the track, maybe they should spend more money on the satellite coverage… And Bernie was an absolutely awesome addition to the Sky F1 team…

Worthless Opinion

Yes Bernie! More valuable in 30 sec than a year of Croft or Kravitz. On the downside, Alonso’s penalty was probably the result of Merc complaining when clearly they more than served the penalty on stationary time, and I have to say – say what you want about millions at risk or whatever – I really hate watching whiny brats who’ve been beaten on merit trying to find non-competition ways to screw their competitors. One of the problems of top level ‘sports’ is the money at that level kills sportsmanship. And without sportsmanship, it isn’t any longer a sport. Likewise… Read more »

Fabio

Definitely good to have Bernie, but I must admit, I was struggling a bit with the accent.

speedinian

A couple things. These cars (Ocon/Alonso) being out of their boxes but not ahead; how does that give you an (punishable) advantage? Do you not still have the same distance to the car in front, the same as every other car on the grid? Also, (as I understand it) if you do not serve your (time) penalty during the race the time is added on after the race. If that applies in this case (and if I was Aston Martin) why not just say that they just screwed up the pit stop (nothing illegal about that) and that you will… Read more »

Worthless Opinion

Kind of funny to think of Piastri fighting like an Apache to get out of that Alpine deal and go to McLaren. You won, your prize is a jalopy and a confederacy of dunces to run it!

Xean Drury

WTF1? They finally get track limits sorted out, and all of a sudden, “Bring out the Pink Paint!” Why must F1 always F1 these things? ~X8

Worthless Opinion

I agree that the timing of this was tragically unfortunate but I’m not sure it was 100% the FIA’s fault I think probably whatever pissy whiner was trying to gain an advantage by complaining about this (I’m looking at you Toto Wolff) probably didn’t complain about it until late. Was THAT strategic or is that just when they noticed it? I don’t know wouldn’t put anything past any of these teams, but if the FIA was good with it until someone complained they can’t control when someone complains. And I think I would have been good with it because you… Read more »