F1 2023 | Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabian GP ‘23: Red Bull in Another League

March 20, 2023

motorsport journalist

Neal Venter

Motorsport Journalist

Sergio Perez took victory at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. The Mexican has proven to b a street circuit specialist, taking victory at the fastest street circuit in the world two years in a row. 

His teammate and reigning World Champion Max Verstappen cruised to second place following an incredible comeback, and George Russell inherited the third place from Fernando Alonso following a penalty.

Let’s dive into the details of how this fascinating season is unravelling.

Can Anyone Stop the Charging Bulls?

ace winner Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing

Sergio Perez comfortably took pole position in qualifying on Saturday. At the start of the race, Fernando Alonso attacked the Mexican and managed to get past him. However, it didn’t last long as Sergio charged past him several laps later. From there it was smooth sailing all the way to the finish line for Checo.

Max Verstappen had a tricky qualifying session at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. His Red Bull suffered a driveshaft issue, leaving him stranded and out of Q2 — the Dutchman started in 15th place. However, by lap 20 he was already in fourth place and thanks to a safety car, right behind the leaders.

Max continued his charge when the pace car peeled off into the pits and got himself into second place. Late in the Grand Prix, he reported more potential driveshaft issues, but he managed to coast his way to the finish line. However, on the final lap, Max pushed as hard as he could to steal the fastest lap point away from his teammate and remain in the lead of the championship by just one point.

Incredibly, it’s the first time that we’ve had back-to-back 1-2 finishes for Red Bull in 14 years!

100th Podium Snatched Away

Russell Looking At Trophy

Fernando Alonso qualified well, securing second place after Charles Lerclerc’s 10-place grid penalty was applied. However, disaster struck right from the start as Fernando was given a 5-second penalty for being out of position on the grid (he was slightly too far to the left of his grid box). 

Luck seemed to be on the Spaniard’s side as he served his penalty during the safety car period, which allowed him to hold on to second place in the race. He was later passed by the fast-charging Verstappen, but his pace was fast enough to keep him in third place until the end of the race, where he finished and celebrated his 100th podium.

Shortly after the race it was revealed that Alonso had been given a 10-second penalty. The rear jackman touched the Aston Martin before the full five seconds while Alonso was serving his penalty. It was announced that George Russell was promoted to third place, and Alonso dropped down to fourth.

However, several hours after the race had ended, the FIA went back on their decision and reinstated Alonso’s third place after a review. Aston Martin reviewed the penalty arguing that there are seven other instances of the same penalty being served where the rear jackman touched the car, but no additional penalty was given.

Ferrari vs. Mercedes?

Mercedes George Russel in F1 Saudi Arabia

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are in turmoil this season. The Ferrari driver pair had a tough weekend as their pace genuinely seemed to be much slower than usual. Charles Leclerc drove a brilliant recovery race as he fought his way through the field. However, the two scarlet red cars could only manage a disappointing sixth and seventh place. It might be back to the drawing board for the Prancing Horses.

As for Mercedes, the team have confirmed that it is back to the drawing board. The team back at the factory have gone in a different direction in terms of their car philosophy and the early reports are suggesting that the data has been incredibly positive. We might see a brand new Mercedes being introduced in a few weeks' time — could it turn their season around?

McLaren Needs to Regroup

Lando Norris in F1 Saudi Arabia

If there’s one team that has been struggling far more than any other, it’s McLaren. Oscar Piastri put in a stellar qualifying performance to drag his car up into eighth place — a truly impressive qualifying session for the rookie’s second race weekend.

His teammate on the other hand hit the wall early on and suffered his first Q1 exit since 2019. Even though it’s a disappointing result for Lando Norris, that is quite an impressive stat to have!

In the race, McLaren went backwards incredibly fast. Piastri was squeezed on the exit of the first corner, causing him to make contact with an Alpine which damaged the right-side end place of his front wing. The end plate hit Lando’s car, leaving both McLarens damaged and needing to return to the pits for repairs. From there, it was an average race as they trundled to 15th and 17th places (out of 18 finishers).

There might have been a bit of bad luck involved this weekend, but it’s clear that McLaren has a lot of work that they need to do if they want to get the MCL60 into point-scoring positions!

The Fight Continues Down Under

We’re heading to Australia next! Melbourne is an incredibly special track and the racing should be fast and furious once again. It’s a much shorter and narrower street circuit, which doesn’t necessarily suit Red Bull as much as it does the other cars. Can Alonso get onto the podium again? Will someone finally challenge Red Bull? We’ll find out on

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