The 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was won by Sergio Perez after he converted his pole position into a victory whilst Max Verstappen came from P15 to finish P2 in a brilliant drive, making it two 1-2 finishes in a row for Red Bull. Fernando Alonso drove to P3 for Aston Martin, following a 5-second penalty he received for starting the race out of position similarly to his former teammate Esteban Ocon last week.
Perez was passed by Alonso at the start but retook the lead on lap 4 with DRS assistance. Alonso who had received a 5-second penalty at this point sat within 1-second of the Mexican driver to get DRS and was pulled a long for a few laps until he fell out of the DRS window, from here Perez pulled a large lead.
Perez survived a safety car period caused by the other Aston Martin of Lance Stroll who retired with what looked to be an engine issue in the early stages of the race. The safety car was a confusing call as Stroll had pulled off the circuit into the marshal’s area into safety, but the safety car was still brought out.
Verstappen who started P15 following a driveshaft issue in qualifying recovered to an impressive P2, demonstrating the huge pace in the Red Bull taking the fastest lap from his team mate on the last lap to retain his world Championship lead.
Alonso drove a fantastic race, although being subject to a 5-second penalty which he served at his pit stop, he maintained a solid P3 for Aston Martin. There was controversy over how he served the penalty, with the FIA judging an Aston Martin mechanic to have touched the rear wing before he had served his penalty handing the Spaniard a further 10-second penalty at the end of the race. After a review this decision was overturned and Alonso was re-instated to P3, earning him his 100th podium in F1.
George Russell finished P4 behind Alonso, with Mercedes not having anywhere near the same pace as the Red Bulls. Behind Russell, Hamilton came home in P5 opting for an alternate strategy and impressively driving 32 laps on his medium tyres ahead of the Ferrari pair.
Carlos Sainz finished P6 ahead of his Monegasque teammate, Charles Leclerc who had a long recovery drive following a 10 place penalty for changing components before the race. Leclerc voiced his frustration at his Ferrari engineer throughout.
Esteban Ocon drove to finish P8 ahead of his fellow Frenchman and teammate Pierre Gasly with Alpine impressing and earning their first double points finish in 2023. Behind the Alpine drivers Kevin Magnussen battled with Yuki Tsunoda to come home P10 as the two drivers battled until the line, the Haas driver ultimately won the battle with a late move.
Magnussen’s Danish teammate Nico Hulkenberg finished P12 in the other Haas ahead of Zhou Guanyu who took P13 in the Alfa Romeo. Zhou beat the rookies of Nyck De Vries in the Alpha Tauri, Oscar Piastri in the McLaren, and Logan Sergeant in the Williams.
McLaren had another race to forget as Piastri endured front wing damage on lap 1 after a tap with Pierre Gasly. Whilst Lando Norris picked up damage from the debris of his teammate also having to pit at the beginning of the race, leaving the McLaren team pointless after the first two rounds. Valterri Bottas finished the race last of the finishers as he had issues with the car throughout the race.
Alex Albon and Lance Stroll were the two retirees, with Albon having brake issues and Stroll engine issues during the race.
The Winners and Losers:
The big winners of the day were Red Bull who dominated even with Verstappen starting the race in P15 securing their second 1-2 of the season, and looking like they’ll be difficult to catch.
Aston Martin had a strong race again other than the engine issues, which they’ll be hoping Mercedes can get under control for the rest of the season. Stroll looked to be in the fight for P4 until his issues caused him to retire.
Mercedes again came out looking strong with Russell taking P4 and Hamilton P5 after a difficult testing period the team still look like they have a foundation they can work off.
Ferrari looked weak, but were not helped by the early safety car. The team struggled to get the hard tyre to work for them and ultimately fell back from the Mercedes drivers.
Alpine had a strong weekend making up for what was a poor race in Bahrain two weeks ago, with Ocon’s multitude of penalties and took good points this round.
Haas took their first point of the new season with Magnussen finishing the race P10, whilst Hulkenberg finished P12 overtaking the Alfa Romeo of Zhou Guanyu at the end, in what looks like it could be a hard fight for points this season between the teams at the back of the field.
Alpha Tauri remain pointless after the first two rounds with a car that isn’t very strong, with the Red Bull sister team hoping they can regain form throughout the season
Alfa Romeo had a difficult race as Bottas struggled with issues throughout the race coming home last of the finishers while his team mate was entangled in a battle throughout the race taking P13.
Williams also had a difficult race as Albon had retire with a brake issue and his teammate lost out in the battle of the rookies finishing behind both De Vries and Piastri.
Damage ultimately cost McLaren throughout this race as both drivers had to pit early due to Piastri’s run in with Gasly. McLaren remain pointless and sit bottom of the constructors’ standings.