Sergio Perez converted pole position into victory at the 2023 Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as teammate Max Verstappen recovered from P15 to make successive one-two finishes for Red Bull. Fernando Alonso put his Aston Martin on the podium again with a good drive before being stripped of P3 and then reinstated after a stewards’ review.
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Perez overcame an attack from Alonso at the start, a nervy Safety Car period and Verstappen’s charge from the midfield to make up for the potential win he lost at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit a year ago – kick-starting his championship hopes in the process.
Verstappen progressed to P2 quickly but ultimately had to accept defeat to Perez. The reigning world champion managed additional driveshaft concerns late in the race after the same component failed during qualifying.
Alonso took the lead into Turn 1, but a subsequent time penalty for lining up outside his grid box, coupled with the relentless pace of the Red Bulls, meant he had to settle for third place.
However, Alonso’s rear jack mechanic was later judged to have touched the car before his penalty had been served, the Spaniard receiving a further 10-second penalty after the race that dropped him to P4. Upon reviewing the decision, however, the stewards later ruled that Alonso’s P3 would stand, reversing the ruling and dropping Russell back to P4 – Alonso becoming just the sixth driver to earn 100 F1 podiums in the process.
Mercedes and Ferrari had no answers for Red Bull’s pace as they distantly followed in two-by-two formation, Russell getting the better of teammate Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz leading Charles Leclerc home.
Leclerc was also tasked with a race-day recovery after his pre-race grid penalty. Still, seventh represented a much smaller reward than Verstappen’s second-place finish, and the Monegasque could not contain his frustration over the radio.
Alpine enjoyed a much stronger second round as Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly collected points in P8 and P9, respectively. At the same time, Haas’s Kevin Magnussen and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda went wheel-to-wheel over the final point – the Dane coming out on top with a late move.
Nico Hulkenberg took 12th in the sister Haas, as the Alfa Romeo of Zhou Guanyu beat rookie drivers Nyck de Vries (AlphaTauri), Oscar Piastri (McLaren) and Logan Sargeant (Williams) to P13.
McLaren endured another tough day at the office after early front wing changes for Piastri, who clashed with Gasly at the start, and Lando Norris, who hit the debris, consigned them to evenings towards the back of the pack.
Piastri ultimately crossed the line in P15 after clearing Sargeant on the final lap, something Norris narrowly avoided repeating as he settled for 17th. Valtteri Bottas the last of the finishers amid apparent technical trouble in his Alfa Romeo.
Alex Albon and Lance Stroll were the two retirements from the race; Albon encountered terminal brake problems aboard his Williams, and Stroll was told to stop his Aston Martin in the early stages, taking him out of the front-running battle.
Attention now turns to the third round of the 2023 F1 season in Australia, with Verstappen holding the championship lead over Perez by a point thanks to him clocking the fastest lap of the race in the dying moments.
Mario Isola, Motorsport Director, Pirelli:
The third Saudi Arabian Grand Prix went largely as we expected, both from the point of view of strategies and tyre behaviour. Eighty per cent of the drivers chose the medium at the start, which ensured maximum flexibility in the event of a race neutralisation – which duly happened for the third time in three years of racing here. The arrival of the Safety Car following Lance Stroll’s retirement coincided with the pit stop window, which meant that the drivers who hadn’t made a stop so far could take advantage of this neutralisation to put on the hard tyre.
The performance gaps between the compounds also fit our expectations, which was the case for degradation. This was practically nothing on the medium and hard tyres and quite limited on the soft ones used by Charles Leclerc: the only driver to have carried out a significant stint on this compound. The absence of degradation was what allowed even the drivers who had fitted the hard tyre before the safety car came out – such as Kevin Magnussen and Oscar Piastri, who completed 42 and 49 laps on it, respectively – to push all the way to the end, with both of them pulling off some great passing moves in the closing stages. The medium also showed a lot of consistency, as underlined by Lewis Hamilton, who took advantage of its superior performance compared to the hard-to-get-past Carlos Sainz shortly after the re-start.
How the race was won:
Red Bull sealed its second one-two of the season in Jeddah, with Sergio Perez winning the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix ahead of his teammate Max Verstappen. Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso followed the Dutchman and was third. All the drivers onto the podium used P Zero White hard C2 tyres for their final stints.
The night race occurred with asphalt temperatures between 29 and 31°C, while the 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 Alonso 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 from different teams started on a tyre other than the medium. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris 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 the 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, 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 championship’s lead – and Alonso and Russell, fighting hard for the final podium place.
The alternative strategy:
Most team strategies were quite similar. As predicted by Pirelli’s simulations, 16 drivers started the race on the medium. Of those, only the two Alfa Romeo drivers didn’t finish the race on the hard. Bottas did three pit stops, going onto the hard and then the mediums again on lap 17, before fitting the soft 15 laps from the end. Guanyu Zhou stopped before the others and again during the safety car period to go from hard to medium.
Hamilton and Sargeant finished the race on mediums, as they were the only drivers to start on hards. Leclerc and Norris chose a different strategy, beginning the race on the soft and ending it on the hard. Norris was forced to stop just two laps into the race and then went onto the mediums under the safety car, keeping them on until the flag.
2023 Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Race Results
|1.||11||Sergio Perez||Mexico||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:21:14.894||25||43|
|2.||1||Max Verstappen||Netherlands||Red Bull Racing Honda||+5.355s||19||44|
|3.||14||Fernando Alonso||Spain||Alpine F1 Team||+20.728s||15||30|
|4.||63||George Russell||Great Britain||Mercedes-AMG Petronas||+25.866s||12||18|
|5.||44||Lewis Hamilton||Great Britain||Mercedes-AMG Petronas||+31.065s||10||20|
|6.||55||Carlos Sainz||Spain||Scuderia Ferrari||+35.876s||8||20|
|7.||16||Charles Leclerc||Monaco||Scuderia Ferrari||+43.162s||6||6|
|8.||31||Esteban Ocon||France||Alpine F1 Team||+52.832s||4||4|
|9.||10||Pierre Gasly||France||Scuderia AlphaTauri||+54.747s||2||2|
|10.||20||Kevin Magnussen||Denmark||Haas F1 Team||+64.826s||1||1|
|11.||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Japan||Scuderia AlphaTauri||+67.494s||0||0|
|12.||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Germany||Haas F1 Team||+70.588s||0||0|
|13.||24||Zhou Guanyu||China||Alfa Romeo F1 Team||+76.060s||0||0|
|14.||21||Nyck De Vries||Netherlands||Scuderia AlphaTauri||+77.478s||0||0|
|15.||81||Oscar Piastri||Germany||McLaren Racing||+85.021s||0||0|
|16.||2||Logan Sargeant||USA||Williams Racing||+86.293s||0||0|
|17.||4||Lando Norris||Great Britain||Mclaren Racing||+86.445s||0||0|
|18.||77||Valtteri Bottas||Finland||Alfa Romeo F1 Team||+1 lap||0||4|
|19.||45||Alexander Albon||Thailand||Williams Racing||DNF||0||1|
|20.||18||Lance Stroll||Canada||Aston Martin F1 Team||DNF||0||8|
2023 Constructor Standings
|1.||Red Bull Racing||623|
|2.||Mercedes-AMG F1 Team||305|
|4.||Aston Martin F1 Team||221|
|6.||Alpine F1 Team||84|
|7.||Haas F1 Team||12|
|8.||Alfa Romeo Racing||10|