Formula 1: Saudi Arabian Grand Prix


Red Bull dominated in Formula’s 1 second race of the season. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Over the weekend, the 2023 Formula 1 season continued as they traveled to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit for the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. With 27 turns around the 6.174 kilometer track, Jeddah is the fastest street circuit in the world and with very little room for error, as the smallest mistake could end a driver’s or team’s weekend prematurely. Following their dominant 1-2 in Bahrain, Red Bull was looking to continue its title defense. Aston Martin also wanted to continue its fine form after its podium. As for Ferrari, they were looking to bounce back after a mixed result. Heading into the weekend, Ferrari announced that they were changing its control electronics (CE) part on Charles Leclerc, triggering a 10-place grid penalty due to surpassing his CE allocation for the year.

During the practice sessions, the Red Bull drivers of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez topped the timesheets with Verstappen finishing P1 in all three sessions and Perez being no slower than third. When it was time for qualifying, disaster struck for Red Bull. Verstappen suffered a driveshaft failure and qualified 15th, putting him a long way back on the grid. Meanwhile, Perez was able to pounce on his teammate’s reliability issue and put his car on pole. Leclerc qualified 2nd but due to the grid penalty, meant that he would start the race in 12th. This promoted the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso into second.

When the lights went out on Sunday, Alonso had an amazing start and snatched the lead from Perez. Unfortunately, the stewards gave Alonso a 5-second penalty for not being in his grid spot for the start of the race. Perez quickly retook the lead and started to build a gap to Alonso. Meanwhile in the middle of the grid, Verstappen and Leclerc started to make their way through the pack, picking off cars one by one as they rose up the order.

On lap 13, Alonso’s teammate Lance Stroll pitted first, with Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz pitting on lap 15. Leclerc then pitted on lap 16. However, seconds after Leclerc emerged from the pits in 8th, Stroll stopped on track and retired from the race due to a car failure. This brought out the full safety car. Every car that hadn’t pitted immediately jumped into the pits and gained a massive advantage due to everyone on the track slowing down due to the safety car. Perez and Alonso pitted from the top, with Alonso serving his 5-second penalty before receiving his new tires. Verstappen massively benefited from the safety car and was able to emerge from the pits in fourth. Meanwhile, Leclerc who had pitted under normal conditions, was now in seventh. The order was Perez leading Alonso, the Mercedes of George Russell was in third with Verstappen in fourth. Sainz was in fifth, with Russell’s teammate Lewis Hamilton in sixth and Leclerc in seventh.

On lap 21, the green flag was shown and the race resumed with Perez retaining the lead from Alonso. Perez started to build a gap to Alonso. Meanwhile, Verstappen was able to pass Russell into third, and Hamilton passed Sainz for fifth. Verstappen was now gaining on Alonso and on lap 25, Verstappen passed the Spaniard to make it a Red Bull one-two finish. With the race now halfway over, Verstappen was only five seconds behind Perez as the Red Bull duo started to break away from Alonso. There were some moments when it appeared that Verstappen was reeling Perez in, but Verstappen was on the radio saying that there was a suspected issue with the driveshaft, forcing Verstappen to not push as much as he wanted.

After 50 laps, Perez won the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix with an excellent performance with Verstappen finishing second to make it a Red Bull 1-2. Alonso crossed the line third to round out the podium. Russell finished fourth, with Hamilton in fifth, Sainz in sixth, and Leclerc in seventh. It was announced after the race that Alonso did not serve his 5-second penalty correctly and was then issued a 10-second post race penalty, demoting him to fourth and promoting Russell onto the podium. However, after a right of review by Aston Martin, the 10-second penalty was removed, reinstating Alonso to third, giving him his second podium of the year and the 100th podium in his illustrious career.

Red Bull dominated the race and have started this season with near perfection, grabbing 87 out of a possible 88 points in these two races. Meanwhile, Aston Martin are still second with 38 points. Mercedes are level on points with them but are in third due to Aston Martin having a better race finish with Ferrari in fourth just 12 points behind. As for the drivers, Verstappen is only 1 point ahead of Perez. The next race is in a week and a half as they travel down under to Australia for the Australian Grand Prix. With two races out of 23 in the dust, it is a long season with plenty of time for teams to recover or fall even further behind.