AS VERSTAPPEN RECOVERS TO P2 WITH ALONSO THIRD
Sergio Pérez recovered from losing the lead at the start to pass Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso and claim a clinical Saudi Arabian Grand Prix victory ahead of team-mate Max Verstappen who battled his way to second place from 15th place on grid after suffering a technical problem in qualifying. Third place went to Fernando Alonso after stewards reversed a post-race decision to penalise the Spaniard for incorrectly serving a penalty during the race.
At the race start, it was Alonso who got away best from the front row and though polesitter Pérez tried to defend off the line, the Aston Martin driver took the lead into Turn 1. However, within seconds, the race stewards revealed that Alonso was under investigation for possibly being in an incorrect starting location. And as the field crossed the line to start the second lap the Spaniard was handed a five-second penalty to be served during his pit stop.
Further back, Verstappen also made a good start and on lap one he rose two places, passing Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas for P1 and then inheriting 13th as McLaren’s Oscar Piastri dropped back following a lap one incident.
At the front, Checo closed up to Alonso and on lap four he dived down the inside of the Aston Martin into Turn 1 to reclaim the lead. Verstappen too, was making gains and by lap six he’d risen to 11th place after comfortably dismissing the Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen.
Pérez now began to eke out a gap at the front and by lap 11 he’d carved out a two-second buffer to Alonso. Verstappen was now up to ninth place, having picked off Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu into Turn 1. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, the other out of position starter, was also making his way up the order and by the following lap the Monegasque driver was past Alpine’s Pierre Gasly and into eighth place after starting 12th. His next target was Lewis Hamilton and at the start of lap nine he used DRS to power past the Mercedes man into Turn 1.
Verstappen was now hunting down Lewis Hamilton and at the start of lap 12 he eased past the slower Mercedes under DRS on the pit straight to take P8 behind Alpine’s Esteban Ocon. Max then made light work of passing the Frenchman to steal P7.
Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll was the first of the front runners to pit, from fourth, and the Canadian took hard tyres at the end of lap 13, rejoining in 11th place. The move pushed Verstappen further up the order and on lap 15 the champion was in sixth place, just over a second behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
The Ferrari driver’s team-mate, Carlos Sainz, then made his sole pit stop, from the fourth he had inherited from Stroll, and he took on hard tyres emerging in ninth place.
That pushed Verstappen to fifth behind Leclerc and as he closed on his rival, Ferrari pitted Leclerc at the end of lap 16 and came out behind Sainz in P8.
On lap 18, Stroll was told by his pit wall that there was an issue with his Aston Martin and he asked to stop the car. He pulled over at the side of the track and the Safety Car was released. Red Bull pitted Pérez and the Mexican moved to hard tyres as Alonso pitted behind him. The Spanish driver sat out his penalty, moved to hard tyres and rejoined in second place as Verstappen also headed for the pits. He switched to hard tyres in a 2.8 second stop and was released into fourth place.
The Safety Car left the track at the end of lap 20 and as Verstappen held the lead from Alonso, Verstappen immediately began to put pressure on George Russell. The Mercedes driver did his best to hold off Max’s charge but on lap 24 his defence faded and Verstappen powered past the Briton into Turn 27 to take P3.
The champion wasn’t done, however. Alonso was next on his hit list and at the end of the lap he closed right up to the Spanish driver and with DRS with wide open he eased past to claim P2.
Ahead, Pérez was keeping a tight grip on the lead and over the following 10 laps he traded fastest laps with Verstappen as the pair pulled away from the rest of the field.
On lap 37, however, Verstappen began to report a “weird noise” and suggested to his race engineer that he might be suffering with another driveshaft issue. The message came back, however, that there was no cause for concern and that he could continue. The Dutchman was wary, however, and the gap widened to 5.2 seconds. Verstappen gradually reeled his team-mate back in but then chose to settle into second.
And after 50 laps Pérez crossed the line to take the fifth win of his career. Verstappen then took the flag, and the point for fastest lap, to secure the 79th podium finish of his career.
Alonso took third but there was blow for the Spanish driver after the flag after he was placed under investigation for incorrectly serving his penalty. After celebrating on the podium the Aston Martin driver was handed a 10-second penalty and slipped off the podium to fourth, with his third place going to Mercedes’ George Russell. However, following a review of the decision, Alonso was reinstated to third.
Behind Russell, Hamilton took fifth place ahead of Sainz and Leclerc, while Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly finished eighth and ninth. The final point available went to Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.
2023 FIA Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – Race
1 Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda RBPT 50 1:21'14.894
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda RBPT 50 1:21'20.249 5.355
3 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin/Mercedes 50 1:21'35.622 20.728
4 George Russell Mercedes 50 1:21'40.760 25.866
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 50 1:21'45.959 31.065
6 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 50 1:21'50.770 35.876
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 50 1:21'58.056 43.162
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 50 1:22'07.726 52.832
9 Pierre Gasly Alpine/Renault 50 1:22'09.641 54.747
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 50 1:22'19.720 1'04.826
11 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Honda RBPT 50 1:22'22.388 1'07.494
12 Nico Hülkenberg Haas/Ferrari 50 1:22'25.482 1'10.588
13 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 50 1:22'30.954 1'16.060
14 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri/Honda RBPT 50 1:22'32.372 1'17.478
15 Oscar Piastri McLaren/Mercedes 50 1:22'39.915 1'25.021
16 Logan Sargeant Williams/Mercedes 50 1:22'41.187 1'26.293
17 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 50 1:22'41.339 1'26.445
18 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 49 1:21'44.478 1 lap /29.584
Alexander Albon Williams/Mercedes 27 47'05.946 Brakes
Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 16 25'57.184 Power Unit