Perez victorious in Jeddah with Verstappen recovering to take second

Sergio Perez is a street circuit master thanks to victory at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at Jeddah.

Perez crossed the line 5.3 seconds clear of Verstappen, who spent the final laps charging his battery for a final-tour tilt at the fastest lap which was ultimately successful as he crossed the line with a one minute, 31.906 seconds lap.

Perez had to overcome a setback at the start, in which Fernando Alonso trickled through into the first corner to take the lead and settled into first place.

But immediately, Alonso was pinged for starting from the incorrect grid location, and a swift investigation resulted in the Aston Martin driver taking a five-second penalty for having been too far to the left in his starting box.

Despite his lead over Perez briefly getting over a second, Alonso was chased down by Perez at the end of the third lap and, with DRS, Checo was able to pull to the inside and make a move to regain the lead at the start of lap four.

Alonso stuck with him in DRS range and, although he never made a charge to reclaim the lead, he was able to sit in Perez’s slipstream for a few laps until he was simply unable to keep within a second of the Red Bull.

From there, the Aston Martin driver tailed off and quickly dropped to 1.6 seconds off Checo by the 11th lap, a deficit that doubled two laps later.

But the race was paused on lap 17, as Lance Stroll – who had earlier put a sensational overtake on Carlos Sainz on the opening lap at Turn 13 – crawled to a halt and parked up at Turn 8. This ultimately brought out a safety car, prompting a flurry of pitstops among the front runners as they traded their medium tyres for the hardest compound.

Verstappen was brought on level terms after the safety car restart, having pitted along with the early leading pack, and was initially told to prioritise managing his tyres until DRS was activated on lap 23.

This gave him the tools to dispose of George Russell with DRS into Turn 27, and the defending champion was subsequently able to catch Alonso in a bid to break into the top two.

Next on Verstappen’s agenda was closing down the 5.4 seconds gap to Perez, and was able to chip about a tenth out per lap, getting it to five seconds by lap 30 of the circuit as Perez tried to reduce the damage.

The polesitter managed to restore his buffer to about 5.2 seconds on the following lap, as he and Verstappen continued to battle for fastest laps. Although largely matching each other for time, Verstappen was able to continually chip away at Perez’s lead.

As the gap fell below 4.5 seconds, Verstappen began to get worried as he started to feel the driveshaft making strange noises at high speed, which restored Perez’s gap to 5.2 seconds as Red Bull investigated his complaints.

But sufficiently happy, Red Bull told Verstappen to press on – and in the meantime, Perez reported a long brake pedal as the team tried to close out the race. Once the two were reassured over their issues, Verstappen closed the gap back up to 4.3 seconds as the radio chattered between the Red Bull drivers and engineers began.

Perez attempted to lobby his team into slowing things down as Verstappen continued to push but, once told it was open season, Perez opened the taps and began to flex an advantage over his team-mate having been able to hang in the low one minute, 32 seconds.

With three laps remaining, Perez’s lead grew to six seconds as Verstappen was instead concerned more about the fastest lap, and the lead grew in Perez’s favour to 7.1 seconds ahead of the final lap.

Verstappen then set his one minute, 31.906 seconds to snatch the fastest-lap point from his team-mate, cutting the gap to just over five seconds to ultimately follow his team-mate home as Perez chalked up a first win since Singapore last season.

Alonso completed the top three, having served his five-second penalty during the safety car period ahead of his pitstop to remain ahead of the chasing Mercedes and Ferrari cars.

Russell was told on the radio to keep Alonso within five seconds, just to cover off the threat of any further penalties, but a mighty last lap from the 2005 and 2006 world champion left the Mercedes driver outside of that margin, and the FIA immediately placed him under investigation for serving the penalty incorrectly.

Alonso had initially completed the top three, having served his five-second penalty during the safety car period ahead of his pitstop to remain ahead of the chasing Mercedes and Ferrari cars.

With that, Alonso was hit with a 10-second penalty, moving him down to fourth and promoting Russell into third position.

Lewis Hamilton ensured both Mercedes made the top five, having opted for a contra-strategy in which he started on hards and completed a 32-lap stint on the medium compound.

This ensured he was able to finish ahead of Carlos Sainz, who had earlier used his pitstop to overcut Stroll, having been the object of his sumptuous pass around the outside at Turn 13.

Sainz stayed ahead of Charles Leclerc, who battled through the order after a 10-place penalty left him starting P12, and the Ferrari driver was able to make it up to seventh position.

Esteban Ocon won the battle of the Alpines to finish eighth, with Pierre Gasly finishing ninth to repeat his Bahrain result.

Haas got off the mark for the season as Kevin Magnussen completed the top ten, having battled throughout the second half of the race with Yuki Tsunoda over the final point.

K-Mag put a move on the AlphaTauri driver at the start of lap 46, denying the Italian team the chance to score its first point of 2023.

So a Red Bull 1-2 with Sergio Perez scoring a victory after a super drive and yet Max Verstappen was the most impressive following a driveshaft failure in qualifying. The double champion charged through the field thanks to the amazing race pace in the RB19 and to get the fastest lap and P2 is important for the championship.

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:21:14.894
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull +5.355s
3 George Russell Mercedes +25.866s
4 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +30.728s
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +31.065s
6 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +35.876s
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +43.162s
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine +52.832s
9 Pierre Gasly Alpine +54.747s
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas +64.826s
11 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +67.494
12 Nico Hulkenberg Haas +70.588s
13 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +76.060s
14 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri +77.478s
15 Oscar Piastri McLaren +85.021s
16 Logan Sargeant Williams +86.293s
17 Lando Norris McLaren +86.445s
18 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +1 lap
– Alex Albon Williams DNF
– Lance Stroll Aston Martin DNF

Perez scores pole position as Verstappen suffers driveshaft issue

Sergio Perez claimed his second Formula 1 pole position at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, as early favourite and Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen was eliminated in Q2 with a driveshaft failure.

The double champion had reeled off the fastest lap times in all three practice sessions, and had headed Q1 by half a second over teammate Perez as the result of qualifying appeared to be a foregone conclusion.

Verstappen suffered a slide on his first bid to set a competitive lap in Q2 and backed out of it to prepare for another effort but, lost drive during the middle sector and reported that he could no longer accelerate.

He limped back to the garage, but it became clear that Max would not be able to continue with the session. The team later reported that a mechanical failure of his driveshaft was the culprit.

Given his terrifying advantage, Verstappen’s shocking exit ensured that the battle for pole would largely be open season – although Perez had the upper hand thanks to Red Bull’s overall pace.

It proved to be thus in the opening runs, and Perez setting a one minute, 28.265 seconds to go nearly half a second faster than Charles Leclerc’s best effort as the Ferrari driver had moved to the top after his first run.

This laid down the gauntlet for the other drivers to pick up, and Alonso was first to challenge but lost around three tenths in the final sector to slot in behind Perez in the order.

Lance Stroll then set the best first sector of anyone, keeping tabs on Perez through the next part of the circuit, but shed half a second in the final part of the lap to throw away any chances of claiming a surprise pole.

Leclerc was the last serious contender to try and overhaul the Mexican, but was just 0.155 seconds shy by the close of the lap – but it proved to be enough for the Ferrari driver to claim second over Alonso on the timesheets.

However, Leclerc will stare down the barrel of a ten place grid penalty for the Grand Prix, having taken new control electronics for the second race of the season outside of his permissible allowance.

Perez’s effort amid the opening runs of the session proved to be more than ample to earn his second-ever pole position in Formula 1, his first having come at last year’s race in Jeddah.

Alonso’s best time was 0.465 seconds shy of Perez and the Spaniard was thus third fastest, ahead of George Russell as the Mercedes driver was able to coax a competitive first-sector time out of his car.

Carlos Sainz overcame a Q2 scare, in which he had to try another lap to break into the top ten, to claim the fifth fastest time. He starts alongside Russell on the second row owing to Leclerc’s penalty, with Stroll fifth on Sunday’s grid.

Ocon was seventh fastest from Hamilton, while Oscar Piastri made his first Q3 appearance in Formula 1 and was ninth in the order, beating Pierre Gasly to a place on the fourth row of the grid once penalties have been applied.

Aside from Verstappen’s issue in Q2, Gasly made a late escape from the drop zone having been pushed into the bottom five by Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg.

The Hulk was in P14 after the first set of runs, but sprung into the top ten to leave Gasly on the brink of needing to take an early exit.

By just 0.04 seconds, Gasly pipped Hulkenberg to a place in Q3 in a closely fought session in which the top 14 were covered by just 1.033 seconds.

Piastri dumped Yuki Tsunoda out of qualifying at the flag during Q1, moments after the AlphaTauri driver had managed to push Alex Albon into the drop zone amid a late flurry of laps.

Conversely, Lando Norris was unable to progress having tapped the inside wall at Turn 27, immediately breaking his front-left suspension to force him into a quick retreat to the pitlane. Norris could not return to the circuit, ensuring he was P19 in the session.

He was surrounded on the timing boards by Nyck de Vries, who spun on his first timed lap at the opening corner and later confessed to messing up the final corner on his last-gasp effort to try and break out of the bottom five.

Logan Sargeant propped up the order after losing his best laptime to track limits. Coming out of the final corner, the Williams driver crossed the line at the kink along the start-finish straight, costing him his one minute, 29.721 seconds lap – which would have been good enough to get him into Q2.

Sargeant later spun on his next effort later on in the session, and then scuffed his final lap and reported an unspecified breakage – coming to rest at Turn 10 after pulling over.

So a mixed up grid for the main race following the shocking exit for the defending world champion. The front row looks exciting with Perez alongside Alonso. It’s going to be fascinating to see Verstappen fighting through the field as the Red Bull RB19 has super race pace.

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Qualifying positions:
1 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:28.265
2 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:28.730
3 George Russell Mercedes 1:28.857
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:28.931
5 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:28.945
6 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:29.078
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:29.223
8 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1’29.243
9 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:29.357
10 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:29.451
11 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:29.461
12 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:28.420*
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:29.517
14 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:29.668
15 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:49.953
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:29.939
17 Alex Albon Williams 1:29.994
18 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri 1:30.244
19 Lando Norris McLaren 1:30.447
20 Logan Sargeant Williams 2:08.510
*Ten place grid penalty for changing an electric control unit

Verstappen victorious in Bahrain

World champion Max Verstappen dominated Formula 1’s 2023 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix to win ahead of Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso, while Charles Leclerc lost a podium to an engine issue.

Verstappen led easily away from pole position, while his Red Bull teammate Perez lost second to Leclerc after he made a slow getaway and fell behind the Ferrari driver.

Any hope of a battle for the lead was quickly extinguished when Verstappen romped clear of Leclerc by over half-a-second a lap, with Perez tracking Leclerc across the first stint before they made their first of two pitstops.

Leclerc was the first of the leaders to stop to switch from softs to hards on lap 13 of 57, with Verstappen coming in from nearly ten seconds clear to take a second set of softs after both Red Bull cars had come into the race with just one set of the white-walled rubber available.

Perez ran a few laps longer before he stopped to take more softs too, which he then used to close in on Leclerc and took second with a DRS-assisted blast to the inside of Turn 1 on lap 26.

From there, Verstappen was only bothered by a minor downshift issue causing occasional rear-locking and ran clear of Perez to win by 11.9 seconds after they had both completed one more pitstop to finally take the hards in what was a crushing performance from Red Bull.

That was made even better when Leclerc, who had dropped to nearly ten seconds behind Perez before making a second stop for fresh hards on lap 33, retired from the race after suddenly losing drive on lap 40, with Ferrari later saying it had “lost the engine” on his SF-23.

That triggered a brief virtual safety car as the Ferrari was recovered, after which Alonso charged after and passed compatriot Carlos Sainz to score a podium on his first appearance for Aston Martin.

He had earlier lost a place to Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes on the first lap, then lost another to George Russell when Lance Stroll tagged his new Aston team-mate outbraking himself while battling Russell into Turn 4 on the opening tour.

Alonso followed Hamilton through the race’s early tyre management phases and two stops for both Astons and Mercedes cars, the Spaniard running long before making his second stop after Mercedes had pitted Hamilton early for a second time to ward off an undercut threat from his former McLaren team-mate.

The two world champions engaged in a thrilling fight over what was then fifth place, with Alonso needing two attempts to clear Hamilton after his first pass at Turn 4 went wrong before he put in a brilliant Turns 9/10 dive to clear the Mercedes.

Post virtual safety car, Alonso quickly caught Sainz, who had been running a long way adrift of Leclerc and concerned about his second set of hards making the finish, and also had a close call with the Ferrari when he tried to pass for the first time at Turn 4 on lap 45, lightly tagging the Ferrari’s right-rear with his left-front.

But a few moments later, Alonso’s superior pace meant he benefitted from DRS down the back straight and he blasted by to take a third place he would not lose.

Hamilton shadowed Sainz to the finish in fourth and fifth, with Stroll beating Russell to sixth after Aston pulled off the undercut at his second stop.

In other incidents of note, Pierre Gasly rose from last to finish ninth, with Alex Albon tenth for Williams.

Lando Norris stopped five times due to a pneumatic pressure problem on his McLaren before he retired late on, as was Esteban Ocon after he picked up three penalties – for being out of position in his grid box, Alpine working on his car before he finished serving his five-second penalty at his first stop and the speeding in the pitlane.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen by kicking off the new season with victory. This is the perfect start for Red Bull Racing with a 1-2 finish with Sergio Perez taking second position. As for Fernando Alonso, what a drive in the Aston Martin. Points finish for the double champion in his first race in British Racing Green. Well done Fernando!

Bahrain Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:33:56.736
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull +11.987s
3 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +38.637s
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +48.052s
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +50.977s
6 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +54.502s
7 George Russell Mercedes +55.873s
8 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +72.647s
9 Pierre Gasly Alpine +73.753s
10 Alex Albon Williams +89.774s
11 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +90.870s
12 Logan Sargeant Williams +1 lap
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas +1 lap
14 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri +1 lap
15 Nico Hulkenberg Haas +1 lap
16 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +1 lap
17 Lando Norris McLaren +2 laps
– Esteban Ocon Alpine DNF
– Charles Leclerc Ferrari DNF
– Oscar Piastri McLaren DNF

Verstappen leads a Red Bull front row at Bahrain

The defending champion Max Verstappen lead a Red Bull Racing 1-2 in qualifying for Formula 1’s 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix season opener, with Charles Leclerc third but unexpectedly missing the final Q3 fliers.

Carlos Sainz finished in fourth position ahead of two-time champion Fernando Alonso, the Aston Martin driver only running once in the final segment due to having one set fewer of the soft tyres compared to the Red Bull and Ferrari drivers.

Verstappen had led Leclerc after the first runs in Q3 by 0.103 seconds, but just as the action was due to reach qualifying’s climax, the latter was suddenly climbing from his Ferrari and was shuffled down to third by Perez’s final lap improvement.

Ahead, Verstappen had already gone even quicker on his second run to post a one minute, 29.708 seconds, which meant he ended up clear of his team-mate by 0.138 seconds and Leclerc by 0.292 seconds.

Sainz was able to make a second Q3 flier and set a personal best, but ended up fourth behind his team-mate.

Then came Alonso and George Russell, who led his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in sixth and seventh, the duos also completing just a single run in Q3.

Lance Stroll did likewise, albeit running shortly after Alonso and he took eighth while running with his injured right wrist.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon took ninth ahead of new Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg, who marked his first time back in qualifying as a full-time Formula 1 driver since 2019 by making Q3 where he lost a time for going too far beyond track limits at Turn 4, but set an even quicker time on his way to taking 10th.

In Q2, Stroll’s last-gasp improvement to sneak through in tenth knocked out McLaren’s Lando Norris, who himself had only just progressed from Q1.

All of the drivers eliminated in Q2 set personal bests on their final runs but were shuffled back, bar Yuki Tsunoda, whose best effort for AlphaTauri just cemented his place in P14.

Alex Albon also did not improve on his final lap for Williams, which was set offset from the rest and with four minutes of Q2 remaining.

Running solo, Albon ended up abandoning the lap after appearing to understeer off and beyond the heavily scrutinised Turn 4 track limit, after which he also went off cutting behind the Turn 7 fast left and so toured back to the pits still in P15.

Alfa Romeo pair Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu were the other drivers eliminated in the middle segment.

Before that, Q1 had barely begun when it was red-flagged after Leclerc lost two pieces of his front wheel fairing running down the pit straight ahead of his first run on the mediums.

The first part flew off shortly after he opened his DRS and then when he braked and locked up – likely as a result of the missing aero piece – a second, larger piece fell off the underside of the Ferrari and came to rest on the track, after which race control opted to stop the session so the pieces could be recovered.

When the action restarted after an eight-minute delay, Leclerc returned to the action after Ferrari repaired his car and he went through with the third quickest time behind Sainz and Russell.

With a significant track evolution factor, all the drivers bar Sainz were running when the opening segment concluded, with Kevin Magnussen completing his final lap with a personal best head of the chequered flag emerging but being shuffled down as others improved later and the Dane was out in P17.

That was initially where Pierre Gasly finished his first qualifying for Alpine, but running too far beyond track limits on his final out of the final corner meant he was dropped to the rear of the field.

That elevated Nyck de Vries one spot on his regular Formula 1 appearance, the AlphaTauri driver finishing behind Oscar Piastri, who could not escape the drop zone having languished there with Norris after they had completed their Q1 banker laps on used softs as their first runs on new ones had been ruined by the red flag.

Norris only squeaked through into Q2 as the final 2023 rookie, Logan Sargeant, set an identical time on the final lap of Q1 and so was dumped out in P16 per the rule that means a driver that set a time first is placed ahead if a rival subsequently matches their effort exactly.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen in earning his 21st career pole position in Formula 1. Sergio Perez lines up alongside his Red Bull teammate and the team are looking good for the race especially pre-season testing form as the RB19 is still a quick car. Can anyone challenge the champions? Bring on the race.

Bahrain Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:29.708
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:29.846
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:30.000
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:30.154
5 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:30.336
6 George Russell Mercedes 1:30.340
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:30.384
8 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:30.836
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:30.984
10 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:31.055
11 Lando Norris McLaren 1:31.381
12 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:31.443
13 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:31.473
14 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:32.510
15 Alexander Albon Williams No time
16 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:31.652
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:31.892
18 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:32.101
19 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri 1:32.121
20 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:32.181