Perez fends off Verstappen to win action-packed Saudi Arabian GP as Alonso loses podium following time penalty
Sergio Perez converted pole position into victory at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as team mate Max Verstappen recovered from P15 to make it successive one-two finishes for Red Bull. Fernando Alonso put his Aston Martin on the podium again with a fine drive, but ultimately dropped to P4 after receiving a post-race penalty, promoting Mercedes’s George Russell to third.
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 in rapid time but ultimately had to accept defeat to Perez, with the reigning world champion managing 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.
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 team mate Lewis Hamilton, and Carlos Sainz leading Charles Leclerc home. But the Silver Arrows at least had something to smile about, with Russell claiming the team’s first podium of the campaign following Alonso’s penalty.
Leclerc was also tasked with a race day recovery after his pre-race grid penalty, but 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, while 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, with 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 encountering terminal brake problems aboard his Williams and Stroll being 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.
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Photo's: formula1.com / Red Bull Racing