Sergio Perez wins Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia –
Sergio Perez won the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and Max Verstappen moved from 15th to second to give Red Bull a 1-2 finish on Sunday in what threatens to be a runaway season for the reigning Formula 1 champions.
And so far there have only been two races.
“Well done guys, an excellent result for the team,” said Perez, who finished about 5 seconds ahead of Verstappen.
The first two races of the season saw two Red Bull wins, two 1-2 finishes and an air of desperation from everyone else on the grid.
Verstappen is chasing a third title in a row and is not worried if it turns into a full-blown battle between himself and Perez.
“The best will finish at the front,” said the Dutchman.
Perez feels he has yet to peak.
“I’m not sure this is my best weekend with the team, Melbourne will be even better,” he said looking ahead to the next race in Australia on April 2.
Fernando Alonso finished third for the second consecutive race for what would have been his 100th career podium. But he later received a 10-second penalty for incorrectly serving an earlier penalty, dropping him to fourth place.
But even as the Spaniard enjoys a renaissance with his new Aston Martin team, Alonso has admitted he had little chance of beating Red Bull.
Verstappen won a record 15 races and a second consecutive F1 title last season, with Perez adding another two wins as the 17 aggregate wins in 23 races easily gave Red Bull the constructors’ title. There are no signs of an off-season performance drop and George Russell, who moved to third after Sunday’s Alonso penalty, predicted after the season opener that Red Bull would win every race this season.
“I had fun out there and the car felt good,” said Russell after his 10th career podium. “I think it was hard what happened to Fernando. But I’m glad I can pick up the silverware.”
Lewis Hamilton finished fifth while Mercedes finished third and fifth, just three days after the seven-time F1 champion said the team needed three other organizations not to finish a race before Mercedes had a chance to win.
“We’re not where we want to be yet, but we’re getting there,” Hamilton told his team.
Showing off on Sunday was Verstappen, who overcame a mechanical problem in qualifying that forced him to start 15th and quickly worked his way up the grid. The Dutchman set the fastest lap of the race on the final lap to maintain his position at the top of the F1 points standings.
“Great recovery, Max, that was a really good ride at the end,” Red Bull boss Christian Horner said over the radio to Verstappen.
Verstappen felt the late push was worth the risk.
“I tried in the end and luckily it worked out,” he said.
Red Bull have now finished 1-2 in three consecutive races since last year’s final.
It was the fifth win of his career for Perez, who started from pole at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit for the second consecutive year. He briefly led the championship until Verstappen slipped to the front by recording the fastest lap.
“Let’s keep it up, let’s keep pushing,” said the Mexican.
Perez started on pole with Alonso next to him on the front row and Alonso quickly jumped into the lead, but was promptly penalized for being in the wrong starting position. He thought he had served the five-second penalty, but the race stewards pinned him a further 10 seconds into the podium celebration.
Russell said “common sense should be applied”, and Alonso was annoyed by the FIA governing body.
“I think today is more of a bad show from the FIA than a disappointment to ourselves,” Alonso told broadcaster Sky. “You can’t apply the penalty 35 laps after the pit stop. They had enough time to inform us.”
Perez quickly retook the lead as Verstappen and Charles Leclerc – starting from 12th due to a 10-place grid penalty – chewed up the cars in front of them.
When both Ferraris went to new tyres, Verstappen was fourth.
The 6.2-kilometre (3.8-mile) circuit along the Red Sea is the fastest street circuit in F1 with average speeds in excess of 250 km/h (160 mph), which suited Verstappen. It only took him a few seconds to pass Russell and Alonso didn’t take long either, making it a Red Bull shootout.
Perez held his ground.
Ferrari had another race to forget, with Carlos Sainz Jr. in sixth, ahead of Charles Leclerc in seventh. At least Leclerc finished after his retirement in Bahrain, but he was not happy.
“Being behind like that is really (smooth), I don’t know what to do,” said Leclerc as he rolled behind traffic.
France’s Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly were eighth and ninth for Alpine with Haas driver Kevin Magnussen tenth.
Alonso’s teammate Lance Stroll retired on lap 18, prompting a safety car restart that suited Verstappen.
Alex Albon retired his Williams and his teammate Logan Sargeant, the rookie American driver, started last and finished 16th. McLaren again struggled with Oscar Piastri in 15th and Lando Norris in 17th.
“Tough race after an unlucky start with damage to both cars on the first lap. Made it too hard to turn things around. But we did our best,” tweeted McLaren boss Zak Brown. “Time to get our season back on track in Australia.”