Perez leads dominant Red Bull 1-2 at Saudi Arabia
Sergio Perez briefly lost the lead to Fernando Alonso at the start but soon recovered and led the remaining laps to easily win the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Max Verstappen recovered from 15th to 2nd. Fernando Alonso finished third despite a post-race penalty that was reversed later in the evening.
When the lights went out it was Fernando Alonso who made the best start, quickly challenging pole sitter Sergio Perez and thanks to having the inside to Turn 1 took the lead of the Grand Prix and immediately got a bit of a gap the Red Bull driver who slotted into second place.
George Russell maintained fourth, followed by Stroll and Sainz who had a very close battle throughout the first lap which was obviously decided in Stroll's advantage. Ocon kept sixth while Hamilton kept his 7th place despite starting on the hard tyre. All other top 10 starters opted for medium, including Verstappen while Leclerc started on softs.
The progression from Leclerc and Verstappen was somewhat less than expected as they failed to make any passes beyond getting past a few cars before Turn 1. In fact, by lap 6, Verstappen and Leclerc had both "only" gained 4 positions.
McLaren meanwhile had a troubled start, pitting both cars at the end of the first lap, resulting in Piastri ending up 19th and Norris 20th.
After the initial gap at the front Perez closed into Alonso once DRS was enabled and took back the lead on lap 4. At the same time Alonso was given a 5s time penalty for being out of position on the starting grid. The Spaniard as indeed slightly too much towards the outside of the track. Despite this being no advantage to Alonso at all, and Jacky Ickx for instance agreeing this isn't really an issue, the rules mandate a 5s penalty while Alonso served at his first stop later in the race.
A series of stops commenced around lap 10 as both Haas and Alfa Romeos were pitted. Alonso on the other hand was told the team was looking into extending the first stint as the hard tyre wasn't looking too great.
Leclerc steadily progressed and emerged 6th but so did Verstappen, leading to them coming closer to one another until they were in fighting range. A battle didn't materialise as Leclec was pitted on lap 16. Verstappen followed that up with a fastest lap right away.
Moments later Stroll parked his car alongside the track due to a technical problem, resulting in a safety car and the top 5 runners pitting. Two laps later the race got going again with the top 13 on hard tyres except for Hamilton who switched from hard to medium tyres, just like Sargeant, Zhou, Bottas and Norris further back.
Nobody managed to exploit the restart but it was Hamilton who made the first pass later that lap by overtaking Sainz for 5th. As Perez rapidly built a lead by nearly 1s per lap on Alonso, Verstappen challenged and eventually passed Russell for third on lap 24. The Dutchman was in Alonso's slipstream half a lap later and moved up into second place halfway in the race.
Perez by then had 5.6s on Alonso and just recorded the fastest lap in 1:33.440, nearly 1.5s faster than Alonso's laptime. The Red Bull were so much quicker than anybody else at this moment in the race with both lapping 1:32.8 on lap 28 compared to 1:34.2 for Alonso, Russell and Hamilton.
The latter appeared to be able to go faster but he was unable to make it past his team mate.
Both Ferraris lapped a few tenths slower, followed by the Alpine duo in 8th and 9th doing 1:34.7.
In front Red Bull really made it a snooze fest with their supreme pace. By lap 38 Verstappen had reduced the gap to Perez to 4 seconds until he started complaining about a suspected driveshaft problem similar to what bugged him in qualifying. The team told him there was no issue but Verstappen surely lost half a second, only to reduce the gap again to 4.4s as Perez started complaining about a long brake pedal. He too was told there was nothing to worry.
6 laps from the end Red Bull then told Perez to reduce his pace by 4 tenths upon which Perez immediately questions if Verstappen is doing the same. Clearly the bulls were cruising to the finish while still being the fastest out on track. Then, less than a lap later, Perez gets the message "you're free to push". Strange change of attitude...
In the end positions remained the same and as Verstappen set fastest lap at the end to maintain his lead in the championship. Mercedes meanwhile pondered whether Alonso had served his 5s penalty. The Spaniard pushed to extend his lead to over 5s but post-race was handed a 10s penalty for "not serving the penalty correctly" as apparently the rear jack man had touched the car in the pitstop before the 5s of the initial penalty had passed.
The penalty was later that evening reversed on the grounds of there being "no clear agreement that could be relied upon to determine that parties had agreed that a jack touching a car would amount to working on the car, without more".
|1||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Honda Rbpt||50||1:21:14.894||25|
|2||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda Rbpt||50||+5.355s||19|
|3||14||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||50||+20.728s||15|
|8||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||50||+52.832s||4|
|9||10||Pierre Gasly||Alpine Renault||50||+54.747s||2|
|10||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||50||+64.826s||1|
|11||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Honda Rbpt||50||+67.494s||0|
|12||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Haas Ferrari||50||+70.588s||0|
|13||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||50||+76.060s||0|
|14||21||Nyck De Vries||Alphatauri Honda Rbpt||50||+77.478s||0|
|15||81||Oscar Piastri||Mclaren Mercedes||50||+85.021s||0|
|16||2||Logan Sargeant||Williams Mercedes||50||+86.293s||0|
|17||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||50||+86.445s||0|
|18||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||49||+1 lap||0|
|NC||23||Alexander Albon||Williams Mercedes||27||DNF||0|
|NC||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||16||DNF||0|