Perez leads dominant Red Bull one-two in Saudi Arabian GP

Zak Mauger/Motorsport Images

Perez leads dominant Red Bull one-two in Saudi Arabian GP

Formula 1

Perez leads dominant Red Bull one-two in Saudi Arabian GP


Sergio Perez beat teammate Max Verstappen to victory at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in another dominant one-two result for Red Bull Racing.

Pole-getter Perez’s race was almost perfect but for his tardy launch off the line that handed an early lead to second-place starter Fernando Alonso — who didn’t need to be asked twice to take the straighter line through the first chicane and take first place.

But it became quickly obvious that the Aston Martin was no match for the Red Bull Racing car. Perez bided his time until lap four, when he blasted back into the lead with the help of a super-effective DRS, and never looked back, with his way being eased by a lap-17 safety car that gifted him an easy pit stop.

Perez’s only threat came from teammate Verstappen, who started 15th on the grid after a failed driveshaft in qualifying. The Dutchman took just eight laps to rise into the top 10 and was still within Perez’s pit stop window when the safety car was deployed.

He shook out from the caution pit stops in fourth but was rapidly up to third ahead of George Russell, and within five laps of the restart Verstappen was into second place ahead of Alonso to begin his pursuit of the lead.

Verstappen was given a lap time target of 1m33s, but regularly appeared to ignore the instruction, diving easily into the 1m32s to slice the gap to his teammate. Even worries for his driveshaft, about which he radioed his team that he could feel vibrations at high speed, weren’t enough to deter him from his goal.

Perez was eventually told that Verstappen was ignoring instruction to manage his pace and reluctantly sped up, asking rhetorically whether both cars should be risking problems by pushing so hard, but he had enough in hand to break Verstappen’s challenge to win by 5.3s.

“It turned out to be tougher than I expected,” he said. “The team did a fantastic job.

“We will keep pushing hard. The important thing I think is we were the fastest car out there today, so I’m very pleased with that.”

Verstappen consoled himself with a bonus point for fastest lap, set on the final tour of the race against instruction from his pit wall, to retain the title lead over Perez by a single point.

“It wasn’t very easy to get through the field,” he said. “Once I cleared them one by one we got into a good rhythm, and of course I’m very happy to be here on the podium.”

Alonso’s glorious start didn’t last long, but the Aston Martin driver again comfortably outdistanced all but the Red Bulls…at least on the track. Zak Mauger/Motorsport Images

Alonso finished third at the flag for his 100th podium but was stripped of the place in the aftermath for incorrectly serving a 5s penalty during his sole pit stop.

Alonso had been penalized for starting too far left in his grid box, but his rear jack was engaged before the five seconds had expired, which is against the rules. The stewards handed him a post-race 10s penalty, demoting him to fourth behind Mercedes driver George Russell.

Russell had been told to push late in the race to capitalize on the possible penalty, finishing 5.1s behind the Spaniard. Teammate Lewis Hamilton, however, couldn’t bridge the gap. He finished fifth and 10.3s behind Alonso, leaving him in his position at the flag.

Although the penalty made that podium appearance illusory, Alonso remained delighted by his Aston Martin car’s level of performance.

“What a start of a season,” he said. “Probably unthinkable one month ago when we launched the car, but these guys made a fantastic car.

“I pushed all the way through like qualifying laps. Red Bull is maybe a little bit out of reach, but the rest were behind, so I’m happy with that.”

Alonso came under late scrutiny from the stewards room for incorrectly serving a five-second penalty at his sole stop, earned for starting too far left in his grid box. His rear jack appeared to be engaged at the back of the car before the five seconds had been served, which would be a breach of the rules. The resulting 10-second penalty — the same handed Esteban Ocon for a similar offense last time out in Bahrain — promoted Mercedes’ Russell into third, though teammate Lewis Hamilton remained fifth after a straightforward race for the seven-time champion.

Both Mercedes cars had more than enough pace in hand to keep Ferrari covered. Neither Carlos Sainz nor Charles Leclerc was competitive on the hard tire, with Leclerc’s recovery from 12th with an engine penalty all thanks to his opening stint on softs.

Alpine teammates Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly battled among themselves for eighth and ninth, with Kevin Magnussen beating Yuki Tsunoda to the final point of the race in 10th despite a very early first pit stop on lap eight.

1 11 Sergio Perez RED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT 50 1:21:14.894 0
2 1 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT 50 +5.355s 0
3 14 Fernando Alonso ASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES 50 +20.728s 0
4 63 George Russell MERCEDES 50 +25.866s 0
5 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 50 +31.065s 0
6 55 Carlos Sainz FERRARI 50 +35.876s 0
7 16 Charles Leclerc FERRARI 50 +43.162s 0
8 31 Esteban Ocon ALPINE RENAULT 50 +52.832s 0
9 10 Pierre Gasly ALPINE RENAULT 50 +54.747s 0
10 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 50 +64.826s 0
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

* Provisional results. Note – Verstappen scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.

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