Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (19th March) – Red Bull Racing’s Sergio Perez crossed the finish line after 50 thrilling laps around the Jeddah Cornice Circuit to win the FORMULA 1 STC SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX 2023. In front of a packed house, the Mexican put in a dominant display under the floodlights to secure his fifth victory in Formula 1.
Just five seconds behind Perez was his Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen, who drove superbly after starting a lowly 15th on the grid thanks to a driveshaft issue that scuppered his qualifying session yesterday. The world champion slowly picked off his rivals throughout the race and even took the fastest lap on the very final lap to secure the bonus point and retain his place at the head of the world championship.
The second round of this season’s world championship — and the third Formula 1 race in Jeddah — was another incredible spectacle on the shores of the Red Sea. Fans spent the day enjoying the entertainment both in the hours leading up to lights out — in the circuit’s Fan Zone and watching the grid ceremonies — and long after the incredible drone show and fireworks, they flocked to the post-race concert headlined by Calvin Harris, Travis Scott and Ahmed Saad.
After this year’s FORMULA 1 STC SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX 2023, Verstappen holds a slender one point lead over his Red Bull team-mate and Jeddah race winner Perez. Just before celebrating on the podium, the 33-year-old admitted he was thankful the Safety Car didn’t cost him the race victory — as it had done 12 months ago.
“It turned out to be tougher than expected,” said Perez. “The Safety Car tried to take the victory from me again… but not this time! The team have worked so hard over the weekend and I’m really happy for them. We will keep pushing hard and the important thing is that we had the fastest car out there today.”
Fernando Alonso finished third on the road at the world’s fastest and longest street track, but after the event was given a 10-second time penalty by the FIA stewards and was demoted to fourth. Mercedes’ George Russell inherited third place on the podium as a result.
“We’ve made a step in the right direction, and maximised the potential of the car. I was pleased to come home P4 on the road, and the car was feeling good. Nevertheless, I was happy to pick up the silverware,” said Russell when talking about inheriting third after Alonso’s penalty. “I feel it was a bit harsh, what happened to Fernando, as I think some of the penalties this year have been a bit extreme. Plus I didn’t know he’d served it in the pitstop and in the final laps I pushed like a mad man to close the gap.”
Starting on the front row, Alonso took the lead going into the first corner, but his time at the head of field was short-lived as Perez was back in front by lap four. But worse was to follow for Alonso, as he was awarded a five-second time penalty for incorrectly starting in the wrong position in his starting grid hatch marking. The Aston Martin driver served the penalty, but it was during a Safety Car period, which is not allowed in the rules. As a result he was given a more serious ten-second penalty after the chequered flag which demoted him to fourth behind Russell.
The Safety Car was deployed on lap 19 because Alonso’s Aston Martin team-mate Lance Stroll had come to a halt at Turn 13 on the instruction of his team due to a suspected mechanical issue. A number of drivers used the caution period to dive into the pits for fresh rubber, including the leaders, and at the restart Perez retained his advantage over Alonso. Just a few laps later, Verstappen was past the Aston Martin and five seconds behind the leader — but he didn’t quite have the pace to challenge for the win.
“It wasn’t that easy to get through the field,” said Verstappen. “It was difficult at the start, but I was able to clear cars one by one and happy to be here on the podium. At the end we had a big gap behind and I settled for second, which was a good recovery. I gave it a go at the end [for fastest lap] and it worked out.”
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton finished in fifth place ahead of the two Ferraris — Carlos Sainz from team-mate Charles Leclerc — and the two Alpines. The final point went to the Haas of Kevin Magnussen. He had been involved in a spirited battle with the AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda, and wrestled the final points-scoring spot away from the Japanese driver just four laps from the chequered flag.
Aside from Stroll, the race’s only other retirement was Alexander Albon, who complained of a problem with his brakes and he pulled into the Williams garage on lap 27. While the Safety Car was deployed for the third straight year at the track, most of this year’s running was trouble-free.
However, the team that suffered the most bad luck was McLaren, as both Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris were forced to pit at the end of the opening lap after picking up damage from the close-quarters racing at the start. They pair enjoyed a close battle in the final stages with Piastri getting ahead of his team-mate in the closing stages.
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