Sergio Pérez won the second round of the new Formula One season with a great performance at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. He beat his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen, who drove superbly to come back from 15he on the grid to take second place at the Jeddah Corniche circuit. Fernando Alonso claimed his 100he race podium with third for Aston Martin. Mercedes’ George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished fourth and fifth, an improvement for the team after a difficult first race of the season in Bahrain.
Perez drove a very solid and controlled race to take the win in a Red Bull that was once again absolutely in a class of its own at the front of the field. Verstappen did an impressive job getting through the field, but once he was within range of the Mexican he couldn’t catch up, but took the fastest lap to maintain his lead in the world championship. Ferrari battled under the spotlight with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc in sixth and seventh.
The victory is the confident and combative statement of intent that the Mexican desperately wanted at the start of the season. He is determined to make the case for himself as a championship contender this season rather than being relegated to playing second fiddle to Verstappen. Here, too, was some redemption for him. He had taken pole position in this race last year and was in a strong position to win until he was unlucky with a safety car time in which his rivals got a free pitstop, leaving him out of the lead.
After a driveshaft issue eliminated him early in qualifying, Verstappen had a mountain to climb, but he duly scaled it with alacrity in what was a precision comeback. He has shown his form on the field in the past, coming from 20he to second in Russia in 2021 and notably last year of 14he win at Spa. However, given the nature of the Jeddah circuit, this achievement was also impressive.
The street circuit is a forbidding combination of towering walls, high closing speeds and blind corners taken at speed. Navigating his treacherous nature and performing repeated overtaking maneuvers was a testament to Verstappen’s judgment and skill, showing just how well he is driving and why he remains the firm favorite to seal a third title this season.
For Red Bull, who will have some concerns after their mechanical failure on Saturday, they know for a fact that their car is intimidatingly fast with both drivers lapping sometimes more than a second per lap faster than anyone else on track.
Alonso got off to a blistering start, passing Pérez at the first corner to take the lead from second on the grid. However, the Spaniard was immediately investigated for an incorrect starting position on his grid box and received a five-second penalty. Alonso held the lead from him briefly, however Red Bull’s superior pace paid off and Perez took the lead into turn one on lap four with ease. Alonso finished third, but received a 10-second penalty after the race for incorrectly serving a race penalty. He promoted George Russell to third place and demoted the Spaniard to fourth.
Verstappen had risen to 13he on lap three and took two more places on lap five, but was 12 seconds off the lead. Passing was textbook and controlled using DRS in turn one when he got to tenth on lap eight. He had caught up with Hamilton for eighth on lap 11 and the British driver was powerless against him.
Verstappen was 20 seconds down and moved up to eighth, staying sixth after passing Esteban Ocon and when Lance Stroll pitted. Up front, Pérez moved to a three-second lead on lap 14 and when a safety car was called on lap 17 when Stroll had to come off the track with a problem, it prompted a series of pit stops, with Pérez, Verstappen, Alonso and Russell all stopping to get the hard tires with which to finish the race.
Pérez maintained his lead over Alonso, Russell and Verstappen and the Dutchman made up a large amount of time as the leaders closed behind the safety car, erasing the Mexican’s almost 20sec lead.
Pérez made a good restart, as Verstappen attacked Russell, who was unable to resist as the Dutchman moved into third on lap 24 with ease and chased down Alonso. The Spaniard fell a lap later as Verstappen put in a series of fast laps chasing down his teammate, who reacted with determination, managing to maintain her five-second lead.
Behind them, Hamilton had started the race on hard tyres, an alternative strategy to the rest of the grid, but was not happy with his grip early in the race. When he took over the mids, he was clearly much faster and was up to fifth, chasing Russell and Alonso. Russell, however, was in no mood to make it easy for him and picked up the pace to hold fourth.
As the race entered its final phase, Verstappen reported that he was concerned there was a problem with his driveshaft. He couldn’t close the gap on Perez, who was in no mood to slow down anyway when he took the flag.
Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly were eighth and ninth for Alpine, with Kevin Magnussen in tenth for Haas.