F1 Takeaways: Red Bull remains unrivalled with dominant 1-2 finish in Saudi Arabia
It was another dominant 1-2 finish for Red Bull for the second race in a row only this time the roles were reversed.
Sergio Perez picked up the victory in Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix from pole position while teammate Max Verstappen, who started 15th due to a driveshaft failure in qualifying, picked through the field to come in second place.
George Russell of Mercedes finished third after Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was dinged 10 seconds post-race for failing to properly serve a previously issued penalty.
Here are five takeaways from the Grand Prix:
Perez wouldn’t let the safety car deny him another win in Saudi Arabia. “Checo” has only claimed pole position twice in his career with the first happening on this very same track one year ago. Perez boxed for his scheduled stop then Nicholas Latifi crashed to bring out the safety car. That allowed others to dash into the pits while Perez slowly made his way around the long course, and the Red Bull driver was behind his fellow contenders when he finally caught up.
Things turned out quite different this time around. Although Alonso beat Perez to the first turn, the Aston Martin was no match for the Red Bull just a few laps later once DRS was enabled. When Lance Stroll bowed out due to engine problems on Lap 17 and out came the safety car, Perez was able to avoid a repeat of last year by taking advantage of the “cheap” stop this time. That bunched up the field for the restart, but Perez got the jump on Alonso and never looked back — quite literally as there was nobody in his rearview mirrors.
The victory was the fifth of Perez’s career and fitting for his growing “street circuit expert” reputation as it’s his fourth win on that particular course type.
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RED BULL REMAINS UNRIVALLED
The only thing that can stop Red Bull is Red Bull itself. Verstappen, who won the season opener in Bahrain two weeks ago, was the fastest in all three practice sessions but a driveshaft failure during Saturday’s Q2 session forced him to start 15th on the grid. Considering Verstappen has won from as far back as 14th, and given how strong the Red Bulls have been, it wasn’t out of the question he would end up in a podium position. It was just a matter of how soon.
Verstappen settled into second place by the midway mark of the race on Lap 25. The double-defending world champion appeared concerned about his driveshaft through the second half of the race, however, that didn’t stop him from going all out on the final lap to snatch the fastest lap from Perez. With neither driver claiming that bonus point in Bahrain, Verstappen (44 points) remains one point ahead of Perez (43) in the championship.
That probably won’t cause any drama but quite frankly it might be the only drama we’ll see in the fight for the title. Verstappen finished 25.866 seconds ahead of Russell and even if Alonso hadn’t been penalized after the race, we’re still looking at a 20-second gap between Red Bull and anyone else.
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ALONSO, OH NO
That starting grid penalty sure came back to bite Alonso. The two-time world champion lined up just a tad too far to the left of his spot on the grid and was handed a five-second penalty.
Fortunately for Alonso, he was able to serve it during his pit stop under the safety car — at the expense of his teammate Stroll — and he was able to exit without losing position.
Unfortunately for Alonso, his team appeared to be a little too hasty in the box leading to an additional 10 seconds added to his final time. A podium finish, which would have been the 100th of Alonso’s career, vanished and the third-place trophy was probably literally taken from his hands considering the penalty didn’t come until after the post-race celebration.
Alonso was rightfully frustrated and told broadcast Sky Sports: “You can’t apply the penalty 35 laps after the pit stop. They had enough time to inform us.”
The Alonso hype train is still chugging along as those errors shouldn’t derail Aston Martin and the 41-year-old Spanish driver’s surprising start to the season.
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ASTON MARTIN’S PAIN, MERCEDES’ GAIN
Mercedes leapfrogged Aston Martin for second in the constructors’ championship with Russell finishing third and Lewis Hamilton in fifth. Still, it feels kind of hollow given Russell only reached the podium due to Alonso’s final penalty plus who knows where Stroll would have finished if he hadn’t experienced engine problems early into the race. We’d still power rank Aston Martin ahead of Mercedes based on what we’ve seen so far head-to-head on the track, however, power rankings don’t win championships.
Elsewhere in the standings, Ferrari remains firmly in fourth place with Carlos Sainz finishing fifth and Charles Leclerc in seventh after starting 12th due to a grid penalty for exceeding allotted electronics control units. Again, it seemed like Sainz and Leclerc were having disagreements with their team over the radio and why do I get the feeling somewhere former team boss Mattia Binotto is smiling?
Finally, kudos to Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, who appear to be getting along at Alpine. Although they came close to making contact, both ended up within the top 10 and now have Alpine in fifth place overall.
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With Haas’ Kevin Magnussen finishing P10, there are only two teams remaining who have yet to score a point this season: AlphaTauri and McLaren.
Magnussen edged out AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda for the final points-paying position, so we’ll go easy on Red Bull’s younger sibling team. As for McLaren though, rookie Oscar Piastri started eighth on the grid but lost a bit of his front wing at the start when he got pinched by Gasly and had to make an unexpected pit stop.
Piastri finished 15th, which was still better than teammate Lando Norris, who started 19th after crashing in qualifying and came home in 17th — but really only because two drivers retired and Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas had problems of his own.
Well, at least McLaren is in line to have the best odds to draft Connor Bedard. Wait, wrong sport.
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