Saudi Arabian GP 2023

MARCH 19, 2023

Race Notes - Perez takes Red Bull 1-2

Sergio Perez, Saudi Arabian GP 2023
© Red Bull

By Mark Karp

Polesitter Sergio Perez, in his Red Bull-Honda, won the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, by 5.355 seconds, over his teammate Max Verstappen, who started from 15th place. Fernando Alonso, in the second race in a row, took third place in his Aston Martin-Mercedes, 20.728s behind the winner.

The win by Perez is his fifth career win. Alonso’s podium is his 100th career podium, and second in a row.

By taking the fastest lap on the race's final lap, Verstappen retains the World Championship lead, with Perez second.

After the podium ceremony, which Alonso stood on, the stewards hand Alonso a 10-second penalty for a team member touching his car too soon while serving his five-second penalty during his pitstop. Later on in the night, after a Petition for Review from the Aston Martin team, it was determined that the additional penalty was incorrectly applied, so this penalty was reversed, and Alonso once again finished third.

George Russell (25.866s) in the Mercedes GP finished fourth, with teammate Lewis Hamilton (31.065s) in fifth place, Carlos Sainz (35.876s) in the Ferrari was sixth, his teammate Charles Leclerc (43.162s) was seventh, Esteban Ocon (52.832s) in the Alpine-Renault was eighth, his teammate Pierre Gasly (54.747s) was ninth, and Kevin Magnussen (1m04.826a) in the Haas-Ferrari finished with the final point in tenth place.

Before the start, Perez is on pole with Alonso alongside, Russoll and Sainz on row 2, Stroll and Ocon on row 3, Hamilton and Piastri on row 4, and Gasly and Hulkenberg rounding out the top ten. Leclerc qualified second, but after grid penalties starts from 12th, Verstappen, after replacing his driveshaft, will start in 15th place.

The fastest race strategy is projected to be a one-stop race with drivers starting on soft or medium tyres and switching to hard tyres to finish the race.

All runners starting on medium tyres, except for Hamilton starting seventh on hard tyres, and Leclerc starting on soft tyres.

Red Bull was doing a lot of work on Perez's car on the grid.

At the appointed time, the field came around and formed on the grid, the lights went out, and the race began with Alonso passing Perez into the lead, Russell, Stroll, Sainz, Ocon, Hamilton, Gasly, Leclerc, and Magnussen the top ten. Verstappen in 13th.

Piastri pulls into the pits for a front wing change.

Leader Alonso is given a 5-second penalty for starting outside his grid box.

On lap 4, Perez passes Alonso for the lead.

On lap 6, Perez sets fast lap at 1m34.277s.

On lap 7, Verstappen passes Zhou for tenth place.

Aston Martin tells Alonso that he is still on "plan A."

On lap 9, Leclerc passes Hamilton for seventh place.

Alonso stays within a second of Perez in the lead.

Verstappen passes Gasly for ninth.

Perez sets fast lap at 1m34.255s, and again on lap 10 at 1m34.106s.

At lap 10, Perez leads Alonso by 2.1 seconds, followed by Russell (8.6s), Stroll (10.5s), Sainz (12.1s), Ocon (16.1s), Leclerc (17.4s), Hamilton (20.2s), Verstappen (21.8s) and Gasly (23.3s) in tenth.

On lap 11, Verstappen passes Hamilton for eighth place.

On lap 13 Leclerc passes Ocon for sixth.

Alonso tells the team, "the tyres feel good; we can keep going."

Stroll pits from fourth and changes to hard tyres, and he rejoins 11th.

Verstappen is closing on Leclerc in fifth.

On lap 15, Gasly pits for hard tyres and rejoins in 14th.

The next lap, Sainz pits and rejoins in ninth, ahead of Stroll.

On lap 17, Leclerc pits from fourth place, changes to hard tyres, and rejoins in eighth. Ocon pits as well.

On lap 18, the team tells Stroll to stop immediately, and he stops at turn 13 - the safety car is deployed.

On lap 17 Verstappen sets fast lap at 1m33.790s.

Perez and Alonso both pit, Alonso taking his 5-second penalty. Russell, Verstappen, and Hamilton all stop as well, all drivers taking hard tyres, except for Hamilton taking medium tyres.

Perez leads Alonso, Russell, Verstappen, Sainz, Hamilton, Leclerc, Tsunoda, Ocon, and Gasly in tenth place.

At the start of lap 21, the race resumes with Perez at the front, Alonso

On lap 23 Perez sets fast lap at 1m33.464s, and again the next lap at 1m33.440s.

On lap 24, Verstappen passes Russell for third place.

On lap 25, Verstappen closes on Alonso and passes him for second.

Verstappen trails the leader by 5.5 seconds.

On lap 26 Verstappen sets fast lap by 1m32.933s.

Albon drives around slowly to the pits with a brake issue and retires.

On lap 27 Verstappen sets fast lap at 1m32.838s, and trails Perez by 5.1 seconds.

On lap 29, Verstappen sets fast lap at 1m32.670s.

At lap 30, Perez leads Verstappen by 5.0 seconds, followed by Alonso (12.1s), Russell (14.6s), Hamilton (16.4s), Sainz (20.0s), Leclerc (21.6s), Ocon (25.3s), Gasly (28.1s) and Tsunoda (29.5s) in tenth place.

On lap 31 Verstappen sets fast lap at 1m32.382s.

Sargent is battling Hulkenberg for 12th place.

Leclerc is looking for team orders to get past his teammate Sainz for sixth place.

On lap 34, Perez sets fast lap at 1m32.294s.

Hulkenberg brushes a wall but continues.

On lap 35 Verstappen sets fast lap at 1m32.249s.

Bottas pits for soft tyres and rejoins last in 18th.

Verstappen reports, "I feel like the driveshaft is running a bit rough."

On lap 38, Perez sets fast lap at 1m32.188s.

Perez reports a problem with his brakes.

At lap 40, Perez leads Verstappen by 4.4 seconds, followed by Alonso (19.3s), Russell (24.4s), Hamilton (27.3s), Sainz (31.3s), Leclerc (33.6s), Ocon (42.2s), Gasly (44.8s), and Tsunoda (51.4s) in tenth place.

On lap 42 Devries passes Sageant for 14th.

With five laps to go, Perez leads his teammate by 5.5 seconds.

Bottas reports something is wrong with his car, and it is sliding around.

Verstappen asks about who has the fastest lap, to which the team replies that (Perez) "we do, not concerned with that," to which Verstappen replies, "but I am."

On lap 46, Magnussen passes Tsunoda for tenth place.

Mercedes is telling Russell to stay within 5-seconds of Alonso, as the team is questioning whether Alonso was allowed to serve his penalty during a safety car period.

Aston Martin tells Alonso to get more than 5 seconds ahead.

On the last lap, Perez leads Verstappen and Alonso, Verstappen taking fast lap at 1m31.906s.