WINNERS AND LOSERS: Who thrived under the lights at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix?
The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was a display in utter dominance from a Red Bull team who appear to have built one of the all-time great F1 race cars. While that made for a frustrating race for some rivals, there were shoots of hope for others. We’ve picked our six winners and five losers from Jeddah.
Winner: Sergio Perez
This was the most impressive victory – and indeed Grand Prix weekend – of Sergio Perez’s substantial F1 career.
When team mate Max Verstappen suffered a driveshaft issue in qualifying, having commanded the weekend to that point, Perez stepped up and ensured Red Bull cashed in on their dominance with pole.
The Mexican cruised around at the front of the field. He was unperturbed when his advantage was wiped out by a Safety Car and impressively absorbed late pressure from Verstappen to take his first win of the season.
That’s the first time he’s won a race with Verstappen in second place, and with his fifth career victory adding to a second place in the opening race, he sits second in the drivers’ championship, just a point adrift of Verstappen.
McLaren’s painful start to the season continued in Saudi Arabia as Oscar Piastri’s fine qualifying quickly became a distant memory when he made opening-lap contact with Pierre Gasly.
That forced the Australian to stop at the end of the lap, while debris from that incident flew into team mate Lando Norris’s path, breaking the Briton’s front wing and forcing him to stop.
Thereafter, it became an extended test session for the British team, who are bottom of the constructors’ championship and one of only two teams who have yet to score so far this year.
Winner: Max Verstappen
Anything less than victory is usually unacceptable for Verstappen, but considering he qualified 15th after a mechanical issue, I think he’ll take second place this time around.
It was his 79th career podium, one short of legend Ayrton Senna’s tally, and his 21st consecutive finish – which is the longest active streak going, so relentlessly efficient and reliable has he been.
Snatching fastest lap in the closing stages will have pleased him, not least because it means he retains the championship lead.
Loser: Alex Albon
Alex Albon felt he didn’t quite execute qualifying properly but was optimistic about Sunday given Williams’ stronger race pace.
And in the early stages of the race, it looked like a second consecutive top-10 finish was on the cards as the Thai driver got the most out of his package.
But an issue in the mechanical brake system forced his retirement, and with team mate Logan Sargeant ending up 16th, Williams left Jeddah empty-handed.
Winner: Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso is renowned as a headliner – and he lived up to that billing in sensational fashion with an outstanding performance in Jeddah.
He led the opening lap of a Grand Prix for the first time in close to 11 years when he nipped past Perez into Turn 1 and kept a level head when told he had a five-second time penalty for starting the race out of position in his grid slot.
The Spaniard lost his podium briefly after the race when handed a penalty by the stewards, but that was overturned, meaning he has taken consecutive podiums for the first time since 2013.
This was also his 100th career podium, making him only the sixth driver after Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Alain Prost and Kimi Raikkonen to achieve that feat.
Loser: Lance Stroll
Lance Stroll’s pass on Carlos Sainz was quite the spectacle, but we never got a chance to see what was possible after an energy recovery issue curtailed his race after just 18 laps.
The Canadian didn’t have the pace to match team mate Alonso all weekend, but he is still recovering from two fractured wrists and a broken toe sustained just a few weeks ago.
Winner: George Russell
While George Russell had to give Alonso the third-place trophy back – having held it while the Spaniard was temporarily penalised post-race – the Briton can still consider Sunday afternoon a job well done.
The Mercedes driver had the pace to keep up with Alonso throughout the Grand Prix, while also comfortably having the beating of both Ferraris. While he will aspire to significantly higher results, considering the struggles his team are currently enduring, P4 was a fine result.
Loser: Yuki Tsunoda
Yuki Tsunoda’s performances so far this season have gone under the radar, the Japanese driver losing out on a first point of season at the death when he was overtaken by Kevin Magnussen.
It means the AlphaTauri racer has finished on the fringe of the points in 11th at both races this season, in a car that is one of the slowest in the field. He’s comfortably outperforming team mate Nyck de Vries too.
Uneventful aptly describes Alpine’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix but Esteban Ocon will have wanted just that after his penalty-laden season-opener in Bahrain.
The Frenchman got himself on the board with eighth (which incidentally is his lowest finish in Jeddah in three starts), one place higher than team mate Pierre Gasly, who maintained his 100% points-scoring start to 2023.
This was a sobering weekend for Ferrari, who began with a suite of power unit component changes – one of which triggered a grid penalty for Charles Leclerc – and ended it as the fourth-fastest team.
Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc were unlucky to pit before the Safety Car, with their Mercedes rivals able to stop cheaply, but they ultimately didn’t have the pace to compete at the sharp end.
Leclerc, nonetheless, got off the mark with seventh – having fought his way into the points by starting on the soft compound, while Sainz’s second score keeps him fourth in the standings.
Winner: Kevin Magnussen
Kevin Magnussen scored his and Haas’s first point of the season with a hard-fought drive to 10th.
The Dane bounced back from being beaten in qualifying for the second successive race by team mate Nico Hulkenberg with aplomb.
The Haas was much kinder on its tyres in Saudi Arabia, while the team found a good set-up early in the weekend – both of which bode well for the upcoming races.