Sergio Perez fends off Max Verstappen to win Saudi Arabian GP

The Mexican led a Red Bull one-two to win the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Sergio Perez held off the fightback of Max Verstappen to win the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and make it back-to-back Red Bull one-twos to start the 2023 Formula 1 season.

The Mexican lost out at the start to Fernando Alonso but didn’t put a wheel out of place after that, retaking top spot on Lap 4 before keeping his teammate at arm’s length to secure the fifth victory of his career.

“It turned our to be tougher than expected, with the safety car,” Perez said.

“We really did the job in the first stint. The safety car again tried to take the victory away from us – but not this time. 

“I was on for victory last time and finally I got it.”

The big talking point coming into the second round of the season at the Jeddah Corniche Street Circuit was if Verstappen could recover from 15th to take the chequered flag.

His early progress was steady until he found himself in fourth after Lance Stroll’s retirement brought out the safety car.

The Dutchman made quick work of George Russell and Alonso but couldn’t bridge the gap to Perez and had to settle for second.

Alonso was once again on fine form and looked to have secured his 100th podium in F1 until he was hit with a retrospective 10-second penalty that demoted him to fourth.

The Spaniard’s loss was Russell‘s gain, as the Brit inherited his first podium of the season after withstanding the advances of Lewis Hamilton, who had to settle for fifth.

Hamilton couldn’t make a move stick before conceding and ensuring he had the tyres left to stay ahead of the Ferraris in sixth and seventh.

Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc lost out under the safety car and didn’t have the pace to challenge the cars in front.

Behind, Esteban Ocon led the Alpine charge in eighth, ahead of his teammate in ninth, while Kevin Magnussen clinched the final point on offer after a late tussle with Yuki Tsunoda.

Can Perez fight for the title?

Most would have expected Verstappen to catch his teammate five seconds up the road after passing Alonso with 25 laps to go, but Perez managed to keep the world champion at bay and maintain his advantage to the line.

While it was another dominant showing from Red Bull, could the action in Saudi be an indication that we may yet see a proper fight for the world championship?

It’ll be a tall order to take it to Verstappen across 23 races but if the Mexican can keep up this level, it’ll certainly be a closer run affair, which is the least fans deserve.

Are Ferrari set for season of mediocrity?

In qualifying, Ferrari once again looked competitive, but come lights out, mediocrity was the order of the day.

Leclerc made great early progress while Sainz held station in fourth, but both were unfortunate with the timing of the safety car and never recovered.

Hamilton made his softer medium tyres count to pass Sainz immediately at the restart and neither he nor Leclerc could make inroads.

It could be track specific, but leaving Jeddah, it’s quite possible Ferrari are the fourth-quickest team when it matters most.

Andrew Wright
Andrew Wrighthttps://total-motorsport.com
Sports Journalist for Total-Motorsport.com
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