Perez cruises to Red Bull 1-2 as penalty prevents Alonso from podium

Perez crossed the line 5.3 seconds clear of Verstappen, who spent the final laps charging his battery for the last tour tilt with the fastest lap – which he finally did when he crossed the line in a lap of 1min 31.906s.

The Mexican driver had to overcome a back-and-forth early on, with Alonso spilling through the first corner to take the lead and settle into first place.

But immediately Alonso was pinged for starting from the wrong place, and a quick investigation resulted in the Spaniard being given a five-second penalty for being too far to the left of his starting box.

Despite having his lead briefly over a second, Alonso was run down by Perez at the end of the third lap and with DRS the Mexican was able to pull to the inside and retake the lead at the start of the lap. round four.

Alonso stayed with him in the DRS zone and although he never tried to regain the lead, he was able to sit in Perez’s slipstream for a few laps until he simply couldn’t keep up with the second Red Bull.

From there, the Aston Martin driver pulled away and quickly fell to within 1.6 seconds of Perez by lap 11 – a deficit doubled two laps later.

But the race was halted on lap 17 when Lance Stroll – who had earlier passed the sensational Carlos Sainz on the opening lap at turn 13 – stopped and parked at turn 8.

This ultimately brought out the safety car, causing pit stops among the frontrunners as they swapped their medium tires for the harder compound.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Verstappen was brought into parity after a safety car restart after pitting with the early leading pack and was initially told to prioritize managing his tires until DRS activated on lap 23.

This gave him the tools to dispose of George Russell and DRS at Turn 27, and the Dutchman was later able to catch Alonso as he tried to break into the top two.

Next on Verstappen’s agenda was to close the 5.4 seconds gap on Perez, and he was able to drop around a tenth per lap – rising to five seconds on lap 30 as Perez tried to reduce the damage.

The pole leader managed to get his bumper back to around 5.2 seconds on the next lap as he and Verstappen continued to battle for the fastest laps. Although Verstappen was largely responsible for the others, he was consistently able to pull away from Perez’s lead.

With the gap down to less than 4.5s, Verstappen began to worry when he began to feel the driveshaft making strange noises at high speed, bringing Perez’s gap back to 5.2s as Red Bull investigated his complaints.

But happy enough, Red Bull told Verstappen to keep going – and meanwhile Perez announced a long brake pedal as the team tried to end the race.

With the two convinced of their problems, Verstappen closed the gap back to 4.3 seconds as a discussion between the Red Bull drivers and engineers began.

Perez tried to lobby his team to slow things down as Verstappen continued to push, but when told the season was open, Perez opened the taps and began to stretch the advantage over his team-mate, who had been able to hang on in the low 1m32s.

After three laps, Perez’s lead grew to six seconds, with Verstappen instead more concerned with setting the fastest lap, and the lead grew to 7.1 seconds in Perez’s favor before the final lap.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C43

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C43

Photo: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Verstappen then set his 131.906 points to grab the fastest lap point from his team-mate, cutting the gap to just over five seconds and eventually following his team-mate home as Perez took his first win since Singapore last season.

Alonso had initially finished in the top three after serving his five-second penalty during the safety car before his pit stops to stay ahead of the chasing Mercedes and Ferrari cars.

Russell was told on the radio to keep Alonso within five seconds, just to cover the threat of further penalties, but the two-time world champion’s spectacular final lap left the Brit outside that margin – and he was immediately placed under investigation by the FIA. for taking the penalty wrongly because a member of his team was touching the car at that moment.

As a result, Alonso received a 10-second penalty, which dropped him to fourth, relegating Russell to third.

Lewis Hamilton made sure both Mercedes finished in the top five as he opted for the opposite strategy, starting with hard laps and completing 32 laps with a medium combination.

This ensured he was able to finish ahead of Carlos Sainz, who had earlier used a pit stop to overtake Stroll, having been out-targeted by his generous pass at Turn 13.

Sainz stayed ahead of Charles Leclerc, who battled through the order after a 10-place penalty left him starting 12th, and the Monegasque was able to move up to seventh.

Esteban Ocon won the Battle of the Alps to finish eighth, and Pierre Gasly finished ninth, repeating his Bahrain result.

Haas had the season mark removed as Kevin Magnussen entered the top 10 after battling throughout the second half of the race with Yuki Tsunoda for the final point.

The Dane moved the AlphaTauri driver at the start of lap 46, denying the Italian team the chance to score their first point of 2023.

F1 Saudi Arabian GP results

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