Sergio Perez won the Saudi Arabian GP, leading Red Bull home 1-2 ahead of rising Max Verstappen.
After Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin took him off the starting line, Perez hit the front on lap 4 and pulled away as team-mate Verstappen battled back from 15thth after the drive shaft failure in qualifying.
Verstappen moved up to fourth before benefiting from the safety car when Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin stopped. He quickly picked off those in front to sit half a distance behind Perez.
The Red Bulls were a second lap faster than the opposition in the closing stages, but Verstappen reported a problem with his driveshaft at high speed and was unable to do anything to his team-mate in the second half of the race.
2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix results
How the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix unfolded
Perez was unable to maintain his pole position advantage off the start line as Alonso – who was given a 5s penalty for being too far to the left of his grid position – raced past him into the first corner. George Russell ran third in the Mercedes ahead of Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) and Stroll, the latter pulling off a brilliant move outside the Ferrari at Turn 13.
Lewis Hamilton, the only driver in the top 10 to start on hard tyres, dropped to seventh in the Mercedes. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc started 12thth after receiving a 10-place grid penalty for changing engine control electronics and using soft tires to gain three places in the first round. Verstappen gained two places on the opening lap, with Oscar Piastri needing a new front wing for his McLaren after a first corner collision against Alpine.
Alonso led until Perez passed him at Turn 1 at the start of the fourth lap and the Mexican pulled over 3 seconds. Leclerc and Verstappen moved up to seventh and ninth on lap 10.
Verstappen’s DRS overtook Hamilton on lap 12 to take eighth, two seconds behind Leclerc, who then put Esteban Ocon’s Alpine between them a tour later. Verstappen jumped to sixth when he passed Ocon and Stroll on lap 14. Sainz pitted two laps later, also took a hard time but passed Stroll.
Leclerc pitted on lap 17, allowing Verstappen to clear into fourth, and rejoined ahead of Stroll, who struggled to get back up to speed. Stroll was then told to stop on track, prompting a safety car on lap 18 – despite his car having driven into a gap in the guardrail that the FIA failed to detect.
Perez led those who had not yet pitted and Alonso served his 5s penalty but rejoined Russell in front.
At the lap 21 rolling restart, Perez led Alonso, Russell, Verstappen, Sainz, Hamilton (who switched to mediums along with almost everyone else on the hards) and Leclerc, who was the big loser in the mixed series. Hamilton used his fresh mids to pass Sainz on the exit of Turn 1 to move up to fifth.
Verstappen breezed past Russell into the final corner, leaving Alonso between him and Perez, who was 5s down the road. Verstappen’s DRS drove past Alonso for the second half of the race, 5.6s ahead of Perez – and they began trading Fastest Laps. But after closing the gap to 4.5 seconds, Verstappen began complaining of a driveshaft problem, while Perez reported a long brake pedal.
Despite these complaints, the Red Bulls kept pace with Perez keeping Verstappen at bay. Alonso finished 15 seconds behind the Mercedes duo.
Russell was unwilling to cede fourth to Hamilton despite their tire difference, and Ferrari didn’t have much pace in the tights and didn’t prove to be a threat from behind.
Ocon finished eighth ahead of team-mate Pierre Gasly as Kevin Magnussen (Haas) and Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) battled it out in a brilliant duel for the final point with a couple of laps to go for the Dane’s win.
Verstappen set the fastest lap in the final lap of the race.
UPDATE: After the race, Alonso had another 10 seconds added to his race time for failing to complete his time penalty correctly at his only pit stop, dropping him to fourth behind Russell.