Perez wins Saudi GP as Verstappen goes from 15th to second
Sergio Perez won the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix from pole position in a Red Bull one-two on Sunday with Max Verstappen staying top of the championship after racing from 15th to second with the fastest lap.
Australian rookie Oscar Piastri got off to a poor start in the race when he was pitted on the first lap, but recovered to finish 15th.
Mexican driver Sergio Perez celebrates Oracle Red Bull’s domination of the Saudi Arabian race with teammate and runner-up Max Verstappen and their team after the F1 Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit on Sunday.Credit:Lars Baron/Getty Images
But two-time Formula One world champion Verstappen was the fastest finisher, snatching the bonus point from Perez with a last-lap blast around Jeddah’s floodlit Corniche street circuit that left him a point clear of the Mexican.
The result was Red Bull’s second one-two in as many races this season but a reverse of the March 5 opener in Bahrain.
“That safety car again tried to take the victory away from us in Jeddah but not this time,” said Perez, who started on pole last year but was caught out by a safety car deployment and ended up fourth.
“I was on for victory last year, so finally I got it,” added the Mexican, who now has five career wins and finished 5.355 seconds clear despite the safety car cutting his early advantage.
Verstappen now has 44 points, Perez 43 and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso 27.
Red Bull have 87 points in the constructors’ standings, with Mercedes moving up to second on 41.
Alonso was third at the chequered flag, in what would have been a 100th career podium for the 41-year-old double world champion, but the Spaniard was given a 10-second penalty after the podium celebrations and dropped to fourth.
“It doesn’t hurt much to be honest,” said Alonso, who questioned why it took so long for the stewards to apply the second penalty.
“I was on the podium, I did the pictures, I took the trophy, I celebrated with the champagne, and now I have apparently three points less … OK, let’s try to recover in Australia.”
Alonso’s loss was George Russell’s gain, the Briton moving up to the podium for Mercedes with seven-time world champion and teammate Lewis Hamilton fifth and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz in sixth place.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was seventh with the Alpine pair of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly eighth and ninth and Kevin Magnussen taking the final point for Haas.
After decade-long wait, Alonso’s lead snatched away
Alonso made a great getaway to pass Perez into the first corner and lead a race for the first time since 2012, when he was at Ferrari, but any joy was short-lived as the stewards investigated an incorrect start position.
Television replays showed the Spaniard lined up too far to the left on the front row, so he was given a five-second penalty.
Alonso took it at the pitstop on lap 19 after the safety car, triggered by Canadian teammate Lance Stroll stopping on track, was deployed on lap 18.
The stewards later investigated whether Alonso had taken the five-second penalty correctly and imposed the further 10-second post-race sanction.
It took Perez four laps to take charge with the Mexican meeting no resistance as he swept past for the lead, but he could not relax.
Spain’s Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso was in high spirits before later being given a penalty that resulted in him being demoted to fourth place.Credit:Peter Fox/Getty Images
Verstappen, who suffered a drive-shaft failure in qualifying, was up to 11th after five laps and on lap 12 passed Hamilton for eighth.
When the safety car period ended on lap 20, Verstappen was pushing Russell for third and took the place three laps later.
Verstappen went second, 5.6 seconds behind Perez, at the half-distance but the gap stayed constant with the Red Bulls in a race of their own.
There was a moment of concern on the pit wall as Verstappen reported a “weird noise at high speed” with some 13 laps remaining.
Aussie driver Oscar Piastri guides his McLaren MCL60 Mercedes to 15th at the Saudi Arabia F1 Grand Prix on Sunday.Credit:Peter Fox/Getty Images
“I feel like the drive-shaft is running a bit rough,” he told his race engineer.
“It was right through to the finish,” he explained later. “I was second and had a big gap behind so we decided to call it a day and settle for second, which was quite a good recovery.”
McLaren had another tough weekend, the team yet to score a point.
Piastri was pitted for a new front wing after making first-lap contact with Gasly’s Alpine, while Lando Norris followed him in soon after with damage of his own.
Piastri finished 15th and Norris 17th, with Valtteri Bottas last for Alfa Romeo.
Williams’s Alex Albon, a point scorer in Bahrain, was the second retirement of the race with a brake problem just after the half-distance.
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