Formula 1 2023: Saudi Arabia
Round Two: The Saudi Arabia Grand Prix
The F1 season moved on to Saudi Arabia this weekend, March 17th, 18th, and 19th. Red Bull continued to dominate the field, but Mercedes, Ferrari, and Aston Martin had a close competition for 2nd place.
There were no surprises in the practices, with Perez and Verstappen of Red Bull and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso consistently in the top 3. Full results are here.
During qualifying, many drivers were affected by the track limits regulations. The rules state that all four wheels of the car cannot go beyond the white lines on the side of the track. If they do this during a timed lap, then the time will not count. Logan Sargeant, a driver for Williams, failed to set a time due to track limits and started in 20th. Lando Norris of McLaren had issues due to car damage and was in 19th.
Halfway through Q2, Verstappen started having problems with his car’s engine. He had to stop the car and qualified in 15th. This was a big surprise as he was predicted to be first. In the end, his teammate at Red Bull, Sergio Perez, was first, in front of Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin and George Russell of Mercedes.
Charles Leclerc actually qualified 2nd, in front of Fernando Alonso. However, he received a ten-place grid penalty for having to replace his engine, after his engine failure in the last race. He starts in 12th for Sunday’s race.
Max Verstappen had an exciting recovery from 15th to 2nd place. The Red Bull seemed to be really fast when overtaking on the straights of the track. However, Sergio Perez still got a win, his first of the season. It was still another Red Bull dominated weekend, but there were many other teams in the mix. Fernando Alonso finished third, with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and George Russell behind, followed by two Ferraris.
There were some complications with which place Fernando Alonso finished in. He achieved a podium, finishing in 3rd place. This was actually his 100th podium in his career. However, a bit after the podium celebrations, he was given a 5-second penalty during the race because he failed to line up in the right spot at the start. He served this penalty during his pit stop to change tires. The rule is that no mechanic can touch the car until the 5 seconds is over. However, there was some controversy. Some saw that maybe a mechanic had started to work on the car before the 5 seconds was over. Alonso celebrated his finish nonetheless. Minutes later, the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) stewards, who enforce penalties, gave him a 10-second time penalty for failing to serve another penalty correctly. This would have put him in 4th, behind George Russell. However, they redacted the penalty hours later after it was confirmed that the mechanics had waited the full 5 seconds before working on the car, and Alonso got his podium as planned. The full race results are here.
This week seems to have been dominated by Red Bull. So far, they lead both championships and are looking to dominate the season. The real interest is in second place — will it be Aston Martin, Ferrari, or Mercedes?