Formula 1: Verstappen with a wild race to catch up, but Perez wins
Red Bull dominates the formula 1: World Champion Max Verstappen and his team demonstrated their almost brutal superiority in the second race of the season and celebrated a commanding one-two at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Verstappen had to cede victory to his teammate Sergio Perez, but he himself raced from 15th on the grid to second with almost no effort.
The man of the day was therefore the Dutchman, even without a win, who continues to lead the World Championship classification: He also secured the fastest race lap and is now ahead with precisely this extra point; at the season opener in Bahrain, the duo crossed the finish line in reverse order.
And as in Bahrain, Fernando Alonso was the best supporting actor: the Spaniard finished third again in the Aston Martin, which was again fast.
But what remains of this race is the (early) impression that Red Bull will be hard to beat this year. Last season, the superior car allowed Verstappen to catch up in a similar way: in Spa he started from 14th place and won the race.
Mercedes and Ferrari are no challengers so far, they have enough to do with the new strength of Aston Martin, Sebastian Vettel’s former racing team. Mercedes took fourth and fifth place with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, followed by Ferrari with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc. The German Nico Hülkenberg also missed the points in the second race of the season, in the weak Haas he finished 12th.
“We’ve never had this kind of damage”
In qualifying, everyone had already expected a commanding pole position for Verstappen, but then a drive shaft went on strike, “we’ve never had this kind of damage,” said Red Bull. For the race, there were two main questions: Is the impressive pace enough? of the RB19 for a win from 15th on the grid? And does the world champion team have to fear further defects?
Red Bull didn’t want to take any risks in this matter and replaced the rear wheel suspension, including both drive shafts, before the race. And the race to catch up was firmly planned. “We have a top speed advantage and we have Max,” said motorsport consultant Helmut Marko on Sky, “the podium should definitely be there.”
The beginning was still a bit difficult, but the more the field spread, the easier it was for Verstappen to get past the competitors – but after eight of the 50 laps, Verstappen was already in the top 10.
Right at the front, Alonso showed in the first few meters that he has some experience with duels at the top. The Spaniard won the start against Perez and was in the lead for a while, but the setback followed a little later: Alonso had missed his starting box and was clearly too far to the left. The stewards imposed a five-second penalty to serve at the pit stop.
A little later he had to let Perez go again in the faster Red Bull, but held on to second place, Russell in the Mercedes fell behind him by one second. Little changed at the top, but something crucial happened at the back: Verstappen worked his way through the field, had less and less trouble – and then also got involuntary help from Aston Martin.
Alonso’s teammate Lance Stroll rolled out with a defect, the safety car came out and the field closed up. The pilots got new tires, and even before the halfway point in the race, Verstappen was not just fourth – he was right behind the top trio. On lap 23 he easily passed Russell, then on lap 25 it was Alonso’s turn. Half of the race was left for the Red Bull stable duel, Verstappen went hunting. Both undercut each other with the fastest race laps, but Verstappen couldn’t get close in the end.