Jeremy Clarkson bemoans ‘boring’ F1 pace management by Red Bull and Mercedes

Oliver Harden
Max Verstappen, Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, race. Saudi Arabia, March 2023.

A look from above as Max Verstappen, Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, race. Saudi Arabia, March 2023.

Television presenter and renowned Formula 1 fan Jeremy Clarkson has bemoaned the “boring” pace management of the Red Bull and Mercedes drivers at the recent Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Clarkson is one of the most recognisable faces on British television having hosted the BBC’s Top Gear motoring show until 2015 before moving on to host Amazon Prime’s The Grand Tour and Clarkson’s Farm, and recently attended the F1 2023 season opener in Bahrain.

That race was won by Max Verstappen and the dominant Red Bull team, who secured their second consecutive one-two finish led by Sergio Perez in Saudi Arabia.

Perez’s victory came after Red Bull had attempted to manage the pace of the Mexican and team-mate Verstappen in the latter stages.

The fastest lap of the race, set by Verstappen on the final tour, was almost four seconds slower than the time with which Perez had claimed pole position in qualifying the previous day.

A similar situation occurred at Mercedes, where George Russell suddenly increased his pace to pull away from Lewis Hamilton after coming under pressure from his Mercedes team-mate.

In the era of Pirelli tyres and restrictions on engine components over the course of a season, F1 grands prix have become increasingly likened to a marathon rather than a sprint from lights out to chequered flag, with an emphasis on pace management.

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And both instances in Saudi Arabia left Clarkson bemused, with the 62-year-old criticising this modern trend in his weekly column in the Sun newspaper.

He wrote: “We like to think that when the red lights go out at the beginning of a Formula 1 race, every single one of the drivers goes round every corner and down every straight as fast as is humanly and mechanically possible.

“That’s what racing is all about, surely? It seems not.

“When Lewis Hamilton came up behind his team-mate, George Russell, in last weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, George solved the problem by driving more quickly.

“Why didn’t he do that in the first place?

“And then you had the Red Bulls. To stop them from doing any racing, each of the drivers was told to do the same speed as one another.

“I know there are boring reasons for this, tyre wear and saving the engine and so on, but I wonder how many people would watch athletics if they thought half the competitors were not going as fast as they could. To prolong the life of their shoes.”