Saudi Arabian GP: Another race, another Max Verstappen win, another Red Bull 1-2

Jamie Woodhouse
Red Bull's Max Verstappen in the lead at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen won the 19th race in 20 in Saudi Arabia.

It was a fresh battleground, but same result as Max Verstappen led home a Red Bull 1-2 at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Sergio Perez was handed a five-second penalty due to an unsafe release which saw Fernando Alonso slam on the brakes, but his advantage over Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was enough to ensure that the Red Bull 1-2 was safe.

Max Verstappen eases to Saudi Arabian Grand Prix win

All drivers, bar Ferrari’s debuting Oliver Bearman and Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas on softs, started on the medium C3 tyre for what was expected to be a one-stop race.

Before the race even got underway though Alpine were in further trouble, as Pierre Gasly reported a gearbox problem over the team radio, though he took his place on the grid.

And when the lights went out, Verstappen secured the lead, while Leclerc saw off the threat of Perez after they went side-by-side out of Turn 3. Bearman got through his first F1 start unscathed, but it was game over for Gasly who got the call to retire his Alpine after the first lap.

Oscar Piastri meanwhile gave himself the task of masking McLaren’s straight-line pace disadvantage after snatching P4 from Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

By Lap 4, Verstappen had ditched Leclerc from DRS range, allowing Perez to muscle his way trough into Turn 1 and establish a Red Bull 1-2 out front.

Just as Bearman was catching the eye by turning up the pressure on Yuki Tsunoda, focus switched to Lance Stroll just ahead of that duo as he steamed into the barriers at Turn 22 after clipping the inside wall, triggering the Safety Car.

That prompted a flurry of pit stops for the hard C2 tyre, Red Bull and Ferrari double-stacking their drivers, while the likes of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton elected to stay out, creating a top three of leader Norris, Verstappen and Hamilton. The stewards would note a potential unsafe release as Perez was sent into Alonso’s path.

Norris was also under investigation for a potential jump start, pointed out to the stewards by George Russell. Norris had joked that a jump start could be his only hope for battling Aston Martin, but fortunately, the stewards took no further action.

The race resumed on Lap 9, Norris dropping the hammer just before the pit entry and holding off Verstappen who took a look around the outside into Turn 1, McLaren asking Norris to nurse his tyres.

Bearman pulled off a lunge on Tsunoda into Turn 1, but Alex Albon’s attempts to gain a position did not work out so well as he clipped the Haas of Kevin Magnussen, much to Albon’s frustration, as he fortunately escaped with only a slightly-wounded Williams. “He didn’t give me enough space,” Albon vented, as the stewards confirmed that they would take a look.

Meanwhile out front, Verstappen resumed the lead on Lap 13 as he sailed around the outside of Norris into Turn 1, with Perez also making his way past Hamilton, though he was soon hit with a five-second penalty for that unsafe release, while for Magnussen it was 10 seconds for causing the collision with Albon.

Magnussen soon had another 10 seconds added to his time for leaving the track and gaining an advantage in combat with Tsunoda, a battle he ultimately won, legitimately, by using every inch of the track through Turns 1, 2 and 3, even though it was branded “dangerous” by Tsunoda who saw Alpine’s Esteban Ocon also slip through the open door.

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Leclerc had made his way past Hamilton but Piastri was finding it tougher going, an attempt at Turn 1 seeing him take to the run-off as he swiftly returned P5 to Hamilton and planned his next attack, while Perez made a success of passing the other McLaren as Red Bull’s 1-2 was restored.

And Verstappen was sitting pretty as the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix ticked past halfway distance, his lead over Perez standing at 6.5 seconds.

With Norris yet to pit, Leclerc put himself back onto the podium by clearing the McLaren on Lap 27, Perez eight seconds up the road with that five-second penalty hanging over him.

By Lap 35, Piastri thought he had finally, at long last, cleared Hamilton’s Mercedes, only for him to lock-up and run wide at Turn 1, allowing Hamilton back through into P5.

Two laps later Piastri was free at last as Hamilton dived into the pits for a set of soft tyres. He re-joined the race P9 behind Bearman as he looked to now be the driver on the attack.

Alonso meanwhile became the second Aston Martin to whack the wall, though unlike team-mate Stroll, Alonso was spared a trip into the barriers for his slight misjudgement at Turn 10.

Norris took to the pit lane a lap after Hamilton, also opting for the softs, slotting into P8 between Bearman and Hamilton.

As Hamilton set his sights on Norris, it became clear that the straight-line speed battle was a clear win for Hamilton, yet through the fast and sweeping corners, Norris and the McLaren MCL38 were reigning supreme in “impressive” fashion as Hamilton observed.

The stewards were not too impressed though with Norris’ attempts to break the tow down the start-finish straight, showing him the black and white flag for weaving.

Zhou Guanyu in the Sauber was the final driver to pit on Lap 43, though will have been cursing that mandatory pit-stop rule after a very slow visit saw him come out P18 and last, while Daniel Ricciardo capped a disappointing drive to P16 with a late spin after taking too much kerb at Turn 1.

Out front though it was business as usual as Verstappen claimed victory in Saudi Arabia, his ninth successive grands prix win, with Perez and Leclerc completing the podium. Leclerc also clinched the fastest lap bonus point.

2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix results

1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing
2 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +13.643
3 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +18.639
4 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +32.007
5 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +35.759
6 George RUSSELL Mercedes +39.936
7 Oliver BEARMAN Ferrari +42.679
8 Lando NORRIS McLaren +45.708
9 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +47.391
10 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +75.688
11 Alexander ALBON Williams +87.820
12 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +1L
13 Esteban OCON Alpine +1L
14 Logan SARGEANT Williams +1L
15 Yuki TSUNODA RB +1L
16 Daniel RICCIARDO RB +1L
17 Valtteri BOTTAS Kick Sauber +1L
18 Guanyu ZHOU Kick Sauber +1L
DNF Lance STROLL Aston Martin
DNF Pierre GASLY Alpine

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