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Perez fends off Verstappen charge to lead Red Bull one-two in Saudi Arabia

Sergio Pérez won in Saudi Arabia, beating teammate Max Verstappen, who recovered from 15th. Fernando Alonso takes 100th career podium with third.

Sergio Pérez fended off a charge from Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen to win the 2023 Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix for his first victory of the season. Perez started on pole position but lost the lead at the start to Fernando Alonso, who led the opening four laps of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, before the Red Bull driver dived past with the assist of DRS at Turn 1 on Lap 5. Verstappen battled late vibrations which he felt was a driveshaft problem, but the two RB19 were pulling out more than a second per lap on the chasing pack. This was headed by Alonso in the Aston Martin, who took third after suffering a five second time penalty for being out of position on the grid. He comfortably held off George Russell and Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes out-performed the Ferrari duo, Carlos Sainz finishing ahead of Charles Leclerc in sixth and seventh, respectively. The final points positions were rounded out by Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly and Kevin Magnussen. Verstappen retains the championship lead claiming the fastest lap bonus point on the final lap.

Advantage Perez

At lights out, a better getaway from P2 allowed Alonso to grab the lead and pull away from Perez, but as soon as DRS was enabled, the Mexican was able to glide up behind and take the lead away from the penalised Aston. Verstappen began his recovery drive through the field from 15th, and was running in eighth place on Lap 14 with the first round of pit-stops being triggered by Lance Stroll pitting fourth. A majority of the field had gone for the Medium tyres, meaning a switch to Hard tyres was required, but warm-up proved difficult with the overcut proving the way to go. Ferrari used this tactic to leapfrog Stroll with both Sainz and Lelcerc, but the race changed complexion on Lap 18 during the stop cycle when the Canadian was told to stop the Aston at Turn 13. The Safety Car was deployed - allowing those including Perez, Alonso, Russell, Verstappen and Hamilton to pit and change tyres - Hamilton going to the Mediums and save some race time. On the restart on Lap 21, Perez bolted and was not seen thereafter, claiming a fifth career win and fourth on street circuits by 5.3s from Verstappen, who passed both Russell and Alonso to run second by Lap 25. Alonso comfortably held onto third place, with the Mercedes duo battling for position, Hamilton faster at this period of the race. Russell mistakenly believed that Alonso still needed to serve the penalty, but when informed this was not the case, dropped Hamilton who finished three seconds behind.

Ferrari fourth best

Ferrari were caught out with the Safety Car, not informing Leclerc to speed up between Safety Car lines - losing him position to Hamilton as he emerged from the pits. On the restart, Ferrari were dropped, but both did see the finish for the first time in 2023. Ocon headed home teammate Gasly for eighth and ninth as Magnussen enjoyed a late battle with Yuki Tsundoa in the AlphaTauri for the final World Championship point - the Danish driver coming out on top after muscling past on Lap 46 at Turn 1. Nico Hülkenberg was 12th for Haas ahead of Zhou Guanyu, Nyck de Vries and Logan Sargeant in the sole remaining Williams after Alex Albon retired with brake trouble.

Night to forget for McLaren

Despite starting P8, Oscar Piastri sustained damage on the opening lap after contact with Gasly, requiring a new front wing. McLaren teammate Lando Norris also required a new front-wing in the early stages, relegating both well outside the points. A late race battle with Sargeant ended with Piastri just ahead of his rookie teammate, with Valtteri Bottas the only other finisher - some 37s behind Norris. The two retirees were Albon and Stroll.

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