Red Bull F1 Car at the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix
Wikimedia Commons/ Lukas Raich

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix: Red Bull secure comfortable win and Bearman shines on debut

The F1 circus remained in the Middle East this week at Jeddah’s Corniche Circuit. Further Red Bull dominance was expected, although, with Saudi Arabia having one of the fastest and most dangerous tracks in the schedule, there was hope that we would also get continued close running between the challengers. Jeddah’s circuit has high speeds and long DRS straights, paired with tight walls that catch out even the finest Formula 1 drivers.

However, despite the potential for great racing, qualifying and the Grand Prix was once again dominated by one man.

Max Verstappen strolled to another victory in Saudi Arabia, once again converting a comfortable pole position into a comfortable victory and extending his lead at the top of the F1 Drivers’ Championship.

Sergio Pérez finished a fair distance off his teammate, but a fair distance from nearest competitor, Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, despite incurring a five-second penalty for an unsafe release.

Bearman ran a steady race, and even executed a few excellent overtakes

Red Bull’s dominance was set in stone from the first day of testing, but the distance Verstappen can put between himself and the rest of the grid is outstanding.

In the chasing pack, 18-year-old Ollie Bearman, called up early on Friday morning to replace the hospitalized Carlos Sainz, gave a fantastic account of himself, finishing P7 after qualifying P11. He became the third youngest driver to ever race in Formula 1, and the youngest British driver in history.

Despite clearly suffering with his neck due to the G-Force of Formula 1 cars, Bearman ran a steady race, and even executed a few excellent overtakes. On an evening where all he needed to do was return to the garage with an intact race car, he ran fantastically. It’s only a matter of time before he gets a permanent seat.

Bearman’s Ferrari teammate for the weekend, Charles Leclerc, completed the podium. Oscar Piastri finished fourth in the McLaren, hampered by a lack of straight-line speed and stuck behind Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton for a large portion of the race.

McLaren are cementing themselves at the top end of the field, but still clearly have a few kinks to work out in their car and set-up. An upgrade is promised later in the season, but it remains to be seen how much it will benefit their pace.

Fernando Alonso mustered a P5 finish, but his teammate Lance Stroll ended up in the wall and retired on Lap 7. George Russell of Mercedes finished P6, followed by Bearman in P7, Lando Norris in P8, and Lewis Hamilton in a disappointing P9. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff added to the misery heaped on Mercedes fans after the race, putting simulator troubles on the growing list of issues hampering Mercedes’ pace.

Expect more Red Bull dominance, but further close running between the best of the rest

With Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Aston Martin being the five fastest teams by some distance, and with one Aston Martin crashing early in the race, the best racing of the evening was to be found in the midfield. Haas, Alpine, RB, and Williams all scrapped for the single point offered by P10, with the victor eventually being Haas and Nico Hülkenberg.

The real credit though must go to his teammate Kevin Magnussen who quickly fell out of the running for points himself with 20 seconds worth of penalties, but cleverly held up the chasing pack. Magnussen skilfully held off Yuki Tsunoda, Esteban Ocon and Alex Albon, giving Hülkenberg a gap and allowing him to secure a point unopposed.

At the bottom of the pack, RB and Kick Sauber had poor races, with RB drivers, Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Riccardo, finishing P15 and P16 respectively. Meanwhile, Kick Sauber claimed P17 and P18 – effectively last after the retirements of Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll. Alpine continued to suffer, with neither driver qualifying in the top 15 for the second race in a row, while major restructuring is ongoing behind the scenes.

Pierre Gasly retired with a gearbox issue before the race even began; fellow Frenchman, Esteban Ocon, showed some good moves but lacked substantial pace finishing P13. The Renault power unit inside that Alpine remains a long way back from the rest of the field.

Looking ahead to the Australian Grand Prix in two weeks’ time, expect more Red Bull dominance, but further close running between the best of the rest as Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren continue to feed off the scraps left by the rocket ship that is the RB20.


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