Sergio Perez secured his first race win of 2023 as he wrapped up a convincing win at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
The Mexican crossed the line ahead of teammate Max Verstappen, who had to fight his way through the field after problems in qualifying, while Fernando Alonso crossed the line third, but a post-race penalty meant George Russell clinched third.
Alonso got the better start and moved ahead of Perez going into turn 1, but the stewards found he wasn’t in the correct position on the grid, handing him a five-second time penalty.
It was a bad start to the race for McLaren, as Oscar Piastri picked up front wing damage on the opening lap, forcing him to come in for a lengthy pit stop at the end of lap one, while Lando Norris also had to make an early stop for the same issue.
Perez needed just four laps to retake the lead, but Alonso remained close to the Red Bull, keeping the Mexican under pressure at the front of the field.
Charles Leclerc started out of position, having been given a 10-place grid penalty for changing parts, while Verstappen was 15th on the grid after a driveshaft issues curtailed his qualifying effort, but both made swift progress through the field and were running inside the top 10 after eight laps.
The safety car was needed when Aston Martin instructed Lance Stroll to stop his car, with the timing playing into Verstappen’s hands. The reigning champion had moved up to fourth after others around him had pitted, and the safety car period allowed him to change tyres and hold onto his position.
Alonso served his time penalty while coming in for new tyres during the safety car period, but there was a concern the rear jack touched the Aston Martin before the five seconds had ellapsed.
With the track clear, Verstappen needed just a couple of laps to get ahead of Russell and Alonso, leaving him less than six seconds adrift of his teammate.
Lewis Hamilton made good progress after the restart, with the seven-time champion the only driver towards the front of the field running on medium compound tyres, and soon found himself behind his teammate.
Alex Albon became the second driver to retire from the race when he reported an issue with the brakes on his Williams, nursing the car back to the garage.
With 10 laps to go, the Red Bulls looked to be heading for a comfortable 1-2, but both drivers reported issues, with Verstappen fearing a repeat of the driveshaft issue that affected him in qualifying, while Perez reported he had a long brake pedal.
But both made it to the end of the race, and pushed in the closing stages to set the fastest lap of the race, with Verstappen just bettering his teammate’s time to pick up the bonus point and remain just ahead of Perez in the driver’s championship.
Meanwhile, Mercedes urged Russell to close the gap to Alonso in the final laps, believing Alonso could be facing a five-second penalty for not serving his earlier penalty correctly.
While Russell couldn’t keep the gap below five seconds, the stewards announced shortly after the podium ceremony that Alonso had been handed a 10-second time penalty for the infringement, promoting Russell to third. Which was then reversed some three and a half hours after the race had finished.
1 Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
3. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)
4. George Russell (Mercedes)
5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
6. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
7. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
8. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
9. Pierre Gasly (Alpine)
10. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
11. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
12. Nico Hulkenberg (Haas)
13. Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo)
14. Nyck De Vries (AlphaTauri)
15. Oscar Piastri (McLaren)
16. Logan Sargeant (Williams)
17. Lando Norris (McLaren)
18. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)
Alex Albon (Williams)
Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)