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Max Verstappen second after recovery race Jeddah: 'Very happy to be on the podium'

Published on 19 March 2023 by Kees-Jan Koster

Max Verstappen drove a strong recovery race in Jeddah, finishing second in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. After a disappointing qualifying, in which he qualified fifteenth after suffering from a technical issue, Max came back strong and moved up into fourth position in the first phase of the race. After a favourably timed safety care, Max went up into second place, behind teammate Sergio Perez. Both drivers came safely over the finish line and gave Oracle Red Bull Racing a second one-two in a row. Verstappen also scored the point for fastest lap. Fernando Alonso finished third again, as in Bahrain. But after the race he was given a time penalty, and George Russell took third position.

After the race Max says: “It was not very easy to get through the field. To follow a car through the first sector was very difficult, a lot of sliding around. But once I cleared them one by one, we got into a good rhythm. We were helped by the safety car, which made it easier to get into second position. Very happy to be here on the podium.”

After Verstappen moved up into second position, he seemed to start an attack on teammate Perez, but some warnings on his car prevented that. Max explains: “I was able to close the gap a bit, but could not attack. There was a lot of vibration, and the balance did not feel right. Right to the finish, but I was in second position, and we had a big gap behind, we decided to call it a day and settle for second, which was a very good recovery.”

That Max took the point for fastest lap in the final lap of the race made him happy: “I had a bad day yesterday, so when in P2, I wanted that extra point. I gave it a go at the end and luckily it worked out.”

Despite the great recovery, the second time world champion sees enough room for improvements: “We have to do better as a team. We should not have these problems. Otherwise it would have been a very different race for me today. We were able to limit the damage, but I should have won here.”

Lewis Hamilton and Logan Sargeant start the race on the 6.174-kilometre-long Jeddah Corniche Circuit on the hard tyre compound. Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris start on the soft tyres, while all the other drivers have medium compound tyres for the start of the race. Sergio Perez is on pole, with next to him Fernando Alonso. At the start it is Alonso who takes the lead. Behind the Spaniard, Perez follows, with George Russell in P3. Alonso is handed a 5 second time penalty for being out of position on the grid. Max is in heavy traffic at the start but is after the first lap in thirteenth position. Oscar Piastri damages his front wing in the first turn, and has to go into the pits to get a new front wing. To make matters worse, McLaren teammate Lando Norris also needs to come into the pits for a new front wing.

Perez is clearly faster than Alonso and the Mexican overtakes the Spaniard for the lead in lap four. Meanwhile, Verstappen overtakes both Haas cars, putting him in P11. Max gets into the points in lap eight when he overtakes Zhou Guanyu for tenth place. One lap later he also overtakes Pierre Gasly. The Dutchman overtakes Hamilton in lap twelve for P8 and two laps later he is in P6, after he overtakes Esteban Ocon while Lance Stroll makes his first pitstop.

Verstappen moves up into fourth position because of other drivers making their pitstops when Lance Stroll has to park his car due to technical issues next to the track in lap eighteen. The safety car comes out on track, giving those in the lead the change to make a cheap pitstop. Perez, Alonso, Russell and Verstappen all make their pitstop and come back out on track in the same order. When the field is released again in lap 21, Perez is awake and stays in the lead. Alonso follows in P2, with behind him Russell and Verstappen. Max immediately increases the pressure on Russell and overtakes him in lap 23. Two laps later he also goes past Alonso, putting him in second position, five seconds behind teammate Perez.

Alexander Albon has to park his Williams in the pits with brake issues in lap 28 and becomes the second driver to retire from the race. Meanwhile, Perez and Verstappen continue at the same pace, so Verstappen is not getting much closer to the Mexican. Over the radio Max reports that there are some issues with the car, but the team says everything looks all right. Perez and Verstappen are asked by the team to manage their cars and bring them home.

Perez wins the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, six seconds ahead of Verstappen. Max sets the fastest lap in the final lap of the race, giving him one extra point which keeps him into the lead of the championship. Fernando Alonso finishes third in his Aston Martin for the second time in a row. But the Spaniard is handed a ten second time penalty after the race, because the Aston Martin mechanics touched the car too soon after the initial five second time penalty. Because of this, George Russell moves up into third position and Alonso finishes fourth. Lewis Hamilton finished in fifth with behind him the two Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc in P6 and P7. Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly and Kevin Magnussen complete the top ten.

Results Grand Prix Saudi Arabia:

1Sergio PerezPERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT501:21:14.89425
2Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT50+5.355s19
3George RussellRUSMercedes50+25.866s15
4Fernando AlonsoALOAston Martin Mercedes50+30.728s12
5Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes50+31.065s10
6Carlos SainzSAIFerrari50+35.876s8
7Charles LeclercLECFerrari50+43.162s6
8Esteban OconOCOAlpine Renault50+52.832s4
9Pierre GaslyGASAlpine Renault50+54.747s2
10Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari50+64.826s1
11Yuki TsunodaTSUAlphaTauri Honda RBPT50+67.494s0
12Nico HulkenbergHULHaas Ferrari50+70.588s0
13Zhou GuanyuZHOAlfa Romeo Ferrari50+76.060s0
14Nyck De VriesDEVAlphaTauri Honda RBPT50+77.478s0
15Oscar PiastriPIAMcLaren Mercedes50+85.021s0
16Logan SargeantSARWilliams Mercedes50+86.293s0
17Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Mercedes50+86.445s0
18Valtteri BottasBOTAlfa Romeo Ferrari49+1 lap0
0Alexander AlbonALBWilliams Mercedes27DNF0
0Lance StrollSTRAston Martin Mercedes16DNF0