RED BULL continued to dominate this F1 season as Sergio Perez won the Saudi Arabian GP with Max Verstappen going from 15th on the grid to finishing second.
It was a reversed result from the opening race in Bahrain – but Verstappen’s bonus point for setting the fastest lap means he leads the championship.
Mexico’s Sergio Perez started the Saudi Grand Prix in pole position
Defending champion Max Verstappen aggressively hunted down his team-mate after starting in 15th place
But the Mexican held firm to claim victory in Jeddah
But the reality is this was another no-contest with Fernando Alonso again the best of the rest yet still over 30 seconds behind.
George Russell was third while Lewis Hamilton was fifth as Mercedes again failed to challenge the two Red Bulls.
It is incredible to think that Hamilton’s last victory in F1 came at this track back in 2021, but since then Verstappen has dominated in a remarkable change of fortunes.
Before the race, it was a strange sight, as Hamilton pulled onto the grid and climbed from the cockpit of his Mercedes.
For the first time in seven years, there was no help from Angela Cullen, the bleached-haired assistant who had performed his pre-race preparations.
Depending on who you talk to in the paddock, the story is either that two had a fall-out in Bahrain at the season opener, or that Hamilton and Cullen mutually agreed to go separate ways.
Instead of the New Zealander, the responsibility fell to a veteran garage hand known simply as Steveo, although he did not go the whole hog of holding back Hamilton’s braided hair while he put on his crash helmet.
Hamilton looked a little lost as his new helper handed him his scooter, and he made his way off the grid for a pre-race comfort break.
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He cut a lonely figure as he scooted back down the pitlane, unaccompanied and wearing earphones he made his way to the front of the grid for the national anthem.
And that was as close to the front he got, as this race turned into another Red Bull annihilation.
A drive shaft problem during Saturday’s qualifying had given some weight to the claim that this year is not going to be a cakewalk for Verstappen.
He qualified down in 15th place yet before this race the talk was still about whether he could still challenge for a podium.
The consensus was unanimous – only he was not on for a top three finish but more on for the win.
By lap two, he had made up two places.
By lap eight, he had made up three more as he started to power his way through the field.
Sir Lewis Hamilton mustered a fifth-placed finish after starting in seventh
Out in front, Perez was keeping out of Fernando Alonso’s reach, with the Spaniard hampered by a five-second time penalty for being out of position on the grid.
Hamilton meanwhile was given a warning by the stewards for weaving on the straight, with him radioing the team and saying “the grip sucks on this tyre”.
The Brit was then passed by Charles Leclerc and then Verstappen, as the Dutchman coasted by with such ease.
Such is his car advantage, and in fairness his skill behind the wheel, at the halfway stage of this otherwise dreary race he had moved into second place.
Red Bull were cruising to another one-two finish, albeit for a little late drama when Verstappen told his team his car was making a high-pitched noise.
He need not have worried though, he was still going quicker than everyone else, so much so that Perez felt the need to get a hurry up at the fear of being gobbled up by his team-mate.
He did enough to come home in P1 but lost out on the fastest lap, set by Verstappen on a set of hard tyres that were 32 laps old.