A fortnight on from the season opener in Bahrain, round two of the 2023 Formula One campaign, under the streetlights of Jeddah, delivered a similar story with Red Bull storming to another 1-2. Starting from pole, Sergio Perez took the chequered flag while Max Verstappen completed a remarkable recovery drive to finish P2, after reliability issues in qualifying demoted him to P15.
In what is slowly emerging as a pattern, the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso was the only one within touching distance of the Red Bulls, ending the race in P3. Here are my key takeaways from the race.
RB19 – In A League Of Its Own?
If the first race didn’t convince everyone of the all-round pace of Red Bull, this weekend would’ve left those critics with eggs on their face. The Red Bulls were absolutely flying around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, a track totally different to Bahrain, with a race pace advantage of almost a second a lap over the others. With Lewis Hamilton branding the RB19 to be the most dominant car he’s ever even seen in the sport, Red Bull might just be cementing their status as the kings of this new era of regulations. It wasn’t all smooth sailing though.
Reliability Proving To Be A Concern Throughout The Paddock
Max Verstappen’s early end to qualifying was just one among the multiple reliability-related issues that plagued the paddock over the weekend. While a transmission problem ended the Dutchman’s quest for pole, Ferrari entered the weekend on the backfoot with a 10-place grid penalty to Leclerc for taking on a third control electronics component. The Italian outfit further fitted new internal combustion engines (ICEs) to both their cars, at just the second race of a 23 race-long season. Elsewhere, Alex Albon and Lance Stroll, both running nicely in the race, were also forced to retire, owing to mechanical issues. It’s certainly unusual for so many teams to be suffering from reliability concerns so early in the season and remains fascinating to see how they got on top of it over the course of the season.
Statement Victory From Perez
Sergio Perez served us with a timely reminder that he has what it takes to drive at the highest level, taking a commanding victory at the Jeddah street circuit. With Verstappen relegated towards the backend of the grid, Perez stepped up to the fore and took control of the race. Retaking P1 after Alonso’s brief stint as the race leader, Perez controlled the pace throughout and matched Verstappen’s pace in the final stint, restricting the reigning World Champion to P2. Now into his third season with Red Bull, Perez looks much better equipped to taking the fight to his more illustrious teammate, on a more consistent basis.
A Goodbye To The Previously Identified Tail-End?
With the new regulations aimed at providing closer racing and bringing the pack together, it surely seems to have done the trick away from the sharp end of the pack. The previously identified midfield and tail-end appears to have consolidated into one, with track characteristics and vehicular setups determining much of the order. While Williams and Haas have languished near the tail of the grid in recent years, they’ve both firmly established themselves to be regular contenders for points. In fact, AlphaTauri and McLaren are the only pointless teams so far, but both have shown pace capable of fighting higher up the field, only needing to string their weekend together. So, while the fight at the front might not be as open as we’d like, there are plenty of fascinating battles elsewhere.
Next up, the paddock travels to Melbourne, Australia for another street race, in ten days’ time. With Ricciardo not on the grid anymore, new local hero and rookie Oscar Piastri will be hoping to put on a good show and finally get his first career points.