Formula 1: Sergio Perez wins in Saudi Arabia as Fernando Alonso loses podium


Sergio Perez held off team-mate Max Verstappen to take a Red Bull one-two in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Verstappen fought up from 15th on the grid to fourth place before a safety car closed up the field and brought him into contention for victory.

But after passing Mercedes’ George Russell and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, Verstappen could not catch Perez and had to settle for second.

Alonso finished third but took a post-race penalty dropping him to fourth.

The Spaniard was penalised five seconds for not being correctly in his grid slot at the start of the race.

He served it in his pit stop, but it was adjudged that the team had broken the rules by touching the car before the five seconds had elapsed and he was given a 10-second penalty as a result, promoting Russell to third.

Lewis Hamilton took fifth, after briefly challenging Russell following the restart after the safety car, ahead of the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.

It was Red Bull’s second consecutive one-two at the start of a season they have begun with every impression they will be almost impossible to beat.

How did Perez hold off Verstappen?

Perez started from pole, lost the lead at the start to Alonso, but controlled the grand prix from the front after re-passing the Spaniard on the fourth lap.

Meanwhile, Verstappen steadily picked his way through the field from his lowly starting position, the result of a driveshaft failure in qualifying.

He was up to fourth place when a safety car was sent out on lap 18 of 50 when Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin stopped on track following a technical failure.

At the time, Perez had a 20-second lead over the Dutchman, but the safety car brought the field back together and appeared to give Verstappen a chance to take his second win in two races this year.

After the restart, Verstappen made quick progress past Russell and then Alonso while Perez built as much of a lead as he could.

Perez was 5.4 seconds in front by the time Verstappen got into second place and was able to hold the margin at about that same amount for the rest of the race.

Verstappen complained over the radio about problems with this driveshaft, but had no trouble making it to the flag.

Verstappen set his mind on trying to set fastest lap and clinched it on the final lap – stealing it from Perez – to ensure he leads the championship by virtue of the point he gained for setting it.

Saudi GP

Another podium for Alonso

Behind the Red Bulls, Alonso measured his pace and held on to third despite being given a five-second penalty for being out of position on the grid. Alonso was too far to the left, and had his left-hand wheels out of the grid box on the track.

He served it at his pit stop under the safety car but towards the end of the race Mercedes told to push as hard as he could to keep the margin between the two cars to less than five seconds in case Alonso was penalised for the pit stop itself.

Alonso drove a fast final lap himself to keep himself more than five seconds ahead of Russell, but it was to no avail.

In the stop, the mechanic at the back of the car touched it with the rear jack before the penalty time was up and the stewards punished him post-race, giving Russell his first “podium” of the season, even though Alonso stood on it with Red Bull drivers.

Hamilton, on an off-set tyre strategy using medium tyres second rather than first, briefly challenged Russell after the safety-car restart but was unable to pass and had to settle for fifth.

Hamilton had the compensation of passing both Ferraris thanks to stopping under the safety car while the Italian cars did so under green flag conditions.

The ‘free’ stop leap-frogged Hamilton ahead of Leclerc, who started 12th after a 10-place grid penalty, and then passed Sainz with a cut-back move out of Turn Two a couple of laps after the re-start.

For Ferrari it was another difficult day, their car apparently the fourth fastest on race pace.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly took eighth and ninth, while Kevin Magnussen won the final point for Haas with a desperate overtaking move on Yuki Tsunoda’s Alpha Tauri in the closing laps.