Saudi Arabia GP analyzed: Alonso's masterclass and Ferrari's issues
The second Grand Prix of the season has been archived already. It was a race with not many highlights, but it still offered us a few talking points, which will be analyzed in the following article.
Red Bull's supremacy continues
Let's start with a straightforward fact that nobody can deny: Red Bull proved once and for all that its dominance is indisputable. Even though it proved to suffer minor issues – like the driveshaft failure that forced Max Verstappen to retire from qualifying in Q2 – the Milton Keynes-based team easily crushed the opposition around the streets of Jeddah.
Sergio Perez claimed pole position on Saturday, and after losing the lead from Fernando Alonso in the first few laps, he took it back with ease and managed his race to come home victorious for the first time in 2023. Even though he felt his brake pedal was a bit long in the final stages of the race, he never had to struggle on Sunday.
Verstappen also managed to come back from P15 to a comfortable second place on Sunday without many complications. On lap 25, he was already second (also thanks to the free pit stop under the safety car). However, he did not manage to reach his teammate and was always 4–5 seconds behind. He tried to push more, but the team asked him to manage the pace to bring the car home. The Dutchman, for the joy of Perez, also obtained the fastest lap of the race on the last lap, meaning he is still the leader of the championship.
Alonso makes it 100
The Alonso fairy tale continues. The Spaniard, after leading the race for a few laps, only had to give up to the two rocket ships that finished ahead of him (also known as Red Bulls). The two-time world champion claimed his 100th podium in style. If you don't know what I mean, you can find out more about the chaos surrounding his podium finish here.
On the other hand, it was more like a nightmare for Lance Stroll, who had to retire from the race on lap 18. He suffered an engine issue, which he was trying to manage for six or seven laps.
"I was losing power for six or seven laps," said the Canadian. "It was getting worse and worse every lap, and then our race just started to die from there, and then it was game over."
Aston Martin surely isn't on Red Bull's level, but it is the second-best team on the grid so far. Despite that, they still need to improve their top speed and some details regarding reliability if they don't want Alonso to go from being the happiest man alive to McLaren's era one.
Glimpses of improvement
Mercedes is still struggling, that is not a secret, but their race wasn't too bad if compared to Ferrari's pace. George Russell got close to the podium, and he scored it for a few hours, but then he lost it again to Alonso. Anyway, his race was solid, and he only finished 5 seconds behind the Spaniard, showing that Aston Martin is not unreachable for the Brackley-based outfit.
On Lewis Hamilton's side, the race started as something very similar to a disaster. The hard tires weren't working and he couldn't find the pace. However, when he pitted to fit the medium tires, he was able to keep both Ferraris at bay, and secure P5 behind his teammate.
Despite the acceptable performance from Mercedes, the team still wants effective changes since the car's concept does not satisfy either the drivers or the team boss Toto Wolff.
In Formula 1, red symbolizes Ferrari, but so far in 2023, it also means complete disapproval and disappointment for the Italian team (you would call it Profondo Rosso in Italian, and that's not good at all). If Bahrain had let many “Tifosi” down, Jeddah did even more so.
Not all hopes were gone after the first race, thinking that the layout of Jeddah could help turn things around. However, nothing changed for Ferrari, which showed its weaknesses even more.
Charles Leclerc exhibited his talent in qualifying to get P2, not far from Perez. Then, after starting P12 due to the penalty, he got up to P6 with soft tires, showing a promising pace. However, as soon as he fitted the hard tires, the SF-23 lost all of its performance.
Carlos Sainz also struggled in Jeddah, more in the first stint with the mediums than in the second one with the hards, where he managed to keep Leclerc behind to secure P6 in the end.
Jeddah is a gentle track on the tires, very different from Bahrain. That is why every team managed to improve their lap times as the car got lighter during the race. That wasn't the case for Ferrari, which couldn't improve by the same margin as the other outfits lap after lap. This is an indicator that the tire wear issue is still present on the SF-23 despite the small upgrades brought in Saudi Arabia.
Another preoccupying fact is that the 2023 Ferrari was 0.5-0.7 seconds per lap slower than its predecessor, showing once again the ruinous project of the Scuderia, which still has a lot of work to do. To describe the situation in Frederic Vasseur's words: Ferrari must not “bullshit” itself.
The rest of the grid
Alpine showed improvements from Bahrain, with both cars scoring important points. Haas also entered the top ten with Kevin Magnussen, who managed to overtake Yuki Tsunoda right at the end. The AlphaTauri driver showed all of his disappointment in a radio message screaming “NO”, waking up all the fans that were falling asleep after seeing Red Bull's dominance once again.
Alfa Romeo, Williams and especially McLaren were not competitive enough and did not manage to score points. Very preoccupying is McLaren's form, which doesn't seem to be able to find the pace and the right solutions so far.