Perez wins Saudi GP, Verstappen goes 15th to 2nd

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia -- Red Bull's domination of the 2023 Formula One season continued at the second race in Saudi Arabia as Sergio Perez took his first victory of the year ahead of teammate Max Verstappen.

Reigning champion Verstappen started 15th on the grid after a driveshaft failure in qualifying, but was up to second place by the midpoint of the race on lap 25.

Although he was helped by a fortuitously-timed safety car when Lance Stroll's Aston Martin retired on lap 18, the ease with which Verstappen scythed through the field underlined the advantage Red Bull holds over the rest of the field this year.

Both Red Bull drivers had minor scares in the latter stages of the race - Perez when he complained about a long brake pedal and Verstappen when he feared he might have a repeat of his qualifying issue in the race.

Perez was told to cool his pace with eight laps to go, but opted to continue pushing in order to extend his lead to seven seconds by the finish. However, Verestappen took the fastest lap on the final lap to secure a bonus point and retain his lead in the championship over Perez.

Fernando Alonso thought he had taken his second podium of the season for Aston Martin and the 100th of his F1 career, crossing the line in third, but he lost the position shortly after the race due to a penalty. 

Alonso had served a five-place penalty in the race for not lining up in his starting grid slot correctly and it was later deemed Aston Martin had started work on his car before he had been stationary for five seconds in his pit-stop. 

Alonso had briefly led the race, having beaten Perez into Turn 1. 

Russell, who started third, finished fourth for Mercedes, just over five seconds behind Alonso and ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton, who started seventh.

Hamilton was one of the drivers who gained the most from the safety car, after starting the race on the slower hard compound tyre and falling to ninth by lap 12.

Hamilton finished 10.3 seconds behind Alonso, meaning he did not benefit from the Spaniard's post-race penalty. 

However, the Ferrari drivers Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc pitted before the safety car, meaning Leclerc lost out on track position under the caution period and Hamilton was able to pass Sainz on track with fresher softer tyres when racing resumed.

The two Ferraris finished sixth and seventh ahead of the two Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly in eighth and ninth. Kevin Magnussen took the final point on offer after passing Yuki Tsunoda for tenth place in the final five laps.