Sergio Perez took an assured victory at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday, ahead of his teammate Max Verstappen, as Red Bull reaffirmed its dominance over their Formula One competitors with a second successive one-two of the season.
Perez began the race in pole position and fought off a challenge from Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso who briefly took the race lead at the first corner before the Mexican reclaimed his position by the fourth lap.
But it was Verstappen’s performance which truly underlined the pace and power of Red Bull’s car.
The Dutchman, who won the season opener in Bahrain two weeks ago, started 15th on the grid after a power issue in qualifying, but sauntered through the field to move into second place behind Perez by the race’s halfway point.
The Red Bulls then pulled away from all their competition to secure the top two stops on the podium.
Alonso crossed the line in third – the 100th podium finish of his career – and celebrated accordingly.
However, the Spaniard was later demoted to fourth, behind Mercedes’ George Russell, after the stewards handed Alonso a 10-second penalty, determining that his Aston Martin team had started working on his car too early when serving an earlier time penalty.
“It turned out to be tougher than I expected,” Perez told Sky Sports in his post-race interview.
The team did a fantastic job. We had a lot of mechanical issues, and the guys stayed on top of that. We will keep pushing hard. And the most important thing is that we have the fastest car.”
There was drama from the very first engine rev in Jeddah as Alonso pulled away from Perez to take the race lead, but the Spaniard’s dream start was shortlived as officials handed him a five-second penalty for an incorrect grid position before the Mexican driver eclaimed the lead on the fourth lap.
Alonso remained within touching distance of Perez for a time, almost matching the Red Bull car for pace, and opening up an advantage over Russell.
Behind them, Verstappen began weaving his way through the field, breezing past any car in front of him, even his old rival Lewis Hamilton who eventually finished in fifth.
The race’s complexion changed when a safety car was deployed on Lap 18 after Lance Stroll suffered a technical failure.
Alonso was among those who took the opportunity to pit and served his five-second penalty at the same time, although the stewards ruled that his Aston Martin team begun working on his car a fraction of a second too early, which incurred a 10-second penalty.
“I was on the podium, I took the pictures, I got the trophy, I celebrated with the champagne,” Alonso told Sky Sports.
“You can’t apply the penalty 35 laps after the pit stop. They (the stewards) had enough time to inform us. If I knew about the penalty I would have had 11 seconds with the car behind.
“They told me about the first 5 second pen and I left 7 or 8 seconds behind me. in the second there was no information at all not even an investigation.”
After the safety car pulled in, Perez rebuilt his lead beyond the reach of Verstappen and continued pressing for victory.
It was not all plain sailing for Red Bull, however, as Verstappen anxiously reported a potential mechanical problem over the radio towards the end of the race, but his car held out and even completed the fastest lap.
The point Verstappen gained from setting the fastest lap gives him a one-point lead over Perez in the drivers’ championship, as F1 now turn their sights to the Australian Grand Prix on April 2.