The Red Bull driver managed to overcome a resurgent Mercedes team in a race that had three red flags and two restarts.
Editor’s Note: Welcome to Up to Speed, an ongoing blog on Aramco LIFE that will follow the 2023 Formula One race season and highlight the fast-paced action of the sport. Check in after race days and share your comments on the blog, on the season, or the sport in general.
April 3, 2023
Reigning Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen overcame the early threat of a resurgent Mercedes team and the excitement of three red flags and two restarts to win a spectacular Australian Grand Prix for Red Bull.
With his Saudi Arabian GP-winning team mate Sergio Perez starting at the back having crashed in qualifying, Verstappen found himself reprising his old rivalry with the Mercedes team in Melbourne — and falling rapidly behind both its drivers as George Russell jumped him off the start, and Lewis Hamilton overtook him further around the first lap.
Verstappen wasn't down in third for long. Russell lost the lead by making his first pitstop just before the race was red-flagged, after Williams driver Alex Albon’s high-speed crash from sixth place. Everyone else was able to change tyres while the race was stopped, so Russell was left down in seventh and retired with a fiery engine failure soon afterwards.
Hamilton led from Verstappen at the restart, but the Red Bull driver's sheer speed was too much for the Mercedes for now. Verstappen was soon surging around the outside of his old adversary to take the lead and pull away.
The final hurdle for Verstappen to overcome was a pair of late red flags. The first, caused by Kevin Magnussen crashing, set up a restart with just two laps to go, but a series of collisions when racing resumed meant another instant red flag and effectively the end of the race.
The order was reset to how it stood just before that last stoppage, meaning the Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula 1 team took third and fourth with Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll — ahead of the charging Perez — despite both being caught up in the final crashes.
F1 now has a four-week break before its next round in Azerbaijan — which will also be the first 2023 appearance of the sprint race format. Red Bull's pace advantage is such that it will surely still be the team to beat when the season resumes, but might its main 2022 opponent Ferrari be closer? Though a first-lap collision for Charles Leclerc and penalty for Carlos Sainz meant Ferrari didn't score in Melbourne, Sainz's strong race pace hinted that the team's optimism that it might have made a set-up breakthrough in Australia could be justified. And even if Red Bull is still unbeatable, the challenging Baku street track always serves up incidents and surprises.
March 20, 2023
Red Bull took its second straight one-two finish as the 2023 Formula 1 season continued with the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, but this time had to work harder for it - with world champion Max Verstappen needing to come through from 15th on the grid to take second place behind team-mate Sergio Perez.
The Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula 1 team was again Red Bull's closest challenger, leading at the start and earning third with Fernando Alonso.
Bahrain GP winner Verstappen looked like he'd be unstoppable again through practice at the super-fast Jeddah Corniche circuit, but a broken driveshaft meant an early end to his qualifying session and left him 15th on the grid while Perez took pole with Alonso next to him on the front row.
And it was Alonso who made the best start and immediately thrust Aston Martin into the lead at its strategic partner Aramco's home race.
The sheer speed of the Red Bulls was soon apparent, though. Perez managed to overtake Alonso on lap four, and Verstappen was quickly breezing past rival cars in the middle of the pack.
As the race hit half-distance, Verstappen overtook Alonso for second place. Could he close the five-second gap to Perez and challenge his team-mate for victory?
Both drivers tried their utmost — causing some nervous moments for the Red Bull pitwall - but Perez was able to hold his champion team-mate at a safe distance. Verstappen did snatch the bonus point for fastest lap away on the very last lap, though, meaning it's him not Perez who leads the championship now.
Alonso pulled away from the Mercedes of Russell and Lewis Hamilton and the two Ferraris behind them, securing his 100th F1 podium and a second third-place finish from his first two races with the Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula 1 team.
The next round on the 23 race Formula 1 calendar starts on Friday, March 31 with Free Practice sessions, Qualifying will take place on Saturday, April 1, and the Race on Sunday April 2 at Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia.
— The Arabian Sun: April 03, 2023