Redbull cruised into their second 1-2 result of the season, this time Sergio Perez took the win, while his teammate, and current World Champion Max Verstappen easily cut through the field from his starting position in 15th. The Redbull dominance was demonstrated once more, as the fear-provoking engines appeared almost a second faster than competitors, earning them the fastest lap.
Perhaps the most dramatic element of the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is the confusion surrounding Fernando Alonso’s podium finish.
After gaining the lead against Perez on the first lap, stewards noted that Fernando failed to be in the correct position to start the race as his car was marginally to the left. As a result, the Spaniard earnt a five-second penalty.
When his teammate, Lance Stroll suffered a critical engine fault a few laps later, causing his car to stop on the track, a safety car allowed the pack to close up again.
Alonso took the opportunity to serve his five-second penalty during the safety car period, before going on to finish a clear third against the Mercedes duo Russell and Hamilton.
Despite allowing him to embrace the glory of his 100th podium finish alongside the Redbull drivers, the FIA handed him a second penalty of ten seconds, stating that a rear wheel jack had touched the car before the initial five-second penalty was served.
This decision pushed George Russell into the third-place podium spot, who gratefully accepted the trophy but claimed Aston Martin and Alonso were the deserved winners.
Fans were not alone as they expressed their shock at the late penalty from the FIA, with Fernando Alonso stating it was a ‘poor showing by the FIA. They had 35 laps to apply the penalty.’
When F1 audiences are crying out for competition, is penalising the closest competitor to the Redbulls a petty and ridiculous move from the FIA?
Adamant that their driver deserved the win, Aston Martin presented the FIA with numerous clips of other cars serving a five-second penalty, where a wheel jack had come in contact with the car, and they had not been penalized.
This led to the stewards reviewing their initial decision and revoking the ten-second penalty, meaning Fernando Alonso did in fact earn his 100th podium career finish in Formula One. Could this show that the FIA are losing their touch, and are abiding by the sports rulebook too heavily that the sport has lost its entertainment value?
Alonso was not the only driver to feel the heat in Jeddah, however. The McLarens had yet another disappointing race, with Oscar Piastri making contact with Pierre Gasly’s Alpine on the opening lap, forcing him into the pits for hard tyres and a front wing change. Piastri finished the race in 15th, an improvement on his DNF last race. Lando Norris also needed a wing change and finished 17th.
Alex Albon retired due to a brake issue with his Williams, limping home to the pits, his teammate, and rookie Logan Sargeant came 16th.
The Ferraris made little impression on their rivals at Redbull. Leclerc pushed his way through the grid after making the brave decision to start the race on softs. Despite this, neither Ferrari could break into the top five and settled for Sainz in 6th and Leclerc in 7th.
Saudi Arabia is a fast and dangerous track, with its unforgiving concrete walls, but the race lacked the levels of entertainment that could’ve been provided. The pace of the Red Bulls and lack of competition provided a rather boring watch.
The FIA have consistently affirmed their commitment to create a closer field of racers, and ensure drama and excitement throughout the season, but Redbull are already in a league above their competitors.
With the Australian Grand Prix two weeks away, fans across the sport eagerly wait to see whether anyone can competitor with the pure force that is the Redbull engines.