Saudi Arabian GP Preview
Formula 1 is gearing up for round two of the 2023 season.
The paddock heads to Jeddah this week for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
The track is a street circuit, measuring just over six kilometers. It has the second-highest average speed of any circuit in F1, second only to Monza, per the F1 website.
Like the first race in Bahrain, it is held at night.
Max Verstappen is the race's defending winner and is coming off a season-opening victory in Bahrain.
The Dutch Red Bull driver enters as the clear favorite. His Bahrain success, including a pole win, only confirmed he and his team retained the thunderous pace from a season ago and are still a dominant force.
Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez ran second in the season opener, nearly 40 seconds ahead of third place.
Pérez is notably strong on street circuits, taking the pole in Jeddah last year, as well as race wins in Monaco and Singapore. If Verstappen encounters problems, Pérez should be in a prime position to capitalize.
Ferrari appeared to be the closest competition to Red Bull in Bahrain, but it could not secure a podium after Charles Leclerc’s reliability-related retirement.
Maranello’s woes don’t stop there. Leclerc already has a 10-place grid penalty this week, after Ferrari fitted already a third electrical power unit component to his car, exceeding the season maximum of two, per F1.
Still, Carlos Sainz came home fourth, and Ferrari had a strong qualifying pace. The Prancing Horse scored a double podium in Jeddah last year and figures to be fast again this week, but it’ll certainly hope both cars see the checkered flag Sunday night.
One of the biggest stories from Bahrain was the pace of Aston Martin. Fernando Alonso topped two practice sessions and eventually finished third in the race, while teammate Lance Stroll came home sixth.
Having shown a promising amount of speed, there could be more British racing green on the podium Sunday evening.
By its standards, Mercedes will look to bounce back after an opener that saw Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finish fifth and seventh. Although the week didn’t make for a bad points haul, the Silver Arrows appear well off Red Bull and Ferrari.
Slightly overshadowed by the surging Aston Martin, the Mercedes duo will hope this week provides answers to its early struggles, at a track where Hamilton won the inaugural 2021 event.
The midfield is much more dispersed, and Bahrain didn’t provide much indication as to who else was fastest.
Seven out of 10 teams scored points in the first race, with Haas, AlphaTauri and McLaren being the only outliers.
If this week’s race is any similar, the fights beyond the top four could certainly be worth watching, especially if McLaren can stabilize after its DNF from Oscar Piastri and 17th-place run from Lando Norris.
Although Max Verstappen and Red Bull have a firm grip on the front of the grid, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will present opportunities for the rest of the grid to build upon or repair their outings from Bahrain.
Logan Groeneveld-Meijer is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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