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Perez leads Red Bull 1-2 at Jeddah


To be perfectly clear, just in case you haven't got the message; we don't like this track. Indeed, we really, really, really don't like this track.

It's got nothing to do with human rights, Pride or any of the virtue signalling stuff, it's just that we regard it as unnecessarily dangerous, the proverbial accident waiting to happen.

Indeed, with the barriers either side, barely a landmark worth mentioning, and the total lack of character it's as if little Johnny got sick of his Hot Wheels track, with its ludicrous loop-di-loop that only looks good in TV ads, and opted for a flat version.

Sure, like last year's cat and mouse stuff with Charles and Max it will create lots of camera friendly moments for the blessed ads and PR bumf, but any mouth wide open experiences will be down to the sheer fear of inevitability as opposed to the type of jaw-dropping stuff we see at 'proper' circuits.

Sadly however, as with most things these days, the little man's voice doesn't matter and while promoters are willing to pay the big bucks we will get more and more horrible little tracks like this, and less of the classics, where superlatives take precedence over spectacle, PR over passion.

So, accepting that we've got to "make Do", let's look at the positives...

The first of which being that Charles starts from 12th and Max 15th, ensuring that both have their work cut out, not only in terms of getting to the front but battling one another.

Then there's that little battle at the front, with Sergio up against Fernando, a man who not only knows every trick in the book but invented most of them. Let's face it, the Spaniard's best hope today is getting ahead of the Mexican at the start, so those first few moments should be worth the price of admission alone.

Of course, with Max demoted due to his driveshaft failure, there will be nobody to help, while Lance is starting from 5th, and though he will have battles of his own, could still assist his Aston Martin teammate.

From there it's anyone's guess, with Russell, the Alpines, Hamilton and Piastri just ahead of a midfield battle that could fall in anyone's favour.

As if this wasn't enough, not only is there the threat of the dreaded Safety Car and VSC but the continuing fear in terms of reliability, especially with the Ferraris.

Indeed, in many ways it's like little Johnny doesn't feel that his flattened Hot Wheels track is enough, and has hit the old game of Monopoly box under the stairs and extracted a few of the 'go to jail' and community chest' cards to add some extra spice.

Here is where we really got to experience the DRS train for the first time last year, and we fear that it will play as part again this afternoon, while the stewards also appear determined to crack down on track limits.

Though the season has barely begun, another aspect of interest is that of the various teammates. At Mercedes and McLaren, one drivers appears to be buckling down and making the best of what they have, while their respective teammates pout and moan to the media.

At Haas we have Pierre already giving Esteban a run for his money, while Zhou is looking strong, especially in qualifying, and Nico appears to be getting the better of Kevin.

The fastest strategy is set to be a one-stopper. Simulations show the combination of medium and hard to be slightly quicker than the other two options available, even though the differences are relatively small. To run this optimal strategy, the pit stop window is between laps 18 and 25, while the pit stop window for a soft-hard strategy is between laps 13 and 20. For a medium-soft strategy, the time to change is between laps 27 and 34.

The only two-stopper to consider would involve starting on the soft and then swapping to medium between laps 10 and 15, before going back onto soft with a second stop between laps 32 and 38.

There's always a high risk of neutralisations and stoppages, as Sergio will well remember. Having taken the first pole of his career last year, he pitted a lap before the safety car came out in the race - which cost him the chance to stay in the lead.

The pitlane opens and Stroll is first out, followed by Zhou, Bottas, Leclerc, de Vries and Sainz.

The air temperature is 26 degrees C, while the track temperature is 33 degrees.

Verstappen complains that his brake pedal is slippery and his heel keeps sliding.

Lots of practice starts at the end of the pitlane before the drivers head to the grid.

Last to take their place is Hamilton.

Asked about having Verstappen right behind him at the start, Magnussen tells Sky Sports. "Max in my mirrors and an eye on the front. I don't expect it to be my fight. One of those where you try to not lose any time with it and take care of your tyres when they overtake you. In Bahrain we struggled with degradation, it seems a bit better here but we are still not the best."

"We have a quick car, but I still need to be careful," says Verstappen. "It's a long championship, a lot of things can happen, but I also don't think it is realistic to try and fight for the win. I'll try to move forward. We have a quick car, cornering wise, but also on the straight line. I just need to be careful."

All are starting on mediums bar Leclerc and Norris who are on softs and Hamilton and Sargeant who are on hards. Fresh rubber all round.

They head off on the formation lap, all getting away cleanly, Though Sargeant feels there is something wrong with his car.

The grid forms, albeit very, very slowly.

They're away! Great starts from both Perez and Alonso, the Mexican moving across to cover the Spanish driver. However, as they move back across the track in preparation for the entry to Turn 1, Alonso has the advantage.

Russell holds off Sainz, who has Stroll on the inside and Ocon right behind.

Through the next complex of corners, Albon misses a corner while Piastri loses a piece of bodywork.

Stroll passes Sainz at T13, going around the outside of the Ferrari, while Alonso is noted by the Stewards for an incorrect starting position - as was the case with Ocon in Bahrain.

Piastri reports car damage, the Australian having clashed with Gasly as the McLaren driver made a move on the Alpine in Turn 2

At the end of lap 1, it's: Alonso, Perez, Russell, Stroll, Sainz, Ocon, Hamilton, Gasly, Leclerc and Zhou. Verstappen is 13yth.

As Piastri pits for a new front wing, Alonso is given a 5s time penalty.

Leclerc passes Zhou for ninth, as Perez hangs on to the rear of Alonso who has been informed of his penalty.

At the end of Lap 2, Norris pits, and like his teammate he takes on a new front wing.

At the start of Lap 4, Perez nails Alonso as they head into Turn 1, the Spaniard attempts to fight back but the Mexican is already away.

"A lot of understeer, mate," complains Hamilton, who is up to seventh.

Verstappen passes Magnussen for 11th as Leclerc closes on Gasly who is 8th.

Alonso is hard on the heels of Perez, While Russell has Stroll and Sainz filling his mirrors.

Hamilton is trying to break the tow as Gasly and Leclerc are all over his rear. The Monegasque passes the Alpine and sets about dealing with the Mercedes driver.

Lap 7 sees Perez post a new fastest lap (34.277) as he 'enjoys' a 0.700s lead over Alonso who is 3.6s clear of Russell.

Hamilton has been noted for weaving on the straight.

"Plan A, definitely Plan A," Alonso is told. "Yes mate, I'm trying," he replies.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Jeddah here.


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1. Posted by KKK, 21/03/2023 16:35

"I watched the GO and I just couldnt see any spectators! Where were the grandstands ? All in all it was a bit of a procession."

Rating: Positive (1)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by intrepid, 20/03/2023 16:27

"Fernando's penalty was disgusting. The "violation" gave him no advantage whatever. The "track" a horror"

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

3. Posted by Anthony, 19/03/2023 20:32

"Entirely agree that the sport needs to look at the way the rules are applied. A10 second penalty because a jack was touching the care during a 5 second penalty - so ridiculous that you couldn’t make it up."

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