Max Verstappen made a world championship comeback on the high-speed course on the Red Sea, but he had to cede victory in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to his Red Bull team-mate. The 25-year-old Dutchman raced from 15th on the grid to second place at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday, only beaten by Sergio Perez, who started the race from pole like last year. Thanks to the fastest race lap just before the end, Verstappen stayed just ahead of the Mexican Perez in the World Championship standings.
As in the opening race two weeks ago in Bahrain, Fernando Alonso finished third on the six-kilometre Jeddah Corniche Circuit. They were followed by the Mercedes duo with George Russell in fourth place and record world champion Lewis Hamilton in fifth place. In sixth and seventh place, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari could not even begin to keep up with the Red Bull duo at the top. Nico Hülkenberg missed the points in the Haas in twelfth place in the second race after his comeback as the successor to Mick Schumacher.
For Verstappen, one thing was particularly important: survive the first lap in the dense midfield without damage. A defect in the drive shaft had stopped the two-time champion, who had previously dominated all training sessions on the super-fast street circuit, from qualifying on Saturday. Only 15th on the grid. "We have a fast car, but you still have to be careful," he emphasized before his race to catch up.
Alonso was allowed to feel like a starting winner, but only for a short time. The 2005 and 2006 world champion accelerated faster in his Aston Martin and better than Perez. On the short stretch to the first corner, the experienced 41-year-old Spaniard was not impressed by the maneuvers of the Mexican, who pulled inward. Alonso took the lead.
On Saturday he had managed third place in qualifying, but thanks to a grid penalty against Leclerc, Alonso slipped into the front row of the grid. Much further behind, Verstappen was waiting for the red lights to go out. In the early stages he received a five-second penalty, which he only had to use when changing tires. Alonso's offense: He had not placed his Aston Martin in the starting box in accordance with the rules.
Without much resistance, he let Perez pass him again in the fourth round. A year ago, the Mexican clinched the first pole of his career in Jeddah, but didn't win the race, but Verstappen. This time he did better on his second pole.
Team-mate Verstappen in particular showed once again that he is in a league of his own in his Red Bull. Last year he had won from 14th place on the grid in Belgium. The fact that a defect in Alonso's teammate Lance Stroll's Aston Martin caused a safety car phase benefited the defending champion and last year's winner. Quickly into the pits, change tires.
When Bernd Mayländer drove the safety car back into the garage, Verstappen was already fourth behind Perez, who was in the lead. Behind was Alonso, who was able to cope well with the time penalty due to the safety car phase, but after less than half the race distance had Verstappen in the rear-view mirror and was overtaken by the Jeddah dominator on the 25th lap. Verstappen was now only five seconds away from Perez. "I know it's not realistic to drive for victory here," he had previously said.
The only question now was: will Verstappen now also attack the teammate who missed out on victory in Jeddah last year on his first pole in the motorsport premier class? The gap remained quite constant at just under five seconds. Verstappen was not in danger from behind either, the Red Bull duo drove their own race at the top.
Red Bull can probably only beat itself, and Verstappen suddenly got worried about the driveshaft again. No longer really relaxed, he radioed into the pits several times, but ultimately made it to the finish line in second place in the second Red Bull double success in the second race of this year - with the fastest lap in the final round.