During the weekend from 17 to 19 March, Formula 1 arrives on the Jeddah circuit for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, the second round of the 2023 season of the Formula 1 World Championship. The Grand Prix represents the second round of the season, two weeks after the dispute of the Bahrain Grand Prix, the opening round of the Championship. The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is the second consecutive race run in the Middle East this season, as well as the second and final race in March. In the history of Formula 1, it is the fifth Grand Prix hosted by a Middle Eastern nation, after the Grands Prix of Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Sakhir and Qatar. The race is held at night, like the previous year, and for the second consecutive seasonal appointment. The contract for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in the Formula 1 World Championship calendar is valid until the end of the 2030 season. Sponsor of the Grand Prix, as since the first edition in 2021, is the local mobile phone multinational STC extension. The Jeddah Corniche Circuit, venue of the appointment, after the 2021 and 2022 seasons was expected to be replaced by the Qiddiya Autodrome as early as this edition of the race, before the Grand Prix was kept on the same track. At the beginning of the year, the organizers announced that the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will be held in Jeddah at least until 2027, while the works for the construction of the permanent facility in the new location will continue. Of all those used on the World Championship calendar, this is the circuit with the highest number of corners, 27, as well as the fastest street circuit on the calendar in the history of the category, and the first street circuit to be used in the season. Several innovations have arrived in the approach to this Grand Prix. For the driver of the Italian team AlphaTauri, the Dutch Nyck De Vries, this is the absolute debut on this track. The British team Williams appoints Frederic Brousseau, an engineer with a twenty-six-year career in the aerospace industry, as their new chief operating officer. Formula 1 announces the extension of the Austrian Grand Prix’ contract for the dispute in the World Championship calendar until 2027, always on the Red Bull Ring. Former Formula 1 driver Enrique Bernoldi is appointed assistant commissioner. The Brazilian has performed this function on several occasions in the past, most recently at the 2022 United States Grand Prix.
It is the British car manufacturer Aston Martin, as in the previous race, that supplies the safety car and the medical car. For this Grand Prix, Pirelli, the sole tire supplier, offers the choice between C2, C3 and C4 compound tyres, the type of tire that characterizes the central range of the type of tire made available by the Italian company, the same option chosen since the inaugural edition of the Grand Prix in 2021. The Federation confirms the three zones of the Drag Reduction System used since the first edition of the race. The first area is established on the main starting straight, with the detection point located at the exit of turn 27, the second area is established between the exit of turn 19 and turn 22, with the detection point located at the exit of turn 17, the third zone is established between the entry to turn 25 and turn 27, with a detection point set at the entry to turn 22. The Jeddah circuit was the first to present, since its creation, three zones for the use of the device. After the previous edition of 2022, the track is the protagonist of some changes for the second consecutive year. They are made at turns 22 and 23, where the drivers face a fast left-right corner. At this point the positioning of the barriers is arranged, as well as the addition of a curb which reduces the speed of the single-seaters by about 50 km/h. Turn 22 now starts ten meters later, while Turn 23 has been moved five metres. In terms of fences, other similar retouches are implemented at turns 14 and 20, in this case to widen the track, favoring a greater view for the drivers. The protective walls, which are set back a few meters, are also modified in other areas of the track, always with the same objective. Specifically, this occurs in curves 8 and 10, the same ones that also see the addition of curbs. Before the start of the first free practice session on Friday, the German team Mercedes does not confirm the self-certification to be presented to the Federation that the British driver Lewis Hamilton is wearing jewellery, in the form of piercings, chains or metal watches. Hamilton is summoned by the stewards. The British driver receives no sanctions. The second unit relating to the internal combustion engine is installed on the car of Carlos Sainz Jr., while the second unit relating to the internal combustion engine, the turbocharger, the MGU-H, the MGU-K and the exhaust system are installed on Lando Norris' car.
The second unit relating to the energy recovery system and the electronic control unit is installed on Sergio Pérez' car. All drivers are not penalized on the starting grid as the new components installed are among those that can be used in the maximum number established by the technical regulations. The second unit relating to the internal combustion engine and the MGU-H, and the third unit relating to the electronic control unit are installed on Charles Leclerc's car: the Monegasque Ferrari’s driver is penalized ten positions on the starting grid as the third component installed exceeds those that can be used in the maximum number established by the technical regulations. The second gearbox and second transmission are installed on Sergio Pérez' car, and the Mexican Red Bull Racing driver is not penalized on the starting grid as the new components installed are among those that can be used within the maximum number established by the technical regulations. On the characteristics of the Jeddah circuit and on the prudent choices regarding the tyres, Pirelli Director Mario Isola summarizes the situation and declares:
"For the rapid Jeddah track, we have confirmed the same compound choices as last year as they showed very good consistency throughout the race weekend. In the two races held up to now, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix has been quite unpredictable because of the frequent safety cars and neutralisations, being a typical street circuit. A one-stopper was the fastest option in 2022, when a safety car led to an early pit stop for most of the drivers, who went on to finish the race on the hard tyre. Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc fought hard on this strategy thanks also to the durability of the tyres, with the Red Bull driver winning by less than a second at the end of a great race. The teams will also have to work hard on car setup because they will only have free practice to fine-tune the balance on this track with the latest tyres. The first race in Bahrain was all about traction and braking but Jeddah instead focuses on lateral forces, with completely different characteristics to Sakhir".
At Alpine, Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer comments on his drivers' inaugural race in Bahrain and is confident that the car will show potential at the Jeddah circuit:
"We left Bahrain with mixed feelings. On one side, we were satisfied to come away with points given Pierre raced from the back of the grid to ninth place and his drive required good decisions, a well-executed strategy and strong race pace; all of which we showed. On the other side, we made too many mistakes across the weekend, and we can all do a better job to improve on those. I believe Esteban's race was a one-off, a culmination of a string of errors, some on his side, some operationally, and his side of the garage will undoubtedly bounce back in Saudi Arabia. Right now, we know the A523 has potential. We just have not exploited everything to the maximum yet and there's work ahead of us to achieve that. It's a long season, we've opened up with points and we must keep pushing as a team".
Esteban Ocon declares:
"Jeddah is a very unique circuit in Formula 1. It is a very fast and flowing street circuit and most of the lap is taken at full throttle, which is very exciting. There are some changes to the circuit this year to improve safety and visibility on corner entry, so we'll definitely be offering some feedback on the changes on Friday after Practice to see how effective they are. In terms of the racing in Jeddah, we know overtaking is possible, the chance of safety cars are high given the nature of the track, so we have to remain ready for all possibilities. The whole team is ready and motivated for a better weekend to kickstart our season".
Pierre Gasly concludes:
"On the whole, I was pretty pleased [in Bahrain], especially on Sunday to go from last to ninth and take home some points. I know there's so much more to come from myself and from the team as we have not reached 100% yet. That is why we also left Bahrain with some disappointment as not everything clicked together and it's important we piece everything together to make sure we extract the maximum performance. I enjoyed my debut in Alpine colours, the entire team is so talented and motivated to succeed and I'm excited to see what we can achieve when we execute a smoother race weekend".
At Haas, Team Principal Guenther Steiner comments on the performance of the VF-23 at the season opener in Bahrain and declares:
"It was quite challenging because we had pre-season testing and then there was very little time before the race. All in all, even if we had struggles in the race, qualifying was good. We got one car into Q3 and for Nico to come back after three years of not having a full-time drive, it was a very good result for the team. We could’ve done better than tenth, but we were happy with it. In the race it didn’t start too well, for Nico it wasn’t an ideal start knocking off the front wing endplate, and Kevin was the only one on the hard tire to start which put him in difficulties. All in all though, I think the performance is there in the VF-23, we just need to get it out permanently at all the races - so I’m really looking forward to those races".
On the other cars, distinguished by surprises compared to what had been seen in the tests, regarding the first round of the season, Guenther declares:
"Like everyone, we were surprised by the positive performance of Aston Martin and Alonso. I think they’ve done a very good job over the winter with their car and now they’re tipped to be on top this year. During the race they had very good race pace with Red Bull, and those two cars stand out in the field at the moment".
On the relationship between the team’s drivers and how they work together, the Haas’ Team Principal says:
"They’re working well together and there is respect between them. It’s very good for Kevin to have a teammate with experience and what Nico brings with him is experience. The race engineers clearly feel like they get a lot of information from him after each session, which will bring the race weekend forward, but also overall the race team forward, performance-wise".
On the Jeddah circuit, Guenther argues:
"Jeddah is a little bit different in terms of layout compared to Bahrain but everything that we learned in Bahrain will help us set-up the car better for Saudi Arabia. Hopefully we get it in a good window and then we can extract the full potential of the VF-23, resulting in points".
Looking at last season's performance, Danish Haas driver Kevin Magnussen hopes to be able to repeat the same performance and declares:
"Last year, Saudi Arabia was a strong weekend. Coming away from Bahrain with a fifth place and coming to Jeddah, expectations were high and the pace was good in the car. We got a bit unlucky with strategy - the safety car came out at a vulnerable time for us - but we still managed to score a few points and I hope we can be strong here again this year".
On the Jeddah circuit, he declares:
"I think it’s a great circuit. Last year was my first time there and it’s a really fun and exciting track to drive, so I hope it hasn’t changed too much or at least not changed for the worse. I hope it’s still going to be a thrilling place to drive. It’s a circuit where confidence with the car counts for a lot - you need to be confident and happy with the car and happy to push because it’s a pretty flat-out track".
On how to approach the race weekend in Jeddah, Kevin says:
"Some places you go to you find the groove very quickly and I felt that was the case in Jeddah last year. It’s one of those tracks that I really like and where there are a lot of consequences for going over the limit, and getting close to the limit is harder than going to other tracks with run-off".
As for the behavior of the car, on a track where the aerodynamic load is high, the Danish driver declares:
"I think it will take a few races, it’s not like if we have two good races or two bad races that we can conclude much. We’ll get a rough idea of where we stack-up but I expect the midfield to be that close that it could easily change on other tracks later on in the year. There’s also a lot of development going on in all teams and good or bad, we just need to stay focused".
On the Jeddah circuit, and on the experience he had as a substitute last season, Nico Hulkenberg declares:
"The track is unique and special. It’s unbelievably fast given it’s a street circuit and it definitely gives you a huge rush and kick. It’s very challenging and technical but I enjoyed it there last year and hopefully I’m going to enjoy it more this year".
On how to approach the race weekend in Jeddah, he says:
"It’s a street circuit so you always start off a little bit on the safer side and lap-by-lap, session-by-session move it up, pushing harder, getting closer to the limit and taking bigger risks. In qualifying, a small mistake could have detrimental consequences, and you are aware of that as a driver. It’s all about the risk versus reward management that we do constantly".
On how the car can behave on this track, where the downforce is high, Hulkenberg argues:
"Jeddah is obviously the second race and it’s got very different track characteristics from Bahrain, but then every other track afterwards is also a bit different so it’s going to take longer than two races to understand the car fully and see which characteristics it suits or not. We’re in a ‘work in progress’ situation where things are still very dynamic and are at an early stage and can change a lot".
At McLaren, the English driver Lando Norris declares on the Jeddah circuit:
"It's nice to be back at the track in Jeddah. The speed here is great and I love street circuits, so I am looking forward to getting on track. I had a decent result here last year, and Bahrain showed we have some good race pace so a points finish is very much a possibility, we just need to extract as much as we can from the car.The team are working tirelessly to learn everything we can from Bahrain and to make changes so that we have a better weekend on track in Saudi. We know there is a lot of work to do to get to where we want to be, but I trust the team and know they are doing everything they can for us to be better. Let's get out there and give it everything".
Fellow McLaren driver, Oscar Piastri, is eager to get back to racing in Jeddah, where he has gained some experience having raced at this track for the minor categories and declares:
"I'm looking forward to going racing at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. I've raced here previously in F2 so I have some experience of the track's speedy nature and I'm excited to get out there in an F1 car. There are some cool features like the fast bends, and it will be my first time on a street track in F1 machinery.Whilst the result last week was obviously disappointing for my first F1 race, I learned a lot and it's important we all keep our heads held high. I know the team are working extremely hard to turn it around from Bahrain and make the best car possible for Lando and myself. We'll keep pushing forward as a team and I have full confidence that we'll get to where we want to be".
The McLaren’s Team Principal, Andrea Stella, concludes on the Jeddah circuit:
"The Jeddah Corniche Circuit is a fast and sweeping circuit with some interesting features that provide a good challenge for the drivers. There have been a few tweaks to the circuit since we raced here last year. We are pleased to see adaptations have been made to address some of the safety concerns expressed, with better visibility for the drivers and smoother kerbs.The team head to Saudi with renewed mindset and determination to get back into the points, which was possible in Bahrain without reliability issues. There has been a lot of analysis at McLaren and HPP over the past week to ensure problems are resolved. We know we've got work to do, but the team in Woking and trackside are fully focused on developments and ready to go again in Saudi".
At Williams there is the announcement about the new Chief Operating Officer Frederic Brousseau. The Chairman of the Board, Matthew Savage, comments with satisfaction:
"We are very excited to bring Frederic on board as an energetic and experienced leader who can help with the transformation of Williams Racing. He began his career working on the shop floor, and his most recent role saw him looking after worldwide aerospace operations, including running multiple worldwide manufacturing sites and an operation with more than 10,000 employees. I expect him to contribute significantly to our journey at Williams Racing".
On this achievement, with satisfaction, Brousseau declares:
"There is no better feeling than setting out on a brand new journey and working towards achieving your dreams. It has been an exciting beginning of the season and I am looking forward to joining a team with such Formula 1 heritage. I am eager to get started and contribute to building the organisation's future alongside everyone at Williams Racing".
At Williams, Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance, focuses on the characteristics of the Jeddah circuit in comparison with those of his own car and declares:
"We return to Jeddah for the second race of the of 2023 season. Whilst the circuit has undergone some substantial revisions since last year, it retains its fundamental character and offers a very different challenge to the track in Bahrain.We enjoyed a productive couple of weeks in Bahrain and were able to take a lot of positives from the race weekend. We now face the challenge of quickly adapting the car to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, which is much more sensitive to drag than Bahrain. There are a couple of tricky corners on the circuit, which seriously test the car and drivers. With each lap being in excess of 6km, there are few opportunities to practice these corners before the Qualifying session.Like the last event, the key sessions take place in the evening and we will need to be mindful of the changes to wind and temperature following the sunset. The track surface is much smoother than in Bahrain and Pirelli have provided softer tyre compounds for this event.We are looking forward to tackling this charismatic street circuit and improving our understanding of FW45".
Alex Albon continues:
"Jeddah is a really fun street track and I'm looking forward to it, however it's one of those tracks where confidence is very important, and you need to build up to through the weekend. On paper, it's a track that might suit us a little better than Bahrain, so we'll see once we're there. We're still understanding the car and it will be interesting to go to a different track to learn more about the car".
Logan Sargeant concludes:
"I'm really looking forward to round two in Saudi. We've built a great foundation in Bahrain to work from. Hopefully we can continue to be competitive and keep improving as a team. Obviously, Jeddah is a very challenging circuit so we're going to have to build into the weekend with the aim to come away with a positive result".
In AlphaTauri, Nyck De Vries comments on his first full weekend as an official driver and can't wait to make his debut on the Jeddah circuit for the first time:
"It felt great to finally really start our season and campaign together in Bahrain. It’s been a long lead up to that moment and ultimately, we are racers, we want to go out there and compete. I’m very happy that we have the first one out of the way and that we’re basically getting into the race rhythm.Some parts of my first full F1 weekend were a little bit busier than I’d been used to, but in all honesty, it was all well-organised and managed. In the end, in any professional racing series, they operate fairly similarly. Obviously, Formula 1 is a much bigger platform, but regarding the weekend itself, there were no major surprises. Of course, there is a little bit more media work and other activities but ultimately, what happens on track is still the most important.I think there is no hiding that we’re not exactly where we want to be in terms of performance. There is still a lot of work to be done. We feel like we need to close the gap even more in low-speed corners and Bahrain has a lot of those so we hope that Saudi will suit our package a little bit better. Ultimately, the midfield is so extremely close and fighting for points is going to be a tough battle because you have at least four top teams in front which are already taking eight positions. It’s going to be a challenge, but we’ve just got to make sure we don’t leave anything unturned so that we can capitalise on potential opportunities.Tyre degradation was an important factor in the first race, but I think Bahrain is a strong outlier when it comes to degradation. The tarmac is probably the oldest of the calendar, so I’m very confident that in Saudi it will be a different story, but we will have to wait and see whether that works in our favour. I think we were positively surprised by our race performance in Bahrain. We were clearly in the mix but again, that’s only one weekend. I think we need to do more races to get a bigger picture before we can draw conclusions. Doing a day’s testing for Pirelli at Sakhir after the Grand Prix was useful. All the mileage is very welcome, especially at this time of the year. Therefore, it was definitely valuable for us to get it done.As for Saudi, I attended the race last year, but I’ve never driven the Jeddah track, even though I’ve driven it quite a lot on the simulator, most recently last week. It seems very cool: quick and tricky. I’m honestly very much looking forward to the challenge, learning a new track and being back out racing".
Yuki Tsunoda concludes:
"From the weekend in Bahrain, it’s clear that our performance is quite far away from where we wanted to be in the first race, especially as we are aiming to be at the front of the midfield. We still need to find a lot more performance from our car. We did make a step forward from Friday to Saturday, which meant I was able to get into Q2 which was good. In the end, we were not consistent enough with our pace to make it to Q3. Last year, we were fighting Williams for P9, P10 in the Constructors’. It means we have to focus on developing our car and for myself, I have to try and extract as much performance from the car as possible and I’d say I managed to do that in Bahrain on Sunday.I know where we are struggling but for this weekend in Saudi, I am more hopeful that we can be better than in Bahrain. I will be pushing myself to give the team as much useful feedback as possible and then we will see how it goes. I think the high-speed nature of the track in Saudi will suit our package better, so let’s wait and see.Spending more time in the car, driving at the Pirelli test for a day immediately after Bahrain was definitely very useful. It is a bigger benefit to do it during the early part of the season than the end of year test. From a driver’s point of view, it’s better to have a lot of mileage at the beginning of the season as it gives you a chance to understand more about your car and its set-ups. I did a lot of mileage and went pretty much flat out all day. Last year, my Saudi weekend did not go well at all, as various technical issues meant I was unable to drive on Saturday and then could not even start the race on Sunday. I find it an enjoyable track to drive. It’s really unique, Sector 1 especially with the high-speed esses, which are very specific to the Saudi track and not found anywhere else on the calendar. Last year was unfortunate and I found it very frustrating as I had really enjoyed qualifying here in 2021 when I was eighth fastest. Our reliability with this year’s car has been good so far. During testing and the first race, we had no major issues, so I’m confident that this year I will drive every session from Friday to Sunday, and I am looking forward to it".
At Alfa Romeo, the Team Representative, Alessandro Alunni Bravi, is satisfied with having scored points in the first race of the season and remains confident about the possibility of continuing to improve:
"Scoring points on debut was a great way to kick-off our season, a reward for the hard work done by everyone in the team over the winter and a confirmation of the progress we have made. We must not rest on our laurels though, as we had proof in Bahrain of how tight the field around us is this year, and how just a few tenths can make a huge difference in terms of results. We know that, if we do our homework right and take advantage of the full potential of our car, we have the chance to keep improving and achieve even better results, and this is what we set out to do this weekend: we need to be on top of our game when it comes to execution as we have the opportunity to bring home more points. It will be an important weekend also outside the garage, as we have a busy programme of activations with some of our key partners: we are leaving no stone unturned both on and off the track".
Valtteri Bottas continues:
"We have been off to a great start in Bahrain, scoring a top-ten finish at the first race of the season. We were among the top five teams for the entirety of the race, and also gave proof of excellent teamwork throughout the weekend. Still, as always, there is room for improvement. Coming into Jeddah, we must keep up the momentum and put the focus on continuing the good work done until now. Our colleagues back home in Hinwil are working hard on getting upgrades ready for the next few races, as we focus on progressing and on bringing home more good results for the team. Our car is strong, and we know we can put up a decent fight against our competitors. Once again, attention to details will be essential to be on the front foot from the start of the weekend".
Zhou Guanyu concludes:
"Starting the season with points was a good motivation for the team, myself included - I was happy to give my contribution by scoring the fastest lap and taking a point off our rivals. As we go to Saudi Arabia for the second round of the championship, I feel hungry and determined to open up my points tally for the season as well. In Bahrain, our car felt better day after day, which showed we are heading in the right direction: we must keep finding the margins to keep our progression going and improve even more. We can already predict the field is going to be tight once again, but if we manage to extract all possible performance from our car and team, I see no reason why we shouldn’t aim even higher this weekend".
On the performance in the first race in Bahrain and expectations in the second race in Saudi Arabia, Mercedes’ Team Principal Toto Wolff says:
"Our performance in Bahrain wasn't where we want it to be. But this is the position we find ourselves in and it is already full steam ahead on the car, understanding it and working to get it in a better place. That's an exciting challenge for all of us.Since Bahrain, we have had open and honest discussions from which we started to plan our fight back. In the short term, leaving no stone unturned in the search for performance. In the longer term, focusing our development to determine how we get to the front. I've already felt the energy and determination in the factory and know that will continue moving forward. Anything can happen in motor racing, so we'll be working in Jeddah to maximise every part of our performance, chasing every point, every position, and every millisecond. That's one of the huge strengths of our driver line-up with Lewis and George. We are racers and giving everything we've got, every time we go on track.This weekend in Saudi Arabia we will learn more about W14, its characteristics and its limitations. It provides a very different test to Bahrain, and it will be interesting to see how the car reacts. We are bringing some small developments to the car: they won't be game changers, but they can start moving us in the right direction. And we'll be pushing as hard as we can to create opportunities, and hopefully will give us a better account of ourselves than in Bahrain".
At Aston Martin, the Spanish driver Fernando Alonso is satisfied with how the car performed in the first race in Bahrain and maintains high confidence to get another good result in Jeddah:
"The car felt very good in Bahrain, and we enjoyed our weekend scoring our first podium of the season. But we have now shifted all our focus to this weekend and Jeddah.It will be a very different challenge there as it is a completely different circuit to what we experienced in the opening race.We spent two weeks in Bahrain, and all became very familiar with the circuit and conditions so the learning curve from this Friday will be a lot steeper.Realistically I do not think it will be until after Australia that we will know better where the overall performance stands, as by then we will have had three very different race weekends on varied circuits in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Australia.Our feet remain on the ground and hard work is needed to maintain this start and try to get another strong result this weekend".
Lance Stroll, on the same wavelength as his teammate, concludes:
"I was really pleased with our performance in Bahrain, so we need to do our best to bring that positive momentum into the second race of the year in Saudi Arabia. As always, the first few races of the season are about learning the intricacies of the new car.The circuit in Jeddah is completely different to that in Bahrain, so it offers us an invaluable opportunity to collect more data and deepen our understanding of the AMR23.Jeddah Corniche Circuit is an incredibly fast track, and the fastest street circuit on the calendar, so it is great fun to drive but also a real challenge.We have seen Safety Cars on both occasions that we have raced in Saudi Arabia, so we need to ensure we are ready to capitalise on any opportunities that come our way".
At Ferrari, Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal, comments on the first weekend of the season in Bahrain and outlines the team's expectations for the Jeddah round:
"We came away from the Grand Prix in Bahrain with a first picture of the strengths and weaknesses of our car and useful pointers for making progress. Comparing the SF-23’s qualifying and race performance, there’s still some room to improve our Sunday performance. We are working well as a team to extract the maximum from our package both in terms of drivability and reliability. We found the cause of the issue that stopped Charles in Sakhir and will use the third CU on his car, which means that we will take a grid penalty.The Saudi Arabian track is very different to Bahrain in terms of layout and track surface, and top speed is particularly important. I’m confident that we can have a better weekend here".
At Ferrari, Carlos Sainz is confident that the team will be able to have a different weekend than Bahrain:
"I’m confident that we can have a better weekend here in Saudi Arabia than we did in Sakhir,We learned a lot in Sakhir and it was good to finally start the season and get a clear picture of the situation. We weren’t happy with our performance, but since then we have worked hard with the data we gathered and I’m confident we have everything we need to make progress. The team is very solid and focussed and we are clear on the programme ahead of us.I like the track. We know it’s important to do as many laps as possible to have confidence with the walls at this unusual street circuit. From that point of view, tomorrow’s free practice will be particularly important".
Charles Leclerc, despite a start that didn't go as hoped, has found a group unity that goes in the same direction and is confident about the adaptation of the SF-23 on this track:
"There’s no denying the start of the season hasn’t gone the way we had hoped. A retirement in Bahrain and a penalty here is definitely not what we wanted. But when I got back to Maranello after the Sakhir race, I found a united group all pulling in the same direction. It was the atmosphere I was expecting to find and it means I’m particularly motivated for this weekend. I think this track will suit our SF-23 better than Sakhir and the problem that stopped me there has been fixed, so I’m confident that in the race we have the potential to make up places quickly and get up to the front.I expect to be competitive in qualifying and that on Sunday we can be in the mix. The Safety Car often plays its part here and we will have to be brave to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself. Having to come from behind, I’ll be aggressive as is my nature and I hope the long straights will help us out".
At Red Bull, Max Verstappen comments on the characteristics of the Jeddah circuit based on those of his car:
"After a great start in Bahrain I don’t expect it to be an easy task in Jeddah, it is a completely different circuit and needs the car to be quick. Nevertheless, with the high-speed corners, I do believe we can have a strong car around this track. The track changes that have been made are mainly for visibility, so hopefully it has improved things a bit for us drivers, as it was definitely dangerous in some areas. It’s a really cool street circuit, with quite a lot of grip, so I always enjoy going back there to race".
Sergio Perez concludes:
"We have to try and keep the momentum going from Bahrain. There are definitely a lot of improvements we can still do, to try and make our car better. We gathered plenty of information from the first race and we have been doing a lot of work behind the scenes. It will be very interesting to see how everyone performs in Jeddah this week, it is a very different track to Bahrain. I am looking forward to going back to this circuit after getting pole in 2022. I was very unlucky last year with the timing of the safety car while leading the race so hopefully it can be my turn to win".
On Friday afternoon, at 4.30 p.m. local time, the sun is still high in the sky not due to set until a little after 6:30 pm local time and it is swelteringly hot. Everyone is ready for the first free practice session, even if it’s a slightly unrepresentative session, being run in the daylight with qualifying and the race both set to start long after the sunset. The Red Bulls are expected to be quick here, while the Ferraris are a slight unknown; Aston Martin should be up there and Mercedes are a mystery still. Before the start of the session the Mercedes team do not confirm the self-certification to be submitted to the Federation that British driver Lewis Hamilton was wearing jewellery, in the form of piercings, chains or metal watches. Hamilton was summoned by the stewards but he doesn’t receive any sanctions. Via his social media account the seven-time World Champion announces that he will no longer be accompanied by long-time trainer and physiotherapist Angela Cullen; she has worked with the British driver since 2016. Going back to FP1, t is to say that this is a busy session, with plenty of laps completed but without incidents nor red flags; the first driver on track is Nyck de Vries: having never raced at this track before he'll be keen to learn from this session; most of the drivers go out on hard or medium tyres before switching to softs towards the end. Max Verstappen comes out on track with soft tyres long after the start of the session and after a few laps, despite complaining about understeer, he sets the fastest time in 1'29"617, followed by Perez in 1'30"100. The Dutchman is the only one to go under the time of one minute and thirty seconds; the time is set after the car's set-up had been lowered: this shows how the reigning World Champion is in great shape (even after suffering in the past days from stomach-ache) and drives a car which is clearly superior to his competitors’ ones. The following positions are in pairs: the two Aston Martins, with Alonso ahead of Stroll -who has not yet fully recovered from his injuries- and then the two Mercedes with Russel fifth and Hamilton sixth, both just under a second off the pace. Hamilton, who on this day celebrates 10 years since he made his Mercedes’ debut, remarks he is struggling for grip as rounds the track on softs. The silver arrows seem to have more tyre degradation than expected. The Ferrari finish this session with Sainz in P7 in 1'30"924 and Leclerc just in eleventh position. They opted for a different strategy than the other teams, more focused on finding the right race set-up. Gasly, Albon and Tsunoda close the top ten of this FP1, Esteban Ocon takes P12 for Alpine, ahead of Nyck de Vries in P13, while Oscar Piastri finishes 14th for McLaren. Haas are 15th and 16th with Nico Hulkenberg ahead of Kevin Magnussen. Logan Sargeant is 17th for Williams. Then Valtteri Bottas 18th, 10 years after making his F1 Grand Prix debut, and Zhou Guanyu 19th. Lando Norris finishes the FP1 in last position.
The second session of free practice starts at 8.00 p.m. local time, the climate condition have changed a lot since the first session as the sun sets down and the track has cooled off, its temperature being 10 °C lower than it was earlier: this will make a big difference with the tyres management. As the session gets underway plenty of drivers get on track; everyone want to do a lot of laps because they need to fine-tune their set-ups before qualifying, in more representative conditions, and they still need to get more familiar with the track modifications. Max Verstappen continues to set the pace as he leads the timesheets also in this second session in 1'29"603, placing ahead of the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso (just 0.208s behind) and his teammate Sergio Perez. The two Ferraris struggle a little in this session, finishing only ninth and tenth; Leclerc complains a lot about traffic, a common problem in street circuit, but Carlos Sainz proves to be close to the performance of the Austrian team in the race pace. Lewis Hamilton, who won the first race in Jeddah back in 2021, seems less comfortable in the car, being only eleventh, behind the Ferrari duo, after his first run on the soft tyre was impeded by yellow flags. It is also a strong Friday for Alpine, with Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly finishing fourth and sixth respectively in the session, with the Mercedes of George Russell between the French pair in P5. Esteban Ocon, who came form a disastrous first race, at the end of the day declares:
"It's nice to come back to a track like Jeddah as it's a really fast and thrilling street circuit, which forces everyone to be on their toes at all times. Our Friday was productive where we tried different things, which will help us in both qualifying and race conditions. So far, the car feels strong, and I think there is more we can extract ahead of tomorrow evening's Qualifying. The team did a great job today to get through the programme and we will be working hard tonight to be in a good place for tomorrow. All in all, it's been a good day at the office".
His teammate Pierre Gasly, on his second race for the French team, has positive feeling with the car and is quite satisfied for now:
"It's great to be back here in Jeddah at this very fast and exciting race track. It's been a busy day for us as we continue to learn about our 2023 package and, I must say, I've been pleased with today's work. After two weeks in Bahrain, it's nice to be taking on a new track and a new challenge. It's very high-speed here and there's a lot you have to get right to be quick. The car feels good, we have a good idea on the set-up direction we want to take and there's more to come from us this weekend. My focus is on working hard with the engineers to make sure we're well prepared for Qualifying and returning with a better performance than we showed last time out".
Pat Fry, Alpine’s Chief Technical Officer, adds:
"It's been a reasonable Friday Practice for the team today here in Jeddah for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. For us, it's been interesting to see the car on a completely different circuit to what we've seen so far this year, as the characteristics here steer towards lower downforce with lots of high-speed corners. We're pleased with our work today with both drivers offering similar feedback on the directions to take on set-up, which leaves us in decent shape for the rest of the weekend. We have plenty of data to work through to prepare ourselves for tomorrow's Qualifying where we aim for a much-improved performance from Bahrain to set ourselves up for a better Race on Sunday. A solid start with more to come".
It's clear now that the midfield is looking incredibly tight, with Ferrari and Mercedes looking to have their work cut out to get clear of the chasing pack and close up to the front two Red Bulls. Lewis Hamilton, who hasn’t find the right balance with the car yet, declares:
"I struggled in both sessions today, but we completed the run programme we had and tried to learn as much as possible. We will continue to go into the details overnight and focus on improving the balance of the car to make it easier to drive. It's a tough car to drive but I know everyone is working so hard at the factory. It won't be solved overnight and will take some time, so we just have to be patient and give it everything we can here at the track".
George Russell seems more confident about the possibility of extracting the maximum potential from the car:
"We gathered plenty of data to go through tonight. We will be aiming to maximise the package we have got and get the set-up in the sweet spot. As much as we would love to, given all the hard work everyone is putting in, we know we won't find one second overnight. Red Bull are clearly out in front, but we are learning lots about our car. These learnings will help us in both the short and medium-term. As is always the case in practice sessions too, we're not sure what power modes everyone was running so we will know more tomorrow".
Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director, adds:
"After Bahrain, we came here with realistic expectations. While the team back in the UK is working hard on developing us to a better place, our focus has been to maximise the potential of what we currently have. There were a couple of scheduled upgrades that look to be working OK but while taking us in the right direction, they are not a huge step. The sessions themselves went smoothly; we were struggling with the front end in the first session and may have over-corrected for the second session. Nevertheless, we've got plenty of information to pick through to work out the setup for tomorrow. The pace when we get the lap together didn't look too bad, but the car hasn't been easy enough to drive so that's something we'll look to improve tomorrow ahead of qualifying".
Nico Hulkenberg, who raced here for the first time in 2022 while replacing Sebastian Vettel, ends this session with a strong performance in eighth place:
"We had a smooth Friday - no major incidents, situations, or problems. Like always, you learn about the car, the tires and where the balance is. Certainly, again over one lap I think we seem to be competitive and long runs could be a bit more challenging for us, so that’s where our focus is now. It’s all about pace, tire degradation and being quick in the right places - we need to analyze and consider it all to come up with the best strategy".
His teammate Kevin Magnussen finishes only fifteenth but is overall satisfied with the car performance:
"It was good, we got through FP1 and FP2 fine but there’s lot of work to do on Friday night as always. The field is tight again just like in Bahrain and there’s a lot to fight for tomorrow. It’s a very different track, different speeds, and it’s hard to compare but there’s new challenges. We’ll aim to do as good as we can of course and get into Q3, but the main focus is on Sunday".
Haas’ Team Principal, Guenther Steiner, states:
"It was a very solid FP1 and FP2 today. There were no issues at all, we went through the whole program, and completed 97 laps. We need to find a bit more performance but all in all everyone is quite happy. We need to find a little bit on Kevin’s car because he’s a little bit not so happy with his car, but I think we know what we have to look for".
Max Verstappen, who currently doesn’t seem to have strong contenders in the world title fight, declares:
"I am feeling a lot better after a few rough days of illness, it wasn’t nice but I am feeling good now. Today out on track was about finetuning things, we had a positive day but there are still quite a few things we can do better. On the long runs we all seemed fairly close to each other but it’s more because of managing the tyres because they don’t really let you push around here at the moment. With a very low deg circuit then the lap times will always be very close, so it is definitely not going to be like Bahrain".
After a busy day, Sergio Perez seems quite confident with his car performace, beside the mechanical issue:
"It was all about learning the conditions today. From FP1 to FP2 the track changes a lot, so it was good to test the car in varying temperatures. We had a bit of a mechanical issue, which meant there was slight inconsistency and we couldn’t’t get a proper read, but we’re confident we can sort it out before tomorrow. Once we fix that, it will hopefully bring us even more pace, but generally the performance is there as expected. I’m sure our rival teams will work hard overnight to close the gap and we look forward to a competitive showing tomorrow".
Yuki Tsunoda, in 13th position, can be satisfied:
"The circuit is safer in terms of visibility, though the characteristics haven’t changed much. What we’ve seen from practice today is that we are slightly behind those consistently fighting for P10, but we still have one more day to put it all together. There were no major issues during FP1 and FP2, but we know that we have to find more performance in the car. Even if Q3 is the target, Q2 is more possible tomorrow than it was in Bahrain last week. In the end, we’ll analyse all our data tonight to see how we can improve our performance. Tyre degradation doesn’t seem as bad as expected, so we can push flat out".
Nyck de Vries has much to learn about one of the tracks with which it is most difficult to become familiar:
“It was my first time driving the track here in Jeddah, it's fun to learn and quick to drive. It is a challenge, but I like driving the track. Our day was productive. The midfield is just super close, as there are only a couple of tenths between P11 and P20, so we’ll have to see what happens tomorrow. It can easily go in a good or bad way, therefore, we will make sure to be on top of our game to extract the maximum for qualifying tomorrow".
Jonathan Eddolls, AlphaTauri’s Chief Race Engineer, states:
"A lot of analysis had been completed by the engineers between Bahrain and this event, which led to some interesting directions to try with the set-up at this track. Saudi Arabia's characteristics are quite different, in particular, with the requirement for a more efficient car and good performance in high-speed. In some ways, we expected this to suit our car better. The focus in FP1 for Nyck was to complete as many laps as possible, given that it’s his first time driving here. For Yuki, we had a number of aero tests to complete, so we had to sacrifice some time in the garage to complete these; but they are important to help with development. Similar to Bahrain, the first session of the day was considerably hotter than the second, so we needed to take what we learned and apply that to the lower temperatures in FP2. The wind dropped considerably between sessions, which made the car more consistent. FP2 was all about understanding how to maximise the short-run performance on the Soft tyre. We weren’t able to get it on the first timed lap, but we will work overnight to try to improve this. Then the focus shifted to the graining on the softer compounds, which was a massive issue from 2022. We appear to have made a step, so we now need to take all of the data gathered today and figure out the optimum strategy and tyre choice for Sunday. Overall, we were satisfied with the day, the midfield is very compact, but we think we have a car that is able to compete in that group here".
Fernando Alonso, after an incredible start to the season and a podium in the first race, can only be happy with his car:
"It has been a strong day for us as we continue to learn about this car. We knew that Jeddah would present different challenges to Bahrain and it is almost like a second test here for everyone this weekend. Overall, the day went smoothly for us as we are trying to optimise the setup and adjust to the high-speed nature of this circuit. We have a lot of data to analyse as usual for a Friday and we will continue to look at everything tonight and into tomorrow. Our main goal will be to reach Q3 again".
Lance Stroll, still recovering from his injureis, states:
"It is always fun driving around this track. It is high-speed and high adrenaline; I think we all enjoy the challenge. The team had a good day of running, trying lots of different things, and it has given us plenty of data to analyse. We will use this evening to learn as much as possible and do our best find more performance ahead of Qualifying. I think it will be a pretty tight session; all the teams around us look competitive and closely matched. Our aim tomorrow has to be Q3".
Lando Norris, who places his car in P12, states:
"It was a reasonable Friday. We worked through our test programme in both sessions which was positive. There are still more improvements to make, so we will work on finding those overnight and look to put in a positive performance for FP3 and qualifying tomorrow".
Oscar Piastri, who raced for the first time here in the 2021 F2 season, declares:
"Friday done and it's nice to be back in Jeddah. It's a very quick circuit, which is a lot of fun and I think we're getting there. The long run pace seemed to be okay, but I think we need to have a look at the one-lap pace. We'll work hard overnight and see what we can bring to tomorrow's sessions".
Andrea Stella, McLaren’s Team Principal, after a not ideal start of the season, says:
"A smooth and productive first day of running here in Jeddah. We worked through our plan, which was based around understanding which tyres are most suitable for the race, while also answering questions regarding our approach to qualifying. We had no significant problems during the sessions, though there's obviously a bit of work to do, extracting performance from the MCL60. This will be our focus overnight. We've generated plenty of data to study, and we hope to be in good shape to race for points on Sunday".
Dave Robson, Williams’ Head of Vehicle Performance, declares:
"Like in Bahrain, the conditions change quite a lot between FP1 and FP2; following a good FP1, we didn't quite get the changes right for the cooler evening session. However, we were doing some experiments, which gave interesting results. It is clear what we need to do, and we already have enough experience of the FW45 that we are confident we can get it all together for qualifying tomorrow. We appear to be in a tight group of teams, and we will need to maximise everything tomorrow. It won't be easy but there is no reason we can't do it so that both drivers get an excellent chance of a strong qualifying session. Whatever happens in qualifying, we had decent long run pace today, overtaking is easier than in Bahrain and we will be looking to increase our points tally on Sunday".
Alex Albon, 14th, says:
"I think it's been a very positive day and we've definitely got pace in the car, so I'm feeling optimistic. We're missing a little bit of set-up during FP2 for our qualifying simulation but everything else feels pretty good. I don't want to speak too soon but I'm feeling good with the car so let's see how it goes".
Logan Sargeant, one of this year rookies, adds:
"I think for the first day in Jeddah, it went pretty smoothly, with everything going according to plan. The pace doesn't look too bad as a team and hopefully we can continue to build on that. It's definitely a tricky and challenging circuit but I'm enjoying it, so hopefully I can continue to keep pushing and find a little bit more time tomorrow".
Alfa Romeo do not shine this Friday, with two anonymous free practice sessions.
Valtteri Bottas states:
"The first feeling with the car is quite ok: we didn’t have any issues with the balance, and we have a solid basis to build on. We did a lot of work today, trying different wing levels and setup options, and now we need to sit down, look at the data and make some decisions on which are the right calls. Of course, we are not yet where we want to be and at the levels we showed in Bahrain, when we were the fifth fastest team: we need to find a bit more pace still, make a step forward ahead of qualifying. But it’s only Friday and I’m confident we can do it when it really matters. The field is very close, as expected, and with a small gain there is no reason we cannot make up places in qualifying. We’ll work hard tonight - I don’t think Q3 is out of reach, and we’ll give our best shot at it tomorrow".
His teammate Zhou Guanyu adds:
“It was a busy day in the car: we are not too far off from our rivals when it comes to pace, although I can say we expected a little bit more from today. We tried different settings, switching things and making changes, and I effectively drove a significantly different car between the first and the second session: it took some adapting, but the team now has all the data we need to make the best decisions when it comes to setup. Of course, every weekend we aim for Q3, and it’s a matter of how much we can get out from myself and from the car - especially when the margins are so small. There is still some work to do overnight, but I am confident we can get in the mix and fight for good positions in qualifying tomorrow”.
Leclerc is optimistic about Sunday:
"We tested some new parts today and everything works as expected. It’s difficult to get a sense of our competitiveness as everyone is on a different programme so far. The feeling in the car is pretty good. We will try to maximize our qualifying tomorrow but given that we will have a 10-place grid penalty on Sunday, our main focus will be on making up those positions during the race".
The FIA also confirm that Ferrari change also Sainz’ PU as a 'precaution' for this weekend, without any penalty. The Spaniard declares:
"It was an intense day here in Jeddah. This is a very unusual circuit with very peculiar characteristics which requires specific work to achieve a good balance. There is still some performance to find, but in general the car feels in the right window. Race pace was decent and tomorrow we will focus on maximising the result during qualifying".
Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, concludes:
"It was quite an interesting day, especially in the second free practice session. As expected, FP1 wasn't particularly representative in terms of tyre behaviour, characterised by notably high track evolution. On a track that was completely different to the opening round in Sakhir, the teams concentrated on car setup for the most part. The FP2 session was much more relevant, with nearly all the drivers focussing on the medium and the soft tyres. The main theme for tyres last year was managing front degradation, which was mainly down to degradation. The first analysis of the long runs indicates that this year's new construction that was designed to reduce understeer, along with the better overall balance of the 2023 cars, has practically eliminated graining on the hard and medium. There's still some graining on the soft - especially on the front-right tyre - but this doesn't significantly influence performance over long runs. The constantly evolving track conditions and improvements to the setup that teams will make in FP3 suggest that a one-stop strategy using medium and soft is most likely for the race, also because there's a relatively small performance gap of 0.4 seconds between these two compounds, which makes both valid options for the race".
Saturday is full of confirmations and unexpected events. FP3, as often happens, is the scenario for testing different strategies. The Ferrari team start the first phase with a long run that doesn't seem so bad. They are thus able to verify the adequacy of the new components of the car, such as the wing. The short run, which takes place immediately afterwards, doesn’t seem to be very clear in terms of qualifying. All that remains is to wait for them, with actually Charles Leclerc in position 6 and 10 for Sainz, both with a difference of +1.103 and +1.276 respectively from the first. The first who makes the difference in these free practice sessions is Max Verstappen for the Red Bull team, with an excellent performance both in short and long run. With hard tyres at the start he places only a tenth of a second behind the leader who has used softs until then. Then, with the same ones, Verstappen jumps to the lead with a best time of 1'28"485, leaving behind his teammate Sergio Pérez in second position with a gap of +0.613. Both confirm the excellent impressions gained so far for Red Bull. That age is just a number is confirmed by Fernando Alonso, who prefers to do other numbers in these free practice sessions with a third place of +0.998 from Max Verstappen. A fierce Aston Martin team for this year, given that also Stroll leaves no room for anyone and finishes immediately behind his teammate with a time of +1.024. All normal for the Mercedes team, with a fifth position and a time of +1.083 for Lewis Hamilton and +1.326 with an eleventh position for Russell. However, this Saturday of FP3 is also full of impeding, especially for Lando Norris who at the end of these practices is seventh at +1.205. Not too far behind him, in eighth place is the second McLaren team member Piastri, with a time of +1.213. Speaking of the Alpine and considering the cold track in his first lap, Gasly's opening and ending with ninth position is not too bad (+1.216). In order from twelfth position for these free practice there are Zhou with +1.432, Hulkenberg at +1.448, the other Alpine with Ocon at +1.468, the Williams with Albon at +1.498 and Sargeant at +1.550, Magnussen at +1.646, Bottas at +1.832 and eventually the Alpha Tauri with Tsunoda at +2.312 and de Vries who didn't really start due to an engine failure.
Final qualifying takes Pérez to the second consecutive pole position for the Saudi track, taking first place with a thrilling time of 1'28"265. In the afternoon it is time for qualyfing at the circuit of Jeddah. The results after Q1 foreshadow a ranking with Verstappen in the lead with a time of 1'28"761, while his Red Bull’s teammate finishes second with a detachment of +0.483. Also the Aston Martin team is able to prove itself, finishing third at +0.537 with Alonso and fourth at +0.574 with Stroll. Leclerc is fifth with +0.615 from Verstappen, while Sainz wins a linear sixth position with +0.650. Up until now everything is in order for the others drivers who are placed in order of qualifying: seventh for Hulkenberg at +0.786, eighth for Russell with +0.831, ninth Zhou with +0.893 , Hamilton tenth with +0.928, Piastri with +0.945 in eleventh, Ocon in twelfth position with +0.946, with Magnussen in thirteenth position at +0.983 and finally Gasly at +1.129. In sixteenth position there is Tsunoda, who even with a gap of +1.178 from Pérez, is close to the fifteenth position which in the end is stolen from him by Bottas of the Alfa Romeo, by one hundredth of a second (+1.168). During the Q1, some bitter pills are certainly thrown away. Norris, for example, does not pass the cut due to contact with the barriers. Unable to improve, he ends up qualifying nineteenth at +1.686. After him in twentieth position there is Sargeant of the Williams, who due to a spin is forced to stop and doesn’t pass in Q2 (+39.749). The others excluded are Albon of the Williams (+1.233) and de Vries for AlphaTauri team (+1.483), respectively in seventeenth and eighteenth position. The unexpected, however, comes when Verstappen during the Q2 practically stops racing decelerating in the middle of the track and making the Q3 dream fade, slipping to fifteenth position with a time of +21.318 compared to the first, and his Red Bull teammate, Sergio Pérez , who scores 1'28"635, excellent once again. In second place we find an imperturbable Alonso at +0.122. As mentioned earlier, Leclerc instead has a step-by-step ascent for Ferrari team, winning third place in these Q2, with sector 3 better in terms of timing than the other drivers (+0.268). Sainz for Ferrari, takes a big risk during these Q2, due to an error in the first attempt, therefore enters to Q3 in a narrow way with an excellent second lap, finishing fourth at +0.322.
Leclerc passes third in Q2 and second in the final lap. The fifth position is for Aston Martin team with Stroll at +0.327 followed by the stable pace of Mercedes who takes sixth place at +0.497 with Russell and eighth at +0.739 with Hamilton. The Alpine, as previously mentioned, have an excellent free practice considering the coldness of the track, they earn seventh place with Ocon at +0.620. Amazement for Piastri of the McLaren who, considering his young age, conquers the ninth position at +0.743. Last to enter to Q3 was Gasly for Alpine team with +0.776. Besides Verstappen who would have started from fifteenth position on Sunday, the others excluded are: Hulkenberg at +0.816 in eleventh position, Zhou at +0.826 in twelfth, Magnussen at +0.882 in thirteenth, Bottas with +1.033 in fourteenth and Verstappen is the last one. Saturday ends with Q3 and a pole position for Sergio Pérez with a record time of 1'28"265, also concluding sector 2 with the fastest lap, proving to have an excellent feeling with the circuit. Leclerc grows up from the various qualifications. He goes straight from third position to second with a time of +0.155. However, due to a 10-place penalty, he will have to start twelfth. The cause of this collapse is the change of 3 control units, exceeding the regulation limit, which provides a maximum range of two control units for the entire Championship. Excellent performance by Alonso for Aston Martin, who conquers the podium with a third position at +0.465, certainly making the difference. Great lap for Russell who finishes fourth at +0.592, a little less for Hamilton, who takes eighth place (+0.958). Fifth position for Sainz (Ferrari) at + 0.666, probable result given by an understeer that plays a bad joke on him. The sixth position instead belongs to Stroll of the Aston Martin who, although recently recovered from a bad injury, holds the race quite decently (+0.680). Alpine is a team that could reserve some nice surprises, both cars are back in Q3, albeit with a tight score, they arrive: Ocon seventh at +0.813 and Gasly tenth at +1.092. Although in ninth place with +0.978, Piastri is the revelation of the McLaren team, even if he still has a lot to do to overcome a bit of a McLaren crisis. Charles Leclerc, who tested the long run for the longest time in free practice and slowly climbed the peaks during qualifying leaving his opponents behind, says:
"I'm happy with my lap, it was on the limit and we finished further up the order than we expected to in this session. However, our competitors are strong and we still have a lot of work to do. Our race pace looks solid this weekend. It's not easy to overtake on this track, so I will do my best to fight my way back to the front tomorrow".
Carlos Sainz on the other hand, who risked not qualifying for the thirds due to the mistake in Q2, releases these not very happy words:
"Not the best of qualifyings from my side to be honest. I struggled with the tyres into the first few corners and lost the time there. The rest of the lap felt good, but it wasn’t enough to make up for sector 1. My bad. However, the weekend is not over and we have the pace to fight for a step on the podium, so we’ll reset tonight and come back at it tomorrow in the race".
Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur on the use of extra tires due to Sainz' small mistake says:
"It was a decent quali for the team today with Charles P2, one tenth off Perez - which will become P12 with the penalty - and Carlos fifth fastest. Our pace was not too bad but we need a step forward. It’s a pity for Carlos because he had to put on a second set of Softs in Q2 and at the end, in Q3 he only had one set and made a small mistake, which probably cost him the front row. However, Carlos had good pace and he’ll start P4, which gives him a good opportunity. Looking at tomorrow, our race pace was good yesterday and on the long stints we had low degradation, also thanks to the fact this track is very grippy, very different to Bahrain. It could be a strange race because it’s quite easy on paper to overtake but actually, we could see a DRS train which could be a game changer. We need to find good track position and the right slot for the pit stops".
Moving on to the undisputed winners for this second date on the calendar, Sergio Perez on his feeling with the track and his rivals says:
"It was all about learning the conditions today. From FP1 to FP2 the track changes a lot, so it was good to test the car in varying temperatures. We had a bit of a mechanical issue, which meant there was slight inconsistency and we couldn’t get a proper read, but we’re confident we can sort it out before tomorrow. Once we fix that, it will hopefully bring us even more pace, but generally the performance is there as expected. I’m sure our rival teams will work hard overnight to close the gap and we look forward to a competitive showing tomorrow".
Max Verstappen, with a little melancholy, declares:
"I am feeling a lot better after a few rough days of illness, it wasn’t nice but I am feeling good now. Today out on track was about finetuning things, we had a positive day but there are still quite a few things we can do better. On the long runs we all seemed fairly close to each other but it’s more because of managing the tyres because they don’t really let you push around here at the moment. With a very low deg circuit then the lap times will always be very close, so it is definitely not going to be like Bahrain".
Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Alfa Romeo’s Team Representative talks about the lack of access of his team's drivers in Q3:
"We have made a step forward from yesterday and made up most of the gap we had from our rivals, which is testament to the good work done by our team here and in Hinwil overnight. We knew qualifying would be decided by the smallest margins, and indeed we missed out on a spot in Q3 with Zhou, who did an excellent job in the cockpit, by half a tenth - next to nothing on such a long track. Our qualifying performance was not dissimilar from what we did in Bahrain, and our aim is to have another strong race to put our cars in the points once again. Our race pace looks solid and we know we can execute a good race with both Zhou and Valtteri, so we are confident to be in the mix to retain our fifth place in the rankings tomorrow".
On the other hand Valtteri Bottas replies:
"The team did a good job, making improvements step by step throughout the weekend, and I think qualifying was the most positive session I have had so far: overall, pretty smooth. We were close to making it into Q3, and the car felt good, which gives me confidence ahead of the race. On the whole, our weekend had been a bit challenging until now, with some pace lacking in qualifying conditions: today was an improvement, and if we can have good race pace, we can be hopeful to put up a good fight tomorrow. Points are always the target and I am confident it’s a realistic one".
Zhou Guanyu frustrated about not qualifying for Q3 by half a tenth of a second says:
"I am quite happy with our performance today, and overall, satisfied about the step up in qualifying I made from Bahrain. There were no mistakes, and I was able to maximise everything I had. Unfortunately, we fell a bit short of Q3, and it is obviously frustrating to miss out on our target for just half a tenth. Nevertheless, I think we made a step forward as a team from where we were at the start of the weekend. The aim, like in every race, is to get in the mix for the top ten and bring home points - I think we can achieve that tomorrow".
Mixed emotions for McLaren, on one side there is Oscar Piastri happy with the result:
"P8 on the grid! It was nice to get into Q3. I'm super happy to be in the top ten and it was a good experience to do all three quali sessions. Now we'll work hard to make the most of this position and bring home a positive result in the race tomorrow".
On the other hand, Lando Norris is a little demotivated about what happened:
"I made a silly mistake, it's disappointing because it cost me a chance to go into Q3 today. The car was good and I was feeling comfortable out there. On the bright side it's a long race tomorrow, with plenty of opportunities, so I look forward to that. Hopefully, I can make up for the mistake and we can try to fight our way forwards".
On both, Andrea Stella, McLaren’s Team Principal adds:
"It has been a bittersweet qualifying today in Jeddah. On one side, it's a shame that Lando clipped the wall in Q1 and the steering arm broke, because otherwise he would certainly have been a contender for Q3. On the other hand, Oscar did excellent work to get into the final part of qualifying. He kept improving session-by-session through practice and run-by-run in qualifying where he put together clean laps and extracted the maximum from the car. Lando will have his chance tomorrow in the race, as the car looks competitive, and races here can often be eventful. I would like to thank very much all the team at the factory and trackside, for their hard work to deliver some upgrades at this race. Our aims this year are for more than simply being satisfied by making it into Q3, but this is an improvement that we welcome".
As mentioned before, Alpine have all the credentials to give a hard time to the great Olympus’ gods, to use a metaphor. On this, Esteban Ocon:
"That was an intense qualifying session and a strong performance all around, so a good job by the entire team. Overall, I'm happy with seventh today. We're starting in sixth with Charles' [Leclerc] penalty and it's all to play for from the third row tomorrow. During Qualifying, the car was the strongest it's felt all weekend and it's good to see that we've improved day by day, session by session, so credit to the team for that. Tomorrow we'll aim to have a clean race and bring both cars home in the points. It's a long race where strategy will be important and we're all fully focused on a strong result".
His teammate Pierre Gasly, on the other hand, is a little more fearful:
"I have mixed feelings after today's Qualifying. While I'm pleased to reach Q3, I still feel we came up a little bit short on our expectations today and there's some finer details we need to work on to make sure we extract the maximum from our package. It's great that we have both cars inside the top ten - credit to Esteban on a good job - and it means we're in a strong position for the race where the aim is to score solid points. Our race pace has been good, we showed that in Bahrain, and in Practice yesterday, and I'm feeling confident that double points are achievable".
Alan Permane, Alpine’s Sporting Director, says:
"Today's Qualifying is a significant improvement from the first race of the season and it's certainly satisfying to have both cars reach Q3 and starting in a competitive place on the grid for tomorrow's race. Esteban did a great job with a well-executed session, which he built up lap by lap, and delivered when he needed to in an extremely tight field, split by small margins. It was important for Pierre to have a smooth session, especially after Bahrain Qualifying. He's now put himself in contention for strong points tomorrow and we're certainly feeling good with how our long run pace has looked so far this season. A decent job today, some small details to fix, and we're looking forward to seeing what we can achieve tomorrow with both cars".
Among the oldest but modest gods is Fernando Alonso who, as regards the times of his opponents and the type of track, declares:
"All in all we have to be very happy with starting on the first row of the grid tomorrow. It is a very different circuit compared to Bahrain and to see us fighting in Q3 again is a positive sign. The track did evolve during the session, but maybe not as much as we anticipated, especially from Q2 to Q3. Our strength in this package has been on the long runs, so hopefully we can optimise this as much as possible tomorrow. It is very tight between a number of teams so tomorrow will be an interesting battle for sure. But with both cars starting inside the top five positions, our main goal is to come away from this race with as many points as possible".
Lance Stroll on the long run and his little mistake at turn 22 declares:
"The team delivered a really strong qualifying performance today and we have put ourselves in a great position to fight for a good haul of points in the race tomorrow. We were not sure whether the pace we saw in Bahrain would translate to such a different circuit here in Jeddah, but the car felt good and we were able to keep pushing the limits throughout qualifying. My final lap was going well, and I went purple in the first sector, but I made a small mistake at Turn 22 and lost two or three tenths. Still, starting fifth is a good result; we have a competitive race car, and there is all to play for tomorrow”.
Mike Krack, Aston Martin Team Principal confident about starting from the front row:
"A strong performance by the entire team this week gives us a great opportunity and confidence for tomorrow. We will start from the front row with Fernando and fifth with Lance, and we will continue pushing hard to convert today's speed into results tomorrow. The lead up to qualifying was pretty smooth: we did our homework on Friday and in final practice, and both drivers were happy with the car balance heading into qualifying. We expect a very close race tomorrow with the teams around us. It is usually an intense race here; it can be unpredictable, and you always have to be reactive and avoid mistakes. But we are ready to fight and we know we have a good race car".
George Russell is confident on the possibility of playing between Ferrari and Aston Martin:
"We have exceeded the potential and our own expectations to be ahead of an Aston Martin and a Ferrari. It is a solid job; we put in a lot of work overnight. The team back at Brackley were working hard in the simulator and we did a lot of work trackside this morning to try and get more out of the package. We know we are not in the fight for pole just yet, but you have to maximise what you've got, and we certainly did that today. We have a fight on our hands tomorrow, most likely with the Aston Martins and the Ferraris. We will be pushing hard to get on the podium and seeing what we can do. This Team has higher standards and expectations for themselves than just finishing in the top three, but we will be giving everything we've got to be standing there on Sunday".
Lewis Hamilton is a bit down for the performance during qualifying:
"I struggled a little bit today, but we just need to keep trying. No matter what changes we've been making, we've been struggling to extract the speed, and I just don't feel properly connected to the car at the moment. That is something we will work on to improve the confidence in the next races. George did a great job today though and he wasn't that far off some of the cars at the front, so we just need to keep pushing. It wasn't the greatest of days but there are improvements for the Team. Tomorrow is a new day, and we will keep working at it".
Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ Team Principal & CEO, on the technical side of the performance of the two riders declares:
"I think today is about where we expected to be. We know the deficits that we have and two tenths faster or slower can move us up or down a few positions; we know we need to make bigger steps forward than this, though, in the races to come. I think pace-wise tomorrow we are with the Aston Martins and the Ferraris; at least that is per the long runs yesterday, so we should be able to play around in the race. Lewis's lap looked a bit sticky in sector one, so we need to look into that. The time never came together for him, but he was as fast or faster than George in the rest of the lap, and we need to evaluate what effect the differences in set-up had" .
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director, says instead:
"It's been a difficult weekend to get the car in the right place and I don't think George could have got any more out of it with his laps in the final session. We've benefited from Max's issues and Charles' penalty to end up third on the grid, but George still had to get ahead of a number of key cars that were all pretty quick.Lewis had a tough time through the sessions, struggling with the balance and grip in the first sector.He had a very solid morning so it's a bit of a surprise but hopefully we'll see strong pace tomorrow.The race here normally has a few incidents so how well you do is often a function of whether they fall at the right times.Only a few places separate our cars so it gives us an opportunity to split them on strategies so we can cover the bases. Hopefully we'll be a bit kinder on the tires than we were in Bahrain;we've tried to work on the setup to achieve that and we 'll find out tomorrow if we've made progress".
Kevin Magnussen, a bit embittered about the fact that if it hadn't been for a problem with the brakes, less than a tenth separated him from reaching Q3, says:
"It was less than two tenths, and we had some issues on the car so it's a shame when it's so tight. I think it was a fast car today and Q3 was there but better luck next time. Our problem was brakes related and the car also wouldn't downshift properly. We're not in a horrible position for tomorrow so let's give it a good one".
Nico Hulkenberg, always on the missed Q3, confesses:
"It's always so tight, there are very fine margins. My first lap time got deleted and that obviously took the banker away, so Q3 might've been possible, but small things make a difference. Moving up to P10 isn't bad and we can definitely race from there, so we'll give it our all tomorrow. I'm confident we have decent pace in the midfield pack".
Guenther Steiner, Haas’ Team Principal, is confident:
"We're pretty happy with our qualifying result even if it could be a little bit better. It's all theoretical but we could get two cars into Q3 - I think we have the performance - but Q2 wasn't flawless. Kevin had problems with his gear shifting and the gearbox, and brake issues.Nico also had a bit of a brake issue, and we were a little bit on the backfoot with timings because of the weighbridge and in the end, we didn't make it.The field is so tight but it shows that the car is there and tomorrow we will start P10 and P13, which is a good position to score points from - I can see the progress we're making".
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance at Williams, says:
"Q1 was incredibly tight and today we were just on the wrong side of the cut-off. Although Logan's first lap was deleted, his pace was legitimate and showed what the car was capable of. Alex struggled a bit more to get the tires into a state where he was comfortable to attack the start of the lap and was therefore unable to get everything out of the car over a single lap Logan will have learned a lot from today and although he is frustrated at the result, this experience will be invaluable going forward.It is disappointing not to have progressed further into qualifying, but the car had good pace at high fuel yesterday and both drivers can have strong races tomorrow".
Alex Albon on the tyres:
"We struggled with the rear tires in qualifying, so we'll have a look and understand why. We've been quick all weekend so it's just frustrating. Looking to tomorrow, we have a decent car in the race so I think we can do a good job. Today is obviously disappointing but hopefully we can turn something around for tomorrow".
Logan Sargeant, bitter about his fast lap not calculated due to the marginal entry into the pit lane:
"I put in a very fast lap but it was deleted as I crossed the pit lane entry by a margin. There was no performance gain so it's frustrating, but I still had two more laps to deliver and I didn't, so my apologies go to the team as they deserved more today. We need to take the positives from today, put this behind us and bounce back. The car is quick, we have a lot of straight-line speed and fortunately it can be a crazy race here in Jeddah and there can be a lot of positions to pick up.Although I've given myself a lot more work than I needed to, I'm quite optimistic about tomorrow and I'll make it up to the team".
Yuki Tsunoda, one step away from fifteenth position and only a cent away from it for the access to Q2 confesses:
"We ended up P16, one-hundredth of a second from P15. It is definitely a shame, but I'm happy with the lap I put together and how we progressed throughout qualifying. As for the car itself, we have to find some more grip and performance to consistently get into Q2 and Q3.Overall, I think we could benefit from what we learned over the last couple of days, so the team did a good job there.Tomorrow is a new day and I hope the race pace will be good. My main target will be to focus on myself, give one hundred per cent, and score some points".
Nyck de Vries about going to qualifying without free practice on Saturday declares:
"Jumping into qualifying without driving any laps in FP3 made it a tricky day. Given the unique layout of the circuit, getting the tires into the right window for a flying lap is difficult, so I heavily locked up the rears going into Turn 1. My last run was pretty decent though, but we lost a lot in the last sector. It's a shame we missed that, and I am disappointed because the potential to make it into Q2 was there. We want to be further ahead, and the team is working together closely to extract the most out of the car".
Jody Egginton, Technical Director, justifying both riders in one way or another, states:
"Today has not been as straightforward as it should have been. We identified an issue with Nyck's car during the fire-up today and, being time-limited, we elected to change the PU meaning he missed out on FP3 running, which is far from ideal as it's his first time here.However, all credit to his mechanics for getting the car turned around efficiently.Yuki completed his program but struggled a bit more than yesterday with grip and balance in FP3, meaning both sides of the garage went into qualifying on the back foot for one reason or another. Nyck pushed hard in Q1 from the very beginning and came unstuck with a spin on his first run, but the car was undamaged and he recovered very well on his second run. Unfortunately, he only lost out on Q2 due to hitting the energy limit a bit early, so we need to look into this Yuki ran the planned qualifying program without too much fuss and was also super close to making the cut, missing out by only 0.01 seconds to Bottas In the end, no but tter how close we may have been, we haven't made it into Q2 in what is a very tight midfield. As such, the aero updates for R03 are eagerly anticipated to start moving the car's performance forwards. Our thoughts now shift to the race where we will focus on getting both cars moving forward to take advantage of any opportunities which might present themselves".
Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, focuses on the technical side of the tyres and their performance declares:
"We saw an interesting qualifying with plenty of memorable moments. The C4 also showed itself to be a very versatile tyre in the final session that determined the grid, both on a flying lap as well as over longer runs. Q1 demonstrated how it was possible to have a good level of grip also on the second and third attempts with the same set of tyres, using cool-down laps in between. The opportunity to have a tyre with these characteristics already presented itself on certain circuits last year, and we've seen that once more here today. On an unusual track like Jeddah, the method of preparing the tyres varied from team to team: another element that underlined the particular characteristics of the C4 combined with those of the different teams using them. From a strategy point of view, all the data collected so far this weekend confirms a one-stopper as being the quickest option, with only small differences between the three possible combinations. This is also bearing in mind the high likelihood of neutralisations and possible stoppages, from what we have seen at the two previous grands prix held here to date".
Down in Saturday’s evening the typical coming and going of engineers and mechanics enliven the starting straight of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, while the drivers suit up and focus for the upcoming race. The starting grid sees Perez’s RedBull occupy the first position, followed by Fernando Alonso, George Russell and Carlos Sainz. Stroll, Ocon, Hamilton, Piastri, Gasly and Hulkenberg close the top 10. The reigning World Champion Max Verstappen will start only fifteenth due to what happened during Q2, and Charles Leclerc will start from P12 grid slot, having to discount a 10-grid penalty due to further power unit changes at his Ferrari. Most drivers will start with medium tyres, expect from Leclerc who is on softs. On Sunday, March 19, at 8.00 p.m. local time, lights go out and the third edition of the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix begins. Alonso makes his first move and manages to take the lead into Turn 1 passing Perez, but only a few moments later the stewards notice an incorrect starting location by the Aston Martin driver, as he has stopped to the left of his grid box, meaning he will have to discount a 5-seconds penalty. In the meantime, Perez does not wast any time so that as soon as the DRS is available, immediately tries and succeeds to regain the position on Alonso. In the back, shortly after the start, there is a contact between Piastri's McLaren and Gasly's Alpine; due to the collision, the Australian rookie is forced to pit, followed also by teammate Lando Norris as he has ran over the debris damaging his car. Leclerc and Verstappen start their climb back up through the field. Ferrari’s bold choice to put soft tires turns out to be very convenient as it allows Leclerc to easily overcome the train of slower cars ahead. The Ferrari’s driver is only temporarily braked by Lewis Hamilton, who receives a black and white flag for weaving down the straights, so the Monegasque manages to pass him with DRS. By Lap 5 of 50, Leclerc has climbed to P9 and Verstappen to P11. On Lap 10 the order is as follows: Perez is still leading, followed by Alonso, Russell, Stroll, Sainz, Ocon, Leclerc, Hamilton, Gasly and Verstappen, who shortly after overtakes the Frenchman assuring P9. The first pit stop action begins on Lap 12, when Zhou, Hulkenberg, Bottas and Stroll travel the pitlane.
Four laps later, also the Ferraris are called to the box: a move that initially seems to benefit the team, except that immediately after Stroll is forced to stop his car on track unleashing a VSC that turns then into a Safety Car, compromising the Ferrari’s strategy, while the rest of the front-runners into the pit lane not loses their position. Most of the drivers switch to hard tyres, aside from Hamilton, Sargeant (P15), Zhou (P17), Bottas (P18) and Norris (P19), who all put on a set of medium tyres. When the Safety Car leaves the track at Lap 21, Perez holds his lead in front of Alonso, Russell and Verstappen, now running in fourth position, with Sainz, Hamilton, Leclerc, Ocon and Gasly closing the top 10. One lap later, Hamilton makes a move on Sainz for P5, while the other Mercedes of Russell comes under attack from Verstappen who manages to pass it with DRS. The Dutchman also tries successfully to take the position on Alonso and jumps up to P2. Both Red Bulls are now leading the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix. Further back, Albon reports a brake failure, which forces him to go back to the Williams garage, finishing his race prematurely. Russell, who is currently in front of his teammate, radioes the team to suggest to avoid fighting over position, even though Hamilton is proving to be quicker with his medium tyres. Leclerc, currently driving in P7, complains about lack of pace; but he isn’t the only one feeling his car not at the 100%,as the leader Perez expresses concerns about a long brake pedal and Verstappen reports an unusual feeling from the driveshaft. Between the two Red Bull’s drivers and the pit wall begins a back and forth to understand if there is a team order for swapping position or if the drivers are free to push until the end of the race. No further communication seems to be coming, so Perez pushes and takes the win, closing once again with a double podium for Red Bull as Verstappen takes the second place. The two drivers are followed again by Alonso, who takes the second podium for Aston Martin in this season. Russell takes P4, ahead of Hamilton and the two Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc. Ocon, Gasly and Magnussen complete the top 10. Tsunoda, Hulkenberg, Zhou, De Vries, Piastri, Sargeant, Norris and Bottas close the ranking.
Alonso is investigated post-race for serving his penalty incorrectly due to the rear jack mechanic starting working on the car too early. The stewards decide to give a 10-seconds penalty, which drops Alonso from P3 to P4 and promotes Russell to the podium. But following a Right of Review from Aston Martin, the stewards reverse their decision, so Alonso takes back the podium, thus officially signing his 100 podium in his career. Bad race for Williams. Dave Robson, Head of Williams Vehicle Performance, leaves Jeddah with mixed feelings. Despite the positive aspects, there is a feeling of frustration for not being able to earn points:
"The pace was good today and Alex had a good chance of finishing in the top 10. Unfortunately, he was forced to retire with an issue in the mechanical brake system, which we will investigate and fix before the next race. This is a shame as a lot of good work was done here and in Grove on Friday evening to prepare the cars for the race. Logan's race was compromised by the Safety Car, which left him with a lengthy stint on the Medium tyre and a defensive race against a close group of cars. He eventually lost a few places to faster cars but gave a good performance in his 2nd Formula 1 race. We can take a lot of positives away from this weekend but at the same time we missed a good opportunity to score some more points and we must make some improvements to succeed in a very tight midfield".
Also for Alex Albon the positivity is accompanied by frustration; even though he felt the car very strong over the weekend, he was forced to retire for a technical problem:
"It was a frustrating day, as this weekend we felt really strong as a team and I've been really impressed with where the car is compared to where we were last year. It's been such a pleasure getting to drive the car and unfortunately when it mattered in qualifying, we couldn't quite execute, followed by the issue in the race, so it's frustrating as we could have scored points this weekend. I'd much rather be disappointed, knowing the car has got pace than just finishing at the back, so it's a different kind of disappointment with lots of positives and the opportunity to turn it around and come back fighting".
Despite the difficulties, Logan Sargeant feels satisfied and starts to be more and more familiar and confident with an F1 car:
"Today I struggled a bit more than yesterday. The first 30 laps or so were pretty good and then I just struggled there at the end to keep a hold of the tyres, we were losing a lot of grip. Nevertheless, we made it through another one and learned a lot. I definitely feel more confident ahead of the next race. I showed this weekend that on a difficult track I can be really quick, so I can take that going into Melbourne and hopefully replicate and keep improving. Over the past two races I've learned an enormous amount; I feel like everything is becoming more natural and I'm trying to get things to become second nature and keep implementing them. It's not going to happen all at once, it's more a case of constantly building and understanding better".
Mixed feeling also for Yuki Tsunoda; the car seemed to be doing very well but this good feeling didn’t turn into points for the team:
"I ended the race in P11, it's frustrating to lose the position with only four laps to go. The team did a really great job, everything went perfectly. The pace on the medium tyre was very strong and it improved compared to qualifying. I'm happy with what the team and I achieved together, but at the same time, I’m disappointed we didn’t reach the points in the end. We’ll come back stronger with updates in Melbourne, so we are already fully focussed on the next race, where we will do our best to maximise our performance. We'll continue to work hard to be able to fight at the top of the midfield and start scoring points consistently".
The rookie Nyck de Vries feels to not having given the maximum struggling to find the rhythm during the race:
"I didn’t do a good enough job today. I lost most of my momentum at the start and restart, so I got stuck in traffic. It's difficult to regain that rhythm and make up the positions, especially when you’re caught in a DRS train. I didn’t attack enough and struggled to find the balance between managing the tyres well and pushing, so I was unable to get them to the right temperature. In the end, when I was in clean air chasing Zhou, my pace was very strong and consistent. Generally, it was a step up from Bahrain, so that’s a positive. We definitely need to keep going and continue to push".
Jody Egginton, AlphaTauri’s Technical Director, describes the weekend as solid and positive thanks to the strategy which worked well. Egginton also appears confident as there are many positive aspects from which work on in order to improve in the next races.
"Both drivers delivered a solid race putting in consistent lap times tonight. The strategy was good, and the double stack pitstop under the Safety Car worked well as we gained track position. We achieved this as both drivers managed the medium tyre very well, meaning we could extend the first stint and not lose time to our midfield competitors, who stopped for the hard compound earlier. This strategy, together with the Safety Car, put Yuki into the fight for the final points positions tonight. Although Yuki put up a good fight for eighth, the Alpines were quicker and he couldn't keep them behind for long. However, he was able to fight with Magnussen for P10 for most of the final stint, defending from consistent pressure and only losing out in the last laps for the final point, finishing P11. We weren't able to move Nyck into the points with the strategy, but he made some progress from his starting position, had some good battles, and was putting in solid lap times on both compounds tonight. It’s frustrating to miss out on a point, but there were positives to take from the drivers and team’s performance tonight. We're now looking forward to the planned aero developments and we trust they will improve our performance in the upcoming events".
Esteban Ocon appears satisfied with the result obtained, honestly saying that they could not wish for more. The car has potential and the French driver hopes to be able to progress in the next GPs:
"Overall, I would say it's been a reasonable race for the team. The final result reflects our performance in the race and eighth place is the maximum we could have achieved today. Having both cars in the points is definitely positive, especially after Bahrain, but we must not be completely satisfied with where we are at the moment. Our car has potential and we will continue learning and building to catch up to our competitors. We want to challenge for positions higher up the grid, and we will keep working hard to do that. We will debrief on this weekend and our attention will quickly turn to Australia where we'll aim for more".
Teammate Pierre Gasly is also pleased with the result achieved and hopeful about future improvements:
"It's definitely satisfying to make it two points finishes from my first two races with the team. I think finishing in eighth and ninth was the best we could achieve today, though. We're making positive steps; we're learning things each time we get in the car and we must continue to apply that knowledge to keep improving the overall package. On my side, there's more to come, especially in extracting the maximum in Qualifying, which will allow us better track position for the Race. I'm looking forward to debriefing with the team, continuing my learning and going again in Australia where we want to show further improvements".
Otmar Szafnauer, Alpine’s Team Principal, also appears satisfied, closing this weekend with the knowledge that there is already a good foundation on which work:
"Today's race highlighted many things: areas where we know there are positives and other areas where we need to improve. Finishing with Esteban in eighth and Pierre in ninth was probably the best we could achieve today and we're making steps in the right direction towards our targets. We're not where we want to be right now, that is clear, and we have a lot of hard work ahead of us if we're to take the fight further up the grid. We've reeled in some of the teams who were in front of us in the championship last year and we must continue to chip away at that gap and close it. As a team we'll debrief on this weekend as there are many positives as well as some finer details for us to improve on. We have a good batch of upgrades coming up as per our development plan and we look forward to Australia in two weeks' time where we aim to apply our learnings and again come away with a good team result".
George Russell, despite losing the podium after the stewards’ decision to cancel Alonso’s penalty, is very pleased with the team’s hard work and the car performance that allowed him to earn some great points:
"When you put the hard work in and it pays dividends, you come away feeling satisfied. We finished ahead of both Ferraris on merit today and we know we've got a lot of performance to come soon. The gap to the Red Bulls is still considerable, but we'll take the positives from the weekend, keep fighting as hard as we can and focusing on ourselves. It was an interesting race. After the Safety Car I was on the hard tyre and Lewis was behind on the medium. He had a bit more pace at the beginning, but I knew my pace would come at the end. Fernando deserved to be on the podium today and I was pleased with P4. I'm not complaining too much about taking home a trophy though, and we will take the extra points".
Lewis Hamilton has struggled a bit during both qualifying and race, but believes there are still some positive things to work on:
"We got some great points as a Team today. George getting third is amazing and I was able to move forward from seventh to fifth, which is the main thing. If I had qualified better then maybe I could have got a better result, but we still got some points. My set-up this weekend has been the biggest issue I've faced. I got it wrong for Qualifying and it wasn't good in the race either, so I struggled today. We were trying to go long on the hard tyre, but the Safety Car came out, so I had to pit. We just about managed to make the medium work, but it was a long second stint. We didn't have the same tyre degradation as we did in Bahrain, though. We were a lot closer to some of those ahead and it's great to be in the top five, ahead of the Ferraris. There is lots to work on but there are positives to take away from this weekend".
Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ Team Principal & CEO, is confident and believes the team is heading in the right direction:
"Today was positive and we'd rather take a small trophy home than none. I think we saw some performance gains to Bahrain which is encouraging. It shows us that the development trajectory is going in the right direction. I think both of our drivers under our guidance probably over-managed their tyres a bit, and we had a little more pace. Bahrain is still in our heads, and we could have maybe pushed more. It was a strong driver from George and a great recovery from Lewis to get solid points. Red Bull are still far away in terms of performance and that won't be easy to catch. Nevertheless, today we've seen that our development is heading in the way we want to head".
Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director, thinks that the team have maximized the potential of the car, earning points and making steps ahead:
"A good effort by the team and both drivers today to collect some very useful points and clearly a pleasing end to the weekend for George picking up third place. The car is hard work to get into the right window and it's not as easy for the drivers as it needs to be, but we've certainly found a better balance than in Bahrain and it has been a lot kinder on its tyres. We're under no illusion that we have a lot of work to do. We've been busy at the factory searching for performance and the initial findings are encouraging which gives us the motivation to keep working hard to improve. Today, we did exactly what we needed to do, which is to maximise the potential in what we have. We're looking forward to the next race in Melbourne; it's closer in characteristics to Saudi than Bahrain, so hopefully we'll have a car that we can fight for a podium. If there is any more performance that we can bring we'll make sure we get it to the track".
Kevin Magnussen is very pleased with his race and the point he has managed to earn:
"A point means a lot. We didn’t start the weekend on the right foot but it seemed like we really turned things around and found a groove for qualifying. Unfortunately, we had this issue with the gearbox that we didn’t have today, which was really nice. We were able to have a good race, get a good start, manage the tires well - especially on the hard compound when I was on older tires than Tsunoda and actually had less degradation. I was then able to get past him at the end, and we managed to get a point".
Nico Hulkenberg admits that the track was a bit of a challenge for him, but feels happy with how the car is going, proving to be competitive:
"It was eventful. It’s always a massive challenge here on this track and it was tight. On one hand I’m disappointed I missed out on a point, but on the other hand I’m very pleased that I completed the race and we’ve learned a lot. The underlying positive news is that we’re competitive. It was difficult to judge in Bahrain with damage, but here today we’re definitely competitive in the midfield and that makes me happy".
Guenther Steiner, Haas’ Team Principal, is very happy with the point earned and how the team and drivers have been working all weekend, and believes they are going in the right direction:
"First point this season. We had the speed but didn’t luck into it as some people were in a better position after the safety car, but the drivers fought hard, and we got a point. The whole team performed flawlessly all weekend, they kept their heads up and everyone just kept on pushing. That’s what we’re going to be doing all season long and I’m really looking forward to going to Australia now. As I said after Bahrain, I didn’t really know where we were with the car, but we now know where we think we are. We’re in the mix, we’re actually pretty good I think - it’s all coming together. We didn’t panic after Bahrain - now we’re cautiously optimistic".
Oscar Piastri appears disappointed after the collision that prematurely ended his race:
"Obviously it's not the day we were looking for, there was contact at the beginning where I lost part of my front wing. I'm not sure if there was anything I could have done really, I was squeezed a little bit. There was some good racing at the end, which was nice and obviously I did a long stint on the Hards, so it's good to get a bit of learning for the tyres but overall, it's not what we were looking for tonight".
Also for the other McLaren driver, Lando Norris, no luck this weekend as a damage on his car compromised his race:
"Tough race, we were very unlucky today. I had a really good start but then got hit with debris which damaged my front wing. We did our best to try to come out with something, but no luck was on our side. We did the best job we could, working as a team, but it was difficult to achieve anything more than what we did. So, it's tough, but now our focus is on Australia where we hope to do a better job".
Andrea Stella, McLaren’s Team Principal, after starting the weekend with expectations on scoring some points, appears dissatisfied as the two accidents compromised the race of both drivers:
"After beginning the race with high hopes of scoring points, we had both cars at the back of the pack after the first lap and we come away from Jeddah empty-handed. Oscar had contact at the first corner, which required him to pit with a broken front wing, while Lando hit the debris coming off Oscar's car and also suffered a broken front wing. We're racers, we take these things on the chin, and we will be even more determined to succeed when we get to Australia. Before we go to Melbourne, we know we have work to do to improve our car, and that will be our immediate focus".
Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Alfa Romeo’s Team Representative, came to Jeddah with high expectations but is very disappointed with how the weekend went. However, there is still confidence and faith:
"Starting where we were on the grid, we were expecting to fight for the points, but, unfortunately, we weren’t able to finish in the top ten this time around. The team had a difficult weekend, and we weren’t able to be at the level for which we aimed: we’ll need to go back to base, analyse the data from this performance and understand where we’ve fallen short, and what steps we need to make to return to the level we were in Bahrain. We are confident we can make it there in Melbourne, where we will also bring some updates to further improve the performance of our C43. We need to keep working hard, of course: the season is long and the battle will be intense in each race".
It wasn’t Valtteri Bottas’ weekend; the Finn comments that he did not have grip and feeling with the car, struggling during all race:
"Our qualifying performance yesterday was similar to the one we had in Bahrain, so we had good hopes for tonight, but unfortunately the race was a very different affair. The car didn’t feel right, we couldn’t get any grip from the beginning of the race and we need to figure out exactly what happened. I ran over a large piece of debris on lap one, so perhaps I was carrying some damage to the floor: we’ll look at the car and at the data and understand more to prepare for Melbourne. I believe our car is much better than what we’ve shown tonight: Zhou had a much better pace, so I don’t think this weekend was very representative, and I am confident we can be back fighting for points in Australia".
On the other hand, Zhou Guanyu has felt the car strong but the SC unfortunately compromised his race:
"We looked strong in the first stint, our pace was good and it seemed the top ten was within reach. Of course, track position always makes the difference on street circuits like this one, and, unfortunately, I got stuck in a DRS train once the Safety Car came out. My race was compromised from that moment onwards, and there wasn’t much more we could do. Today just hasn’t been our day, but I think we can achieve much more as a team going forward. We get a new chance in a few weeks in Melbourne, where we will be bringing some upgrades to our car: hopefully they’ll allow us to make the step forward we need to continue fighting for points. We’re have shown we can do it and that we can fight towards the front, and I am confident we can achieve that again in Australia".
Pérez, despite the misunderstandings with the team during the final stint on keeping or not a certain pace, admits that he has enjoyed the race a lot:
"No, I did enjoy the race to be honest. I enjoyed it a lot, especially at the end, just pushing each other with the lap times knowing that he went a tenth faster, tenth slower, tenth slower, and it was all pretty intense. Then we were told to maintain a certain pace, then I was told again to push then to maintain the pace - so it was just a bit all over the place. I didn’t get a good launch, something I need to work on with the engineers to make sure we fix that, and Fernando just had a better start, and we lost a position, but I knew that it was not the end of the world - it’s a 50-lap race, it’s a pretty long one, and it’s more important to manage my tyres at the time, don’t get mad and making sure I was able to do my own race. Once I got past Fernando, I could do… my race, but once again when that Safety Car came out, it reminded me all over of Jeddah last year again and I was like ‘not again’ but luckily we hadn’t pitted at the time so yeah, it was a new race after the Safety Car again. Very early on, Max came back and we were basically towards the end just making sure we get that healthy gap between myself and Max but that meant we were pushing quite hard and trying to get to maintain the gap".
Max Verstappen, starting from the fifteenth position, had to make his way through the grid, concluding in second position, a result that does not make the Dutchman entirely satisfied:
"My first weekend [in Bahrain] was not very clean, because of just the big balance shift from testing to the race weekend, some other things which were going on in the background, and now again after three positive practice sessions of course I have an issue in qualifying. Of course, I recovered to second which is good, and in general the whole feeling in the team, everyone is happy, but personally I'm not happy, because I'm not here to be second. Especially when you are also working very hard also back at the factory to make sure you are arrive here in a good state, making sure everything is spot on, and then you have to do a recovery race - which I like, I mean I don't mind doing it - but when you are fighting for a championship and it looks like it's between two cars, we have to make sure the two cars are reliable. I never really think about it, but I think realistically with or without the Safety Car, I think P2 was the highest possible. The beginning, the first few laps were really hard to follow cars because of the street circuit, the fast corners, the walls are all very close, you get kind of a tailwind effect, and the car is a bit all over the place. After a few laps it all started to settle in a bit better and I could pick them off one by one, and the pace was good. The Safety Car of course helped me a bit to get back in the race, but even with that in the restart you just lose too much time to Checo [Perez], for example. So, once I got into P2, it was quite a decent gap on a track where there is not a lot of deg. I tried to close the gap a bit, but at one point I picked up these vibrations on the driveshaft, on the rear. The team could not see anything, but I'm fairly sure there was something odd going on with the balance since the vibrations started to kick in. At one point I did the calculations; I wouldn't have been able to close that gap to the end with only 10 laps to left, so at one point I think it is more important to just settle for second, not having an issue with the car".
Carlos Sainz does not hide his disappointment and hopes for an improvement in the upcoming races:
"It was a tough Sunday. Going into the race and looking at the sessions over the weekend, we were expecting a better race pace. We have work to do and we know the car is not where we want it to be at the moment. However, we will keep pushing and I am fully confident we can improve the situation".
Charles Leclerc, after a very good start with the softs that allowed him a quick come-up, did not have the pace he expected with the hard tyres and that compromised the rest of his race:
"There wasn’t much more we could have extracted today. Our first stint on the Softs was pretty strong and I could push, making up some positions. Just after we switched to Hards, the Safety Car came out so unfortunately we didn’t gain an advantage there. Our pace was not as good as we expected on the Hards and the rest of the race was spent in a train with Carlos. We have work to do on our race pace and will push to come back stronger in Australia".
Frédéric Vasseur, Ferrari’s Team Principal, is feeling unsatisfied with the performance of the cars today, despite the good strategy adopted:
"Overall, we can’t be satisfied with today’s result. We did not have the pace we were expecting from our car, especially on the Hard tyre. There was also a big gap in our performance level between qualifying and the race. However, there were some positives today, starting with Charles’ pace on the Soft tyres which was good and allowed him to make up six positions on his first stint. Carlos also ran well on the Mediums. Our strategy was on point and our pit crew executed two good stops. There is still a long way to go this season and we will continue to fight. We are fully committed to maximising our package and further developing the SF-23 for the coming rounds".
Fernando Alonso does not hide his enthusiasm, feeling very glad of his second podium with Aston Martin and the performance of the car:
"I am happy in the end with the result tonight and our second podium. We showed that we can be the second fastest team and we had good pace throughout the race. It was my mistake at the start with the position on the grid, but we pushed to make up that time. Coming into this weekend we were not sure exactly where we would be, so this is good news for us going into the next few races. I am looking forward to Australia next".
Lance Stroll leaves Saudi Arabia with a sour taste in his mouth as he had to retire the car:
"It was disappointing to retire from the Grand Prix after such a promising weekend. I had a great start and really enjoyed overtaking Carlos [Sainz] around the outside of Turn 13. We were in a good position on track and I was having fun pushing, but then I started experiencing reduced power and got the call to stop the car. It is not the result we wanted, but we leave Saudi Arabia knowing that we have a very competitive car and we will pick up the fight next time out in Australia".
Mike Krack, Aston Martin’s Team Principal, is satisfied with the podium and the car's performance, despite the displeasure for Stroll's retirement:
"It is very satisfying to score our second podium of the year with Fernando here in Jeddah. It is Fernando's 100th career podium, which is a very impressive milestone. The car has been competitive throughout the weekend and we showed strong race pace once again tonight. Full credit to everyone in the team for their hard work this week. It is a real shame that Lance was forced to retire early with an energy recovery issue, the cause of which is still being investigated, because he had strong pace and would surely have scored big points tonight as well".
Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, comments that everything seems to have gone as predicted both from strategies perspective and tyre behaviour:
"The third Saudi Arabian Grand Prix went largely as we expected it to; both from the point of view of strategies as well as that of tyre behaviour. Eighty per cent of the drivers chose the medium at the start, which ensured maximum flexibility in the event of a race neutralisation - which duly happened for the third time in three years of racing here. The arrival of the Safety Car following Lance Stroll's retirement coincided with the pit stop window, which meant that the drivers who hadn't made a stop so far were able to take advantage of this neutralisation to put on the hard tyre. The performance gaps between the compounds also fitted in with our expectations, and that was the case for degradation as well. This was practically nothing on the medium and hard tyres, and quite limited on the soft used by Charles Leclerc: the only driver to have carried out a significant stint on this compound. The absence of degradation was what allowed even the drivers who had fitted the hard tyre before the safety car came out - such as Kevin Magnussen and Oscar Piastri, who completed 42 and 49 laps on it respectively - to push all the way to the end, with both of them pulling off some great passing moves in the closing stages. The medium also showed a lot of consistency, as underlined by Lewis Hamilton, who was able to take advantage of its superior performance compared to the hard in order to get past Carlos Sainz shortly after the re-start".
Verstappen now leads the drivers’ standings with 44 points, one ahead of Perez and 14 ahead of Alonso, while Red Bull top the constructors’ battle by 49 points from Aston Martin and Mercedes. The next stop will be the Australian Grand Prix, which will take place from March 31 to April 2.