The Red Bull team, led by Dutch drivers Max Verstappen and Mexican Sergio Perez, is seeking to assert its dominance in the opening stage of the Formula One World Championship, when it enters the second stage in the Saudi Grand Prix, while Ferrari is trying to restore balance after the disappointment of its driver Charles Leclerc from Monaco in Bahrain.
Red Bull achieved the double at the Sakhir circuit on Sunday before last, with Verstappen, the world champion in the last two years, occupying first place in front of his colleague Perez and the new Aston Martin driver, Spanish veteran Fernando Alonso (41 years), world champion in 2005 and 2006.
On the other hand, the Ferrari team received a severe blow in the opening race, with the withdrawal of its driver, Leclerc, on the forty-first lap due to a mechanical problem, and he will enter the Sunday race with a penalty of returning him 10 places for replacing the electronic control component in the power unit twice, while his second Spanish driver, Carlos Sainz, came fourth.
It seems that the Red Bull team, which also won the world title for manufacturers last year, is far ahead of its competitors and is a candidate to consolidate its dominance in the Jeddah circuit.
And the young British Mercedes driver, George Russell, commented after Red Bull won the double in Bahrain, saying that the Red Bull team had already “paved the way” to the first category title after one race, after tightening its grip on the early stages of the season.
He saw Russell, who finished seventh: they made their way to this championship title. I don’t think anyone is going to fight with them this year.
For his part, Verstappen said: After a good start in Bahrain, I do not expect the task to be easy in Jeddah, as it is a completely different circuit and where we will need the car to be fast.
“However, with the corners so fast, I think we will have a competitive car on this circuit.”
The Ferrari team will aspire to a strong reaction in Saudi Arabia after the disappointment of the Bahrain race, specifically the withdrawal of Leclerc due to a mechanical problem and Fred Sainz in third place in the last laps.
But the weekend will not be easy for the “wild horse” team, especially its driver, Leclerc, who is punished by falling 10 places in the start, after the son of Monaco had to replace the electronic control component of the power unit twice in the opening race.
Brilliant Aston Martin
In just one race, Leclerc reached the maximum number allowed for any spare part in a power unit, having replaced the electronic control unit twice at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
And Leclerc replaced the first before the race and then another during it, but that did not prevent his withdrawal due to the emergence of the specter of reliability problems that destroyed his season in 2022.
After analysis at the Italian team’s headquarters in Maranello, it was found that there was a need to use a third control unit, which led to the Ferrari driver being punished.
Team principal Frederic Vasseur revealed that “there were two problems on Sunday morning when we started the engine and another during the race” in Bahrain, adding: “Unfortunately, it was the electronic control unit that was to blame, which is a problem we have not encountered before.”
He added: In Bahrain we saw our first glimpse of our car’s strengths and weaknesses, and areas for improvement. We’re doing a lot of teamwork to get the best out of our car (…) and I’m confident we can get a better result at the end of the week.
At the end of the week, attention will be directed to the Aston Martin team and its drivers Alonso and Canadian Lance Stroll, who achieved sixth place in Bahrain, despite an injury he suffered in his right wrist before the start of the season, which prevented him from running tests late last month.
Plan to get back on top
Alonso commented on the Saudi race, saying: In Jeddah, it will be a completely different challenge than in Bahrain, where we had two weeks to get to know the track. But I think we will have to wait for the Australian (Prix) to see better the overall performance of the car.
As in 2022, Mercedes looks far from being able to compete with Red Bull after eight years of undisputed dominance.
And if British drivers Lewis Hamilton and Russell manage to gain points in Bahrain by finishing fifth and seventh respectively, it will be difficult for them to fight for victory, even if the Austrian director of the “Silver Arrows” team, Toto Wolff, confirmed that his team is competitive.
Wolff said: Our performance in Bahrain was not what we expected. Since then, we’ve been in talks to put together a plan to get back to the top. In the short term, without neglecting any details in the search for performance. And in the long term by focusing on the development of the car.