Sergio Perez saved Max Verstappen from winning the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as Red Bull’s dominant start to the new season continued in Jeddah.
Perez crossed the finish line 5.3 seconds ahead of teammate Verstappen, who fought his way back from 15th place after limping out of qualifying with a driveshaft failure.
Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso finished last on the podium, while Mercedes’ George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Red Bull is on another planet this season and their stunning one-two – their second in as many races – will be a major cause for concern for Formula 1 bosses as they start a record-breaking 23-lap calendar.
Russell said after the season-opening race in Bahrain two weeks ago that he expects Red Bull to win every race this year and their fast form here on the Red Sea did little to dispel the British driver’s terrifying prediction.
Reliability seems to be their only fault, with Verstappen complaining about a potential driveshaft problem in the final stages of Sunday’s race, just 24 hours after collapsing in qualifying.
But the Dutchman and his winning teammate still held a whopping one second per lap advantage over their rivals. Alonso finished 20.7 seconds behind Perez, who slacked off in the closing stages.
Alonso, the 41-year-old Spaniard, who is enjoying a remarkable resurgence with Aston Martin, caused quite a stir in the opening moments when he dove under the polesitter on his way down to the opening corner.
But Alonso’s chances of claiming his first win in a decade were severely diminished when he was handed a five-second penalty for starting from an incorrect position. Perez then zoomed past Alonso on lap four to take the lead.
Hamilton started seventh and was the only key player to start the race on the hard tires – the slower but more durable compound – and the British driver was struggling for speed.
He dropped to eighth on lap eight as Charles Leclerc galloped past, then dropped behind Verstappen on lap 12 to leave him in ninth place. The stewards also showed him a black-and-white flag for weaving on the straight when he tried to hold Leclerc back earlier.
But Hamilton’s night suddenly changed for the better when Lance Stroll broke down in his Aston Martin on lap 18. Out came the safety car and Hamilton was effectively given a free pit stop, putting him ahead of both Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
The safety car also played into the hands of Alonso, who served his five-second penalty, and also Verstappen, who also failed to stop.
In the end, the Dutchman was fourth. The race was restarted on lap 21 and Verstappen made easy work of Russell and then Alonso to take second place.
Such is the pace of the Red Bull this year that Alonso didn’t even struggle to outpace Verstappen, risking losing time to Russell and Hamilton in the battle for the final podium spot.
Verstappen had half the race left to quash Perez’s five-second advantage, but the Mexican drove well to follow up his pole with a commanding win, the fifth of his career.
Hamilton, having dropped the hard rubber, looked poised to launch an attack on Russell, but his challenge never materialized. He finished 5.1 seconds behind his teammate and half a minute behind Perez.
Sainz was sixth, one place ahead of Leclerc in the other Ferrari. Lando Norris started 19th and finished 17th in his unrivaled McLaren in a weekend forgotten for the young Briton.
Perez said: “We will keep pushing and keep pushing hard. We have the fastest car and I am very happy about that.”
Alonso said after his second consecutive podium and the 100th of his career: “What a start to the season. That was probably unthinkable for us
launched the car a month ago.
“Red Bull is out of reach but the rest were behind so I’m happy with that.”
Verstappen, who is a point clear of Perez in the championship after the fastest lap of the race, said: “It wasn’t very easy to get through the field.
“After clearing them one by one we got into a good rhythm and I’m happy to be on the podium.”