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Sergio Perez Strikes Back, Beats Verstappen in Saudi GP

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For Sergio Perez, victory might taste just as sweet as redemption. Sunday (March 19) at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the street-circuit maestro won the Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to claim the fifth F1 win of his career and move to within one point of the World Championship lead.

After earning his second career pole position in Saturday qualifying, the Red Bull Racing pilot only briefly lost the lead to Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, before re-overtaking the Spaniard on the fourth lap.

From there, he simply controlled the race, comfortably holding a margin on first Alonso, then his World Champion teammate Max Verstappen to earn his first F1 win of 2023 by nearly five and a half seconds.

“It turned out to be tougher than expected,” Perez told Sky Sports’ David Coulthard. “We really did a job in that first stint, but that safety car, again, tried to take the victory out of us again in Jeddah – but not this time … The job [the team] have done, they worked so hard during the week and, you know, we had a lot of mechanical issues and these guys have been on top of that. So I’m really happy for them and it’s time to celebrate.”

After a drivetrain failure in the second round of Saturday’s qualifying, defending Saudi winner Verstappen was forced to start from 15th place. When the lights went out, it was a usual crushing march through the midfield for the two-time World Champion, but at perhaps a rate more deliberate than dominating.

By the fifth lap, Verstappen ran 11th. Three laps later he passed Zhou Guanyu for 10th, and after two more had dispensed his ex-teammate Pierre Gasly for ninth.

As both Ferraris and Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin hit pit road for fresh Pirelli rubber, Red Bull let the Dutchman run long on his medium tires. A mechanical failure that stranded Stroll became a fortunately-timed safety car for the race leaders, allowing Verstappen, as well as both Mercedes, to pit while maintaining position.

On lap 21, Verstappen restarted from fourth. Two DRS-assisted blasts past George Russell and Alonso, and Verstappen assumed the runner-up position he would hold until the checkered flag.

By virtue of setting the fastest lap on the 50th and final circuit of the 27-turn, 3.836-mile temporary street course, Verstappen maintains his lead in the championship standings by a solitary point.

“It wasn’t very easy to through the field,” said Verstappen….

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