Formula 1 Racing

Verstappen can still win Saudi Arabian GP from 15th, say F1 rivals

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

The Dutchman starts down in 15th on the grid in Jeddah after a driveshaft failure in Q2 meant he failed to make it through to the final qualifying shootout.

While a recovery from so far down the order will not be easy, the fact that Red Bull appears to have such a pace advantage over the opposition still makes Verstappen a threat to the frontrunners.

Although Verstappen himself has played down the prospects of getting involved in the fight for victory, his competitors are convinced about his potential.

Asked if he believed Verstappen could win, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said: “I think he has so much pace that he has a second in hand, more or less.

“I think he can do that. It’s 50 laps, 50 seconds. We’ve seen it from Lewis [Hamilton] in the past.”

Fernando Alonso, who starts from second on the grid and is the main threat to pole position man Sergio Perez, does not think that he can ignore what Verstappen gets up to.

“I think Max will come eventually in the race, you know,” said Alonso, who pointed to races like Russia in 2021 when Verstappen started 20th and finished second that show strong recoveries are possible.

“They have this advantage. I don’t know which race it was that he started last, so he changed the power unit and still finished P2 or even won the race. So, I think there is no doubt that he will be in the podium, probably minimum.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Mercedes driver George Russell, who lines up third on the grid, said he hoped to be involved in the battle at the front but accepts that he will be fighting Verstappen at some point.

“I think we can definitely fight for a podium,” he explained. “Aston Martin and Ferrari maybe have a tenth or two on us, but we’re starting ahead of both of them so there’s no reason why we can’t fight for a podium.

“I think Max is going to come through pretty comfortably, unless there’s any incidents or hold ups.”

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Perez also knows he cannot discount Verstappen coming through to fight him for the win, and said he hoped that early clear air could help him eke out a decent advantage.

“I am not going to approach the race thinking about Max,” said the Mexican.

“First of all, I have to make sure I’m able to keep the lid on the initial laps. And if I’m able to do that, to keep this lion [Fernando Alonso] behind, it will be good, because I think I can focus on my race.”

Additional reporting by Matt Kew…

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