Red Bull setting themsleves for another one-two

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 17: Sparks fly behind Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 17, 2023 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

It would be foolish to bet against Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez scoring another one-two at Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

They finished that way in FP1 and granted they did not finish that way in FP2 on Friday in Jeddah, as Fernando Alonso proved to be the fly in the ointment, splitting the Bulls at the top of the timing screens.

Apart from the on-form Alonso, who was a couple of tenths down on Verstappen’s table-topping effort, Red Bull’s traditional rivals Mercedes were almost half a second back, and the best of the Ferrari duo three quarters of a second adrift; and one got the feeling there was a lot more in the Blue cars.

Verstappen’s antics are notable because the Dutch ace had suffered a stomach bug in the lead-up to the weekend but looked fit and up for it on his arrival in the Kingdom. Not long after he was reigning on track and enjoying it no doubt.

He reflected in the Red Bull team report: “I am feeling a lot better after a few rough days of illness, it wasn’t nice but I am feeling good now. Out on track was about finetuning things, we had a positive day but there are still quite a few things we can do better.”

Verstappen: It is definitely not going to be like Bahrain

“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,” ventured Verstappen, who won the season opener two Sundays ago.

Teammate Perez added: “It was all about learning the conditions. 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,” concluded the Mexican.

Verstappen, who last year fought of Ferrari driver Chares Leclerc in a memorable battle to take victory in Jeddah, will be looking for a repeat on Sunday night, with Perez strong enough to set the Red Bulls up for another one-two, much like Bahrain a fortnight ago; Alonso, and force majeure, permitting of course.