The Formula One World Championship returned to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit for Round 2 this weekend. Zhou Guanyu would have a tough weekend, Alex Albon would see some improvement and Yuki Tsunoda would again experience highs and lows. Asian Motorsport reviews all the action on the shores of the Red Sea.

By Seb Tirado

Free practice

FP1 would see reigning World Champion Max Verstappen go fastest with a 1:29.659. Albon would get his Williams into the Top 10 with a 1:30.747 whilst Tsunoda would finish 16th with a 1:31.036 in his RB. Zhou would finish in 18th for Kick Sauber after having a moment during a fast lap and only managing a 1:31.131.

A slightly delayed FP2 under the lights would see two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso take fastest honours with a 1:28.827. Tsunoda would finish 11th with a 1:29.666 as the lead RB. Zhou would finish 13th with a 1:29.777, one place ahead of Albon with a 1:29.789.

Zhou’s C44 after his FP3 crash | Credit: Formula One

Friday would begin with the news of F2 racer Oliver Bearman replacing the appendicitis-stricken Sainz for the rest of the weekend. Verstappen would go fastest in FP3 with a 1:28.412. Late into the session, Zhou would lose control and hit the barriers whilst on a qualifying sim lap, causing a red flag and therefore prematurely finishing 19th with a 1:30.739. After the red flag, Albon wouldn’t be able to get a final fast lap in, finishing 17th with a 1:29.808. Tsunoda however would and would finish 13th with a 1:29.572.

Qualifying

As a result of his crash in FP3, Zhou was unable to participate for most of Q1, only coming out in the last 2 minutes of the session. However, he did not reach the start line in time to start a flying lap and so would qualify 20th. Ahead of him came Sargeant, Gasly, Ocon and his teammate Bottas.

Tsunoda would reach Q3 in Jeddah for the first time since 2021 | Credit: Formula One

Q2 would see a brief red flag interruption after 5 minutes due to Hulkenberg losing power and stopping on-track. In the end, Albon would be eliminated and qualify 12th with a 1:28.980, behind Ferrari debutante Bearman in 11th. Behind the Thai driver came Magnussen, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg.

Tsunoda would progress to Q3 for the first time this season, ultimately qualifying 9th on the grid. Pole position for the Grand Prix would go to Verstappen, his first in Jeddah and his second consecutive pole of the season so far.

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

The Grand Prix would have a clean first lap around the Corniche Circuit but would see Gasly retire at the end of it with a gearbox issue. Heading into Lap 2, Bearman would have a slight tangle with Tsunoda’s RB into the first corner in an attempt to get into the points, with both drivers avoiding any damage and Tsunoda maintaining 10th. Stroll would cause the only Safety Car of the Grand Prix on Lap 7 when he clipped the apex barrier of T21, sending him into the outside barrier of T22. The resulting organised pit-lane chaos of teams taking advantage of the Safety Car would cause a reshuffling of the pack, with Zhou, Hulkenberg, Hamilton and Norris moving up the field as they extended their stints. The Safety Car would eventually come in at the end of Lap 9, with Lando Norris leading the field.

Tsunoda leading Bearman and Magnussen under the Safety Car | Credit: Formula One

Tsunoda would lose out to Bearman into T1. Albon, trying to capitalise, would have the door closed by an overtaking Magnussen heading into T3. His FW46 would suffer front wing damage and Magnussen would be given his first of two 10-second penalties. On Lap 14, Zhou would also lose out to Bearman into T1, being pushed out of the points as a result. The race would calm down through the halfway stages until Lap 29 when Tsunoda would almost tangle with Magnussen in T2, losing out on both 12th and 13th as Ocon capitalised on Tsunoda’s slow corner exit. He would soon also lose out to Albon on Lap 33 with an opportunistic move by the Thai driver into T1. Zhou’s extended stint on the mediums would end on Lap 41 as he came in for new softs to finish the Grand Prix, cycling to the very back of the pack.

Whilst not leading every lap, Verstappen would nonetheless still take a dominant win | Credit: Formula One

Verstappen would take victory in Saudi Arabia and again lead a Red Bull 1-2, 13 seconds ahead of Perez who had a 5-second penalty for an unsafe release under the Safety Car. Leclerc would finish in 3rd and snatch the Fastest Lap on the final lap. Zhou would finish 18th and last of the running cars, Tsunoda would finish 15th after a difficult race and Albon would finish 11th.

Formula One Drivers’ Championship top ten

  1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 51
  2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 36
  3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) – 28
  4. George Russell (Mercedes) – 18
  5. Oscar Piastri (McLaren) – 16
  6. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) – 15
  7. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) – 12
  8. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 12
  9. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 8
  10. Oliver Bearman (Ferrari) – 6

Formula One Constructors’ Championship top five

  1. Red Bull Racing – 87
  2. Scuderia Ferrari – 49
  3. McLaren – 28
  4. Mercedes-AMG – 26
  5. Aston Martin – 13

The Formula One World Championship goes down under for Round 3 with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 24th.

Header photo credit: Formula One

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