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Red Bull headaches as Mercedes in title trouble - What we learned at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Red Bull headaches as Mercedes in title trouble - What we learned at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

F1 News

Red Bull headaches as Mercedes in title trouble - What we learned at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Red Bull headaches as Mercedes in title trouble - What we learned at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

F1's stellar start to the season continued at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit as reigning world champion Max Verstappen kickstarted his season with victory.

The Dutchman defeated Charles Leclerc after a series of overtakes and tactical moves, with the Ferrari driver having to settle for second.

With two races under our belts and a form guide beginning to take shape, GPFans takes a look at what we learned at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

F1 rules prove to be success

If we were still in doubt from F1's sample of one in Bahrain where Leclerc and Verstappen treated us to a ding-dong battle for the lead, then Sunday's race in Saudi Arabia was almost a confirmation of the new cars working as desired.

Of course, there was the captivating tussle for the lead that got everyone on their feet, but throughout the field, there was plenty of action, not least between the Alpine team-mates.

Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso kept everyone entertained before being joined by Valtteri Bottas.

The key was the fact drivers could follow so closely through the first sector of the lap full of mid-to-high speed sweepers.

For Leclerc to set the fastest lap of the race whilst under the rear wing of Verstappen is an indication for all to see that the new regulations work.

Red Bull given headaches by Perez

Sergio Perez was outstanding when taking his maiden pole position in F1.

The Mexican bettered a seemingly flawless lap from Leclerc on Saturday before getting everything right in the race, only for a poorly timed safety car to derail his efforts.

One of Red Bull's biggest advantages over Ferrari in the drivers' title fight may have been that full focus could have gone onto Verstappen whilst Leclerc and Carlos Sainz could have taken points away from each other.

But if Perez is as close to Verstappen in F1's new era as the first two races suggest - he was only two-tenths down in Bahrain qualifying - then Red Bull may have some sorting to do within its own ranks.

Mercedes hit major title trouble

Lewis Hamilton out in Q1 is not something anyone in F1 is accustomed to. The fact this was on merit, and not a crazy, rain-or-crash affected session is even more shocking.

Strategy played against him in the race to ensure he could only finish 10th for one point and whilst George Russell finished fifth, leaving the Silver Arrows questioning where its pace has gone.

Make no bones about it, the race for the championship is a two-horse race between Red Bull and Ferrari.

Jeddah safety concerns emerge again

In the buildup to the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, drivers were concerned about the safety of the fastest street track in F1.

Minor changes were made for this second running but across the weekend incidents sparked more worry across the grid.

In F2, Cem Bolukbasi was forced to sit out the weekend after crashing at turns 11 and 12 and being taken to hospital with a concussion.

Then in F1 qualifying, Mick Schumacher emerged unscathed from a horrific impact at the very same corners, colliding at high speed with the seemingly poorly angled concrete wall.

Away from the track, a terrorist attack threatened the weekend on Friday with an oil refinery set ablaze a short distance from the track. No doubt safety talks will be had before returning to the venue in the future.

FIA redress stance a hit

In modern F1 there has been communication from the FIA to teams and teams to the FIA about whether drivers have overtaken a rival off track or not.

Take last year, with Hamilton and Verstappen getting into the exact scenario on numerous occasions.

This year, new race directors Niels Wittich - who was present in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain - and Eduardo Freitas have put the onus on teams and drivers to sort things out themselves.

When Perez overtook Sainz despite the Ferrari reaching the pit exit safety car line before the Mexican under the first neutralisation, the Spaniard was unhappy that the Red Bull was ahead.

There was no direction from the FIA for Perez to return the position and so he didn't.

But as soon as race control announced the incident had been noted by the stewards, Perez was conceding position to Sainz.

It was a system that worked, although many will feel the swap should have been made earlier given Sainz was then disadvantaged at the restart.

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