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Saudi Arabia Grand Prix predictions:
- Date: 19th March 2023
- Track: Jeddah Corniche Circuit
- Most Wins: Lewis Hamilton & Max Verstappen (1)
- Race Length: 191.662 miles
- Laps: 50
- 2022 Winner: Max Verstappen & Red Bull
- 2023 Favourite: Max Verstappen & Red Bull
Ferrari hunting rampaging Red Bull
Red Bull were untouchable in Formula 1’s season-opener in Bahrain a fortnight ago, but there’s hope round two could produce a closer race as the teams’ gear up for the high-speed Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
The Jeddah Corniche Circuit is the second longest and second fastest track on the calendar and presents a far different challenge to what the drivers encountered in Bahrain.
Max Verstappen led home a Red Bull one-two in the first race of the year with the closest non-Red Bull driver, Fernando Alonso, 40 seconds adrift of the world champion.
Red Bull were in a class of their own in Bahrain, and the expectation is they’ll back up that Bahrain win with Verstappen 4/9 to come out on top this Sunday, while team-mate Serio Perez is 9/2.
It’s hard to oppose Red Bull but the hope is that moving from a circuit that prioritises traction and rear tyre performance to one where speed is king and tyre degradation is less of a factor may open the door, even just a crack, to the rest of the grid.
Leclerc hoping to go one better
Ferrari look the most likely candidate to take advantage of any drop in performance by Red Bull in Saudi Arabia. The Scuderia clocked only a marginally slower top speed than Red Bull in testing and there was little between the two teams in last year’s race around the streets of Jeddah.
On that occasion, Verstappen took the chequered flag, 0.549 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who returns to Saudi Arabia eager to put his DNF in Bahrain behind him.
Qualifying well in Saudi Arabia has proven vital, with the podium places in the previous two editions filled by drivers starting from the front two rows. Ferrari have a strong track record in qualifying over the last 12 months and Leclerc was unlucky to miss out on what would have been a 10th pole position of the season to Perez in Jeddah last year.
With tyre degradation - a massive Achilles heel for Ferrari recently - also not such a determining factor in Saudi Arabia, a stronger showing is expected by Ferrari with Leclerc likely to lead the charge. He’s 11/4 to claim pole position and a solid each-way chance at 9/1 to win the race.
Alpine out to make amends
Aston Martin and Mercedes will hope to be in the fight for the podium places but there are concerns over both teams, who use the same power units. A perceived lack of straight-line speed is a major disadvantage at a track with such long straights, although it would be wrong to totally discount Aston’s Fernando Alonso as he chases the 100th podium of his career.
Mercedes are another team that could benefit from a lack of tyre degradation but are more likely to be looking over their shoulders at the rest of the grid, in particular Alpine.
The Renault works team largely had a weekend to forget in Bahrain, qualifying poorly before Esteban Ocon was given 20 seconds worth of penalties during the race before withdrawing. But the glimmer of hope came in the form of Pierre Gasly’s drive.
The Frenchman showed the potential of the car, piloting it from a starting position of 20th to a ninth-place finish and hopes are high of an improved showing all round this weekend.
Gasly is 10/13 to score points in Jeddah, while it’s 2/1 that both Alpines finish in the top-10 on race day.