Latest News

Trackside: Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

19 March 2023

Saudi Arabian GP: Friday 17th to Sunday 19th March, Jeddah Corniche Circuit

Given the strong showing in the first race of the season, expectations were high in the Aston Martin garage ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Aston started strong, occupying 3rd and 4th after the first practice session behind both Red Bulls. In second practice Alonso managed one place better, splitting the Red Bulls with Stroll registering a time good enough for 7th. With the final practice session a repeat of the first (3rd for Alonso and 4th for Stroll), it looked like Aston had the best chance to challenge Red Bulls dominance, with Mercedes and Ferrari having to settle for 3rd and 4th best.

Qualifying 1 and 2 were a breeze for the Aston Martin drivers; with very little fuss they both made it through to the final qualifying session to settle the top-ten order. Despite a poor showing in the practice sessions the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz had found some pace, and with World Champion Max Verstappen suffering reliability issues it was anyone’s pole position to take. In the end, Alonso managed 3rd behind the Red Bull of Perez and the Ferrari of Leclerc, while Stroll finished 6th to stay ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. A grid penalty of Leclerc bumped Stroll up to 5th and Alonso up to 2nd, on the front row for the start of the GP.

Starting alongside the Red Bull of Perez, Alonso had another great opportunity for a strong result. As the lights went out and the 20 cars thundered down towards turn 1, Alonso stole the lead sending the crowd wild. As the race went on however, the stewards began to investigate Alonso for incorrectly lining up for the start, which resulted in a 5-second penalty to be served at his next pit stop. Perez soon passed to retake the lead while further down the field Stroll had passed Sainz to take 4th.

Controversy then ensued as Alonso took his 5-second penalty. Pulling into the pit box, his pit crew waited 5 seconds before working on the car as per the rules however the rear jack was moved under the car, making contact with it. Alonso re-joined the race in 2rd place but the offending rear jack faced scrutiny from the race stewards. It wouldn’t be until after the race that they would decide whether another penalty was in order. Soon after that had all happened, Strolls Aston Martin developed a fault forcing him to retire the car, and the ensuing Safety Car bunched the field up for a rolling restart.

During all of the early action, the Red Bull of Verstappen was slowly climbing through the field. The Safety Car timing worked perfectly for him, and after the restart he quickly tucked in behind Alonso searching for an overtaking opportunity. That came on lap 24, with the running order of Perez, Verstappen and Alonso remaining until the end of the race. Alonso had earned his 100th career podium, however celebrations were cut short when the FIA stewards awarded him a 10-second penalty moving him down to 4th. The Aston Martin team management protested the penalty, and it wasn’t until later that evening that the historic podium finish was confirmed.

About Trackside

Trackside is Aston Workshop’s regular round up of the goings-on in Formula One, with a particular focus on the Aston Martin F1 team.