Red Bull proved themselves the team to beat in Jeddah, taking a commanding 1-2 victory. The second consecutive victory for the Red Bull RB19 provides more information on the pecking order for the 2023 season.
The RB19 appears dominant this year, with Max Verstappen climbing from 15th on the grid to finish in 2nd place.
In an interview with Sky Sports, Christian Horner praised Perez’s race whilst highlighting the work done to improve the RB19:
“Checo had a perfect race, one of the best in his career. However, I have to congratulate the whole team for the work they have done. This car is amazing .”
Red Bull’s team principal made sure to minimise any tension between his drivers, with Max Verstappen setting the fastest lap on the last lap despite Lambiase having told him several times to manage.
However, Perez was also trying to achieve the fastest lap before giving up after a few corners. The additional point keeps Verstappen in the Championship lead, with Christian Horner insistent that his drivers will be able to compete freely this season.
In short, the current complexion in F1 is comparable to 2014, with one team at the front competing for the first two positions.
Red Bull in a league of its own.
In general, Red Bull had an unmatched race pace in Jeddah. Unlike in Bahrain, where the team was managing issues with the RB19, Saudi Arabia has shown further evidence of the team’s true potential.
The battle for the fastest lap further emphasised the potential of the RB19, which was a second per lap faster than its closest rivals – who are currently Aston Martin.
Further down the order, Mercedes and Ferrari are 1.3 seconds per lap behind.
The first of the pursuers – Alonso’s AMR23 – crossed the finish line 20 seconds behind in a race featuring a Safety Car. Ferrari finished over 35 seconds behind.
The 2023 Championship could likely be a contest between the two Red Bull drivers, with reigning World Champion Ma Verstappen the favourite.
Perez will have to demonstrate that he can sustain his race pace from Saudi Arabia throughout the calendar. This will be difficult, considering that Checo’s recent victories often came on ‘unlucky’ weekends for Max.
Efficiency and load: Red Bull dominated in the straights of Jeddah
“They are faster than us, not only in the corners but also on the straights,” said Leclerc post-race when discussing the performance at Red Bull.
Speaking candidly, the Monegasque explained how Red Bull has addressed its weaknesses from the 2022 season. On the fast street circuit of Saudi Arabia, Verstappen and Perez were fastest on the straights – specifically the final part. This is one of the main takeaways from Jeddah.
In Bahrain, the RB19 failed to match the speed of the RB18 on the straights, instead proving an aerodynamic compromise leaning more towards an increased load. This fact was compounded by the significant issues encountered by Ferrari and Mercedes.
The RB19 created significant gaps by the end of the straight in Saudi Arabia – especially in the straight leading up to the last corner.
In terms of top speed, Red Bull has an advantage over Ferrari – which has a tendency to suffer from clipping.
The Honda Power Unit seems to pack a similar punch to what it produced last year. Meanwhile, the Italian team has focused on working to fix the endothermic reliability problems (including the turbo) while Honda developed its electrics to the best of its capabilities.
As already seen in Bahrain, Red Bull has very long gear ratios this season.
This is to the extent that even on a track like Jeddah – which has extremely long sections on full throttle – the eighth gear is only used at the end of the straight.
This distinguishes the RB19 from the rest of the field. Compared to Aston Martin, however, Red Bulls offers more straight-line performance alongside its impressive aerodynamics.
Aston Martin has confirmed the suspicions from the first race, being that competing with more loaded wings allows for improved performance in the corners.
This greater load allows the AMR23 to be stronger in the braking zone, braking later than its rivals and carrying more speed in corner entry.
Red Bull can begin a Mercedes-style cycle until 2025: Reliability is now the main concern
Lewis Hamilton said last year that Red Bull would be capable, if they maintained their technical advantage from 2022, of dominating the sport in a similar fashion to Mercedes.
At the start of 2023, the gap in performance between Red Bull and its rivals has become more pronounced.
The RB19 has pulled away from its competitors, whilst Ferrari has underdelivered, and Mercedes pays the price of taking the wrong direction for its development.
The technical continuity that will exist until the next rule change – especially on the Power Unit side – will continue for the next three years, in which time Red Bull can take plenty of victories.
There is no specific reason or secret that explains the team’s super performance. Simply put, the project is ticking along nicely.
The RB18 never suffered from bouncing, which has proved a significant advantage in terms of set-up and development.
Red Bull’s 2023 package is lighter than last season’s iteration, an additional bonus for the Austrian squad.
However, Red Bull believes it could lose a substantial part of its advantage – due to the wind tunnel development and CFD restrictions.
Other teams have quantified this loss as being worth 2-tenths, fairly insignificant compared to the almost one-second advantage the RB19 enjoys over its rivals in race trim.
The only concern for Red Bull after the Saudi Arabia GP is reliability, which could be the only chance for rivals to win a race this season.
The problem that plagued Verstappen in qualifying was not related to the power unit – but instead the RB19’s driveshaft.
Concerns also emerged during the race, which – thankfully for Red Bull – did not result in retirement for either driver.
“We have to do better as a team, we can’t have these problems.
“It would have been a completely different race for me. We ended up limiting the damage a bit. But here, I should have won.
“Everyone in the team is happy, but I’m not here to finish second,” Verstappen explained post-race.
At Red Bull, investigations are already underway, with its issue from Bahrain seemingly structural in nature.
This could lead Red Bull’s engineers to make risk assessments depending on how severely certain tracks impact the suspension.
However, the one-month break will allow the Milton Keynes team to make corrections in this area.
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang