Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2023

Verstappen completes practice sweep as Red Bull leave rivals a second behind

2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix third practice

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Max Verstappen completed a clean sweep of topping practice sessions for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah, going over half a second faster than team mate Sergio Perez.

The reigning world champion set the fastest time of the weekend with a 1’28.485 on the soft tyres to go quickest in the final hour of running, over six tenths ahead of Perez. Fernando Alonso was again third-fastest for Aston Martin, but almost a full second slower than Verstappen’s best.

As the final session of the weekend to be take place in sunlight, it was not the most representative conditions for teams to prepare for qualifying, with track temperatures well over 40C. As such, it was a very quiet start to the opening hour with only five drivers setting times in the first quarter of an hour.

Eventually, Aston Martin sent out both Lance Stroll and Alonso on medium tyres. After steady out-laps, both drivers returned to the pits where they were switched onto hard tyres, then sent back out for a second lap before returning to the pits once more.

Nyck de Vries, the only driver in the field never to have raced around the Jeddah circuit before, was struck with the frustrating news that his AlphaTauri team had discovered a problem with his car which necessitated the team changing his power unit, meaning he would miss the entire session.

Oscar Piastri was first to break the silence, venturing out to set the first timed lap of the day with a 1’32.351. That prompted a pack of cars to take to the track, with the two Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton moving to the top of the times. They were soon replaced by Verstappen, who became the first driver to go under the 90-second barrier in the session with a 1’29.882 on hard tyres, a quarter of a second quicker than Pierre Gasly’s Alpine on the softs.

Perez then lowered the quickest time of the weekend so far with a 1’29.417 on the soft tyres to replace his Red Bull team mate at the top of the times. Hamilton attempted to improve on his personal best time but was forced to abandon a flying lap attempt after coming across Stroll’s Aston Martin at the apex of turn 16.

With 15 minutes remaining, Verstappen bolted on a set of soft tyres and set by far the fastest time of the weekend with a 1’28.756 to go to the top of the times. After backing off, Verstappen inadvertently held up Lando Norris through turn eight. While Norris complained over team radio about the “dangerous” move, Verstappen pulled alongside the McLaren driver on the approach to the turn 13 hairpin to gesture his apologies. The stewards noted the near-miss but deemed it not worthy of investigation.

Verstappen’s second effort on the soft tyres was even quicker than his first, lowering to a 1’28.660 to go almost half a second quicker than his team mate. Then he shaved another tenth-and-a-half on his seventh lap on his soft tyres to go even further ahead of Perez. That would be the fastest time of the session, with the chequered flag signalling the end of the session, confirming Verstappen had completed a clean sweep of setting the fastest time across the three practice sessions.

Perez remained second, over six tenths slower than Verstappen’s best time. Alonso was the quickest of the Aston Martins in third, less than three-hundredths of a second ahead of team mate Stroll but nearly a full second behind Verstappen. Hamilton was fifth for Mercedes, ahead of Charles Leclerc and the two McLarens of Norris and Piastri. Gasly and Carlos Sainz Jnr were the final drivers in the top ten.

2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix third practice result

11Max VerstappenRed BullRB191’28.48520
211Sergio PerezRed BullRB191’29.0980.61315
314Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’29.4830.99821
418Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’29.5091.02421
544Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’29.5681.08318
616Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’29.5881.10316
74Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’29.6901.20518
881Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’29.6981.21323
910Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’29.7011.21619
1055Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’29.7611.27616
1163George RussellMercedesW141’29.8111.32619
1224Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’29.9171.43221
1327Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’29.9331.44819
1431Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’29.9531.46819
1523Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’29.9831.49818
162Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW451’30.0351.55018
1720Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’30.1311.64615
1877Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’30.3171.83220
1922Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Red BullAT041’30.7972.31220
2021Nyck de VriesAlphaTauri-Red BullAT04No time

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2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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24 comments on “Verstappen completes practice sweep as Red Bull leave rivals a second behind”

  1. Sam (@undercut677)
    18th March 2023, 14:53

    Either the Ferrari car is dumpster fire, they are seriously concerned about relaibility or they are getting way too cute with the sandbagging to a point that their drivers will not have a good feel of the car. Its one of those 3.

  2. Long may Red Bull’s dominance continue as punishment for the overly restrictive regulations and other non-f1 restrictions that will hinder others catching up.

    Will teach Liberty for trying to turn it into GP1 by turning this once great sport into a more spec series artificial gimmick ridden joke of a show.

    F1 SHOULD BE A SPORT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Be careful what you wish for as I can see the Netflix casual fans that don’t understand the sport whining about a team having any advantage and turning off and since those are the only fans Liberty care about I can see them then just throwing more gimmicks at the show to try and spice up with as artificially as possible.

      It’s essentially the spiral NASCAR ended up in. They gimmicked it up to encourage the more casual audience to watch, This turned off the dedicated fans but then when the casuals didn’t stick around they just ended up throwing more & more gimmicks at things to try and keep the casuals and have got to a point where there’s no going back because removing the gimmicks and artificial show elements will just annoy the casuals who don’t get the sport and with the dedicated fans of old having long since left in disgust it would just leave the series with hardly any fans.

      You see it in F1 already to an extent with DRS. The newer fans don’t know racing without it so think DRS & the highway passes it produces is what racing is and they will refuse to accept anything else which is probably a part of why F1 is so scared of dropping it. The fans of the actual sport will that removing DRS will see overtaking stats drop but that the fewer overtakes we would see would be more exciting, memorable and meaningful. However the newer fans who on;y know DRS & the casual audience who care only about stats will complain that there’s only 30 overtakes instead of 100 or whatever.

      It’s a sad state of affairs for those of us who truly love, understand and respect the sport. Especially since there isn’t really anywhere else to go given how boringly spec everything else has become. There’s WEC I guess but but everyone wants to watch longer endurance races, Le Mans & all that stuff is something i’ve just never really enjoyed for whatever reason…. I also just prefer single seat/open wheel racing and outside of F1 everything else is sadly now spec so there is no true alternative to F1 anymore unfortunately.

      1. Was Liberty involved in the early 90’s Williams dominance? Ferrari 2000-2004? Red Bull 2010-2013? Mercedes 2014-2021? No they were absolutely not. What all of these eras have in common is a team nailing the regulations and concept. This is not somehow a new or “made for TV” concept. The even bigger surprise is that most teams did not leverage legacy F1 engineers by tapping into their experience and expertise with ground effect. It’s pretty clear that Newey has a leg up given his history with sports cars and Indycar with Venturi Tunnels. If anything the numbers will show we have a more compressed field than ever before. As with any other entity sports or otherwise cost capping takes a few years to achieve equilibrium.

      2. It’s essentially the spiral NASCAR ended up in.

        It didn’t help that large swaths of their fanbase first aged into fixed income only to eventually shuffle off their mortal coil, with few younger people taking their places.

      3. @roger-ayles – That’s the problem I’ve been pointing out for ages as well… F1 is trying to appeal to the casual fans at the expense of long-term fans and then F1 is no longer on trend and we have a couple of boring seasons back to back (as always happens with F1), they’re going to have major problems.

        All they care about is growth so once the audience starts to contract, they’ll get desperate and we’ll see all sorts of nonsense to try and get the casual fans back watching.

      4. The fans of the actual sport will that removing DRS will see overtaking stats drop but that the fewer overtakes we would see would be more exciting, memorable and meaningful.

        I’m sorry, that’s some heavy rose-coloured glasses right there. What we really had before DRS was a decades-long death march of processional races that regularly saw cars quicker by a second a lap unable to pass for position.

        1. @proesterchen And what has DRS given us?

          Quantity over quality….. A load of utterly boring push of a button highway passes that are never that interesting or exciting to watch and which are very quickly forgotten due to how boringly easy and devoid of any excitement they are. DRS has ruined far more races than it’s helped because of this.

          Overtaking shouldn’t be so easy that everyone can do it at the push of a button. It shouldn’t be a guarantee that an overtake is going to happen because overtaking should be difficult & it should be a challenge so that drivers have to work for it & use more of there skill & race-craft to pull one off.

          The biggest flaw with DRS is that it’s moved the balance far too far in the other direction and as we’ve seen over the 11-12 years it’s been around it’s proven basically impossible to balance out to achieve the aim of assisting overtaking without creating it. DRS was never meant to produce drive-by passes, It was never supposed to be the thing that created the overtake…. It was supposed to be nothing more than a little assist that helped get cars close enough to have a go & it’s consistently failed to work the way it was designed to on a consistent basis.

          I’d much rather see more competitive wheel to wheel racing & actual overtaking rather than drivers pushing a button at a certain part of the track to just drive by with ease. That to me just isn’t exciting & has done nothing for me but slowly erode my enjoyment of the sport over the past decade as it’s just not producing the sort of racing and overtaking I enjoy or want to see.

          1. And what has DRS given us?

            DRS is a tool that allows (1) moving the overtaking window (i.e. the level of overperformance required from the following car and driver to complete a pass) and (2) adapting it to most track layouts (with the exception of Monaco, where the current limits placed on DRS do not allow to move the overtaking window enough to allow for any extra passing) without the need for continued tinkering with any or all the competitors’ cars.

            Personally, I’m still lamenting the timid Mr Webber rule precluding the use of DRS outside of specific zones in qualifying, because that added an extra way for drivers to distinguish themselves. (hence the rule)

          2. @proesterchen, yeah, I agree for the largest part. I don’t like that we still have DRS, but at the time it was definitely a good addition (and indeed using it during quali was interesting, and also about car and driver’s ability to get to the edge but not over it with using it, though I can think of some drivers that it was perhaps too risky for ;), had they been more experimental with optimising the DRS zones at specific tracks so they wouldn’t be too much, but just enough to help a car overcome the dirty air, as they now seem willing and able to try, I think it would have been quite a solid stop-gap.

            I do think that the goal should be to eliminate it, but at tracks like Monaco, that doesn’t seem realistic.

        2. I would say that refuelling was to blame for that, and am surprised it continued for so long. The racing was a lot better in the 80s before refuelling, and the 2010 season, the only one in the last 30 years to feature neither DRS nor refuelling, had a lot more overtaking than the seasons preceding it.

          1. @f1frog
            I think all the core F1 fans agree that the 2010 season was one of the best seasons ever. It’s true that there was no DRS and no refuelling but there were also proper racing tyres.

          2. “a lot better” in the 80s before refueling.. That depends on the definition of “better” I suppose.

          3. The cars could pass in the 80’s and early 90’s. Where we are at now started with the refueling and Mosley taking over.

          4. @darryn:
            Ah yes, darn refueling. It was way better before refueling. We should get rid of it

    2. Everyone loves the idea of cutting costs by limiting development or testing.

      Few people like the inevitable results of those limitations.

      But virtually everyone has the attention span of the proverbial goldfish, so this is a lesson that’s unlikely to ever be remembered by the time the next circle comes around.

    3. @lynn-m:
      Funny, I agree that ‘gimmickfication’ is a bad thing and bending over backwards just to try and appeal to everyone and their mother is dangerous in the long term. But I completely disagree with your reasoning. You name and shame the promoter when you should address the governing body, for one…

    4. Agree. Time to kill it at the risk of the results of the Indy/CART civil war.

  3. other than Red Bull this season looks great.
    From P3 to P18 there’s less than a sec.

  4. Impressive that the 8 other teams spending upwards of a billion dollars are all so… bad.

    People love to complain about spec series, but this ‘no development allowed’ F1 keeps devolving into what is essentially multi-class racing, just without the separate prizes.

    1. Yes, true, this year we have tier A: red bull (for now at least), tier B: ferrari, aston, merc, tier C: rest except alpha tauri and williams, tier D: those 2.

      Usually we had the big 3, then midfield, then backmarkers, now we have upper and lower midfield and big one.

  5. With all the money Ferrari waste on F1. you think somebody in the organization would have figured out that it’s not so much the drivers in modern F1 as it is in the car, pay Adrienne Newey whatever price he wants and get a couple of decent drivers and you will win championships. It really is that simple! He’s light years ahead of every other car designer

    Reply moderated
    1. I don’t agree newey is light years ahead, he spent ages without winning any title, but definitely the car is like 85% and driver 15%.

    2. Ferrari did have the one guy that regularly beat Adrian in Rory Byrne.

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