Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2024

Verstappen’s record lap puts Ferrari and Mercedes further behind than last year

Lap time watch: 2024 Saudi Arabian GP

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Ferrari and Mercedes’ hopes they had begun to close the gap to Red Bull over the winter took a hit in Jeddah.

Last week in Bahrain the signs were good for the two teams which ended last season closest to the dominant world champions. Both qualified three-tenths of a second closer to the Red Bull than they did a year earlier.

But in round two they are further away. Red Bull’s RB20 lapped the Jeddah Corniche Circuit almost eight tenths of a second faster than its predecessor managed, while Ferrari and Mercedes’ cars gained less time.

Part of this may be due to Max Verstappen’s absence from Q3 last year due to a transmission fault. He was consistently Red Bull’s quickest driver in qualifying last year and likely would have beaten Sergio Perez’s 2023 pole position time by a few tenths of a second.

At the same time, Verstappen described his latest effort as one of his best. He compared it to his last Q3 run of 2021, where he produced 26 immaculate corners only to smack the wall at the 27th and final turn.

This time he kept it out of the barriers and crossed the line in a time of 1’27.472. That’s the fastest lap ever recorded around Jeddah, an average speed of 254.097kph:

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Underlining Verstappen’s belief that he got the best out of his car on that lap, he tied his three best sector times together on that effort. His team mate didn’t, and Charles Leclerc took advantage, relegating him from the front row:

Sector times

P.#DriverS1S2S3Ultimate lap (deficit)
11Max Verstappen31.763 (1)27.8 (1)27.909 (1)1’27.472
211Sergio Perez31.878 (3)27.866 (5)27.997 (2)1’27.741 (+0.066)
316Charles Leclerc31.933 (5)27.842 (4)28.016 (3)1’27.791
414Fernando Alonso31.84 (2)27.823 (2)28.183 (6)1’27.846
581Oscar Piastri31.994 (7)27.888 (7)28.207 (7)1’28.089
64Lando Norris31.88 (4)28.022 (9)28.23 (8)1’28.132
718Lance Stroll31.943 (6)27.922 (8)28.281 (12)1’28.146 (+0.104)
863George Russell32.293 (11)27.823 (2)28.139 (4)1’28.255 (+0.061)
944Lewis Hamilton32.341 (12)27.879 (6)28.162 (5)1’28.382 (+0.078)
1022Yuki Tsunoda32.18 (8)28.057 (10)28.239 (10)1’28.476 (+0.071)
1138Oliver Bearman32.255 (9)28.061 (11)28.272 (11)1’28.588 (+0.054)
1223Alexander Albon32.284 (10)28.125 (14)28.371 (15)1’28.780 (+0.200)
133Daniel Ricciardo32.463 (13)28.117 (13)28.238 (9)1’28.818 (+0.207)
1420Kevin Magnussen32.494 (15)28.161 (15)28.345 (13)1’29.000 (+0.020)
1527Nico Hulkenberg32.53 (17)28.098 (12)28.399 (16)1’29.027 (+0.028)
1677Valtteri Bottas32.479 (14)28.292 (17)28.359 (14)1’29.130 (+0.049)
172Logan Sargeant32.594 (18)28.376 (19)28.452 (17)1’29.422 (+0.104)
1831Esteban Ocon32.644 (19)28.25 (16)28.542 (18)1’29.436 (+0.039)
1910Pierre Gasly32.518 (16)28.369 (18)28.592 (19)1’29.479
2024Zhou Guanyu38.928 (20)36.485 (20)33.511 (20)1’48.924

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Verstappen’s stellar effort left Red Bull a clear three-tenths of a second ahead of their rivals over a single lap. In Bahrain, Leclerc lapped quicker than Verstappen during qualifying, so Ferrari are clearly less competitive on a track biased towards aerodynamic efficiency and high cornering speeds.

The situation was markedly worse for Mercedes, who went from being the third-best team in Bahrain to fifth in Saudi Arabia, over eight-tenths of a second slower. In between them appeared Aston Martin – who were quick over a single lap in Bahrain but dropped back in the race – and McLaren.

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Like Mercedes, Haas appear less competitive in Saudi Arabia and have fallen behind two of their rivals, in their case RB and Williams. These are the two most improved teams year-on-year at this track besides McLaren, who are on top by this measure as they were in Bahrain, again partly due to their poor start to last season.

The team in their position today is Alpine, who are in the unenviable situation of not only being less competitive than last year, but almost four tenths of a second per lap slower.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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13 comments on “Verstappen’s record lap puts Ferrari and Mercedes further behind than last year”

  1. With Perez in 2nd the team starts to get resemblance of the 8 years Mercedes. Luckily we will get a regulatory change before they can reach a similar amount.

    1. It’s completely different than 8 years of Mercedes. I can’t recall any single year where the first driver in the Mercedes had 300 points more than the second driver.

      Three hundred points.

      1. That’s because it’s a mix of Mercedes-like dominance with the Max (consistency) effect. But the good thing remains they have learned from 8 years Mercedes borefest and will shake things up already halfway, after 4 years for RedBull (ref 2026).

        1. So the 300 points difference has everything to do with Red Bull dominance and Max’s consistency, but nothing with the quality of the second driver?

          I just don’t buy it. It’s hard to believe that Max would be as consistent if a good driver was in the second seat.

          1. @micio

            The problem with the theory that Perez is horrible is that we’ve had Albon and Gasly in that seat as well, and they looked similarly horrible, but are suddenly regarded as perfectly fine drivers at Williams and Alpine.

            And I also think that his exceptional consistency is very obvious, so you just seem to latch onto something that can’t firmly be disproven, but seems quite obvious to most.

          2. I am not sure how long you have been watching F1, but you can go all the way back to 2017/2018 to actually see how consistent Max was even when he had a teammate who was then rated quite highly. And it is not like 2021 just did not exist. He was under a decent amount of pressure every weekend and just so you know, he finished P1/P2 every race that year except Hungary where half his bargeboards went missing because of Bottas’ bowling.

            So it is not beyond the realm of possibility that he will still be this consistent. That said, he obviously won’t be winning as much, as when you have another top driver next to you, you can’t just win like he won at Miami last year on a normal race weekend. I would absolutely expect him to finish P2 at worst every weekend however making it a complete nightmare for the other driver since consistency wise Max could be the best of all time.

          3. It’s not that far fetched conclusion. Humans make mistakes. They make more mistakes under pressure. If I need to choose between the two reasons for Max dominance:

            1. He is perfect. We have never seen a driver like that in 75 years.

            2. He is just cruising without any pressure.

            I feel the second is more probable :)

        2. Changing the rules every few years does not shake things up, it just gives one team who gets out of the gate better than everyone else a longer advantage.

          Stable rules mean the field catches up, we always have more competitive years just before a rule change. Other than Max you can already see that happening throughout the field and next year I expect it to be even closer. Then in 27/28 we’ll be having the same conversations about x team being so dominant it’s getting boring.

          1. I think that’s good. What we miss is rules about drivers. I proposed that on different occasions but one of the simplest one would be:

            If a driver looses to his teammate 150 or more points in total over two seasons, he can’t be the active driver for that team

            We can add more rules like that and teams and contracts will just comply, just like NBA teams comply with draft rules.

            Then, in the years of dominance, we will have a chance for some competition.

          2. @micio A better version of your cunning plan would be to shift out the driver who is dominating their team mate.
            If you are going to go all socialist with F1 driver market, you might as well at least to it the right way – cut down the tall poppy, not the short one.

            Anyway – now back to reality where the teams are individually-owned and operated entities, each with huge commercial contracts, and very deep into the management of F1 as a commercial business.

            @defusion – Sorry to burst that bubble, mate – but you don’t think that it’s a bit of a coincidence that there’s only one year (at most, if any) of decent competition right before the regs change?
            Keeping the rules static enables teams to maintain their advantages for longer and often even build on them. F1 isn’t going to keep those rules static for more than a handful of years as they constantly need to keep reeling them in for reasons of safety and on-track racing quality (among others).

            If the rules were changed substantially every year, nobody would be getting ahead for extended periods unless they were simply better at developing their cars every time.

          3. If you are going to go all socialist with F1 driver market, you might as well at least to it the right way – cut down the tall poppy, not the short one.

            You mention socialism but I don’t think you know what it means.

            In sports, rules are created to promote competition. Rules usually relegate bad performers so that there’s always place for fresh blood that may be more competitive. That’s all.

          4. In sports, rules are created to promote competition.

            So you see the logic behind cutting down the tall poppy first, then… Good.

            Rules usually relegate bad performers so that there’s always place for fresh blood that may be more competitive.

            Not in motorsport they don’t. Football, baseball, others – sometimes they do, but it depends on the rules of that particular sport, and specifically, the individual series.

            You seemingly just don’t like Perez and also don’t think that the team are prioritising his team-mate over him – despite all the evidence, and even the team’s own admissions…

  2. Applause for Alpine. They managed to go slower in a year. Very difficult to do for a formula 1 team

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