saudi garnd prix 2023 f1 grid graphic

The scene is set for a salubrious third running of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix tonight, Red Bull’s reigning Formula 1 World Champion Max Verstappen starting from 15th and targeting a sensational repeat of his masterclass at Spa-Francorchamps last year.

Note: This preview will be replaced with the race report when the chequered flag waves on the winner of the #SaudiArabianGP tonight.

At last year’s Belgian Grand Prix, the Dutch maestro powered to a remarkable victory from 15th (!!!) on the grid to P1, and if there are doubts about who will win this evening in Jeddah, then fling all your money on Verstappen.

Doubts? You may ask. On paper, factoring in the evidence from practice, qualifying, and the form shown last week in Bahrain, with his dominant teammate out of sight Sergio Perez should run away with this, however behind him is a posse of eager beavers ready to make his quest tougher than one would expect.

Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Mercedes, all believe they have a better race car than a hotlap one, and because of this, all are quietly confident ahead of today’s race, Round 2 of the 2023 F1 World Championship.

Nevertheless, it is still hard to see them beating Perez, a known ‘tyre-whisperer’ who was on pole and could’ve won at the venue last year had it not been for an untimely Safety Car; and this year has an even better car in the Adrian Newey-penned Red Bull RB19.

Which leaves Verstappen. If anyone can win from 15th on the grid, Max has done so before and can do so today is the consensus among his rivals, pundits, and fans. However, perilous Jeddah would hardly have been his choice to start a Grand Prix from deep down the order.

Be safe Boys! Motor racing is dangerous

The first lap in Jeddah will be super tricky, surviving the early mayhem will be key to anyone behind Perez and Alonso on the front row. Expect the pair to scuttle off into the distance. Why? Was that Fernando schmoozing the Mexican in parc ferme, some choice words in Spanish perhaps?

I thought so too! The old fatherly hand-on-the-shoulder trick. That’s why we love Fernando! Such an operator. Or maybe DTS on Netflix is getting to me!

One can imagine Fernando whispering: “Tuyo para ganar Checo, ahora trabajemos juntos, salgamos de Dodge lo antes posible, y mantendré a Max a raya…”
Translates to: “Yours to win Checo, now let’s work together, get out of Dodge ASAP, and I will keep Max at bay…”

Somewhat macabrely, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner summed up aptly what is likely to be in the script tonight: “There will be plenty of action, plenty of carnage and it should provide an exciting race hopefully.”

Even predicting a podium for the floodlit race will be a tough ask. If I was a betting man I would consider two options for the podium: the obvious one being PER-VER-LEC but I have my doubts, so will opt for VER-PER-A.N.OTHER because that battle for Best of the Rest is a flick-of-the-coin close.

Add to that the fact that Jeddah has tended to be a lottery of survival, the highspeed nature of the circuit is sure to create incidents and many of them, which suggest a ‘last-man-standing’ scenario, with that possibility of a bucket full of surprises that makes a mockery of trying to predict today’s outcome.

This, of course, is refreshing considering most of us had handed the Saudi race winner’s trophy to Max prior to him breaking the Red Bull RB19. Yes, from what I saw he did the immensely loaded driveshaft no favour by clobbering a curb too aggressively during his attack lap in Q2.

But that’s Max, all or nothing, full gas, flat-out. But on this occasion lesson learnt for him no doubt, but beware a wounded Max is a very fast Max. Thus when in doubt… you know what to do!

View the official F1-produced Saudi Grand Prix digital race programme here>>>

Other ‘Drive to Survive’ subplots to look out for at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix:

  • Forget the chaos and turmoil at Maranello, when the flag drops the BS stops. Ferrari reliability?
  • Can Fernando win an F1 race for the first time in a decade? He last won the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix as a Ferrari driver, to be precise.
  • Lance in a bad car (aka AMR22) is very bad, in a good car (AMR23) he is very good. Let’s see if that’s true…
  • If anyone can pull a rabbit out of the hat this evening in Jeddah, George can…
  • Lewis… Is that retirement talk we hear? With 103 Grand Prix wins and seven F1 titles, can the GOAT stay motivated for another year of winless pain?
  • Have Alpine finally found the keys to the door that starts their season? Step-up Pierre and Esteban.
  • OSCAR! They said he was good, and we are starting to see why. Lando’s alarm-clock should be ringing – wakey, wakey. Will the F1 rookie beat the hotshot today?
  • Keep an eye on the other rookies: Logan was unlucky to make a novice mistake during a solid lap in qualy, but his handy time in the Williams was expunged which ended his charge. As for Nyck, he’s hardly done laps but that should not stop him from putting on a good show. Remember Monza?

Reuters supplied Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Info & Stats

  • 2023 Formula 1 World Championship, Round 2 at Jeddah Corniche Circuit
  • Lap distance: 6.174km. Total distance: 308.450km (50 laps)
  • 2022 winner: Max Verstappen (Netherlands), Red Bull
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  • 2022 pole: Sergio Perez (Mexico) Red Bull, one minute 28.200 seconds.
  • 2022 fastest race lap: Charles Leclerc (Monaco), Ferrari 1:31.634.
  • Lap record: 1:30.734 seconds (Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2021)
  • Start time: 1700 GMT (2000 local)
  • The night race in Jeddah made its debut on the calendar in December 2021, with seven-times world champion Hamilton winning for Mercedes from pole.
  • Verstappen won from fourth on the grid last year.
  • Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari have been the only teams on the podium so far in Jeddah.
  • The 27-turn Corniche layout is the second longest on the calendar, some 800m shorter than Belgium’s Spa, and the fastest street circuit.
  • The circuit runs along the shores of the Red Sea.
  • The top 10 last year all made one stop in the race.
  • Red Bull were the fastest cars in a straight line last year, with Perez clocking a top speed of 335.1kph in qualifying.


  • Hamilton has a record 103 F1 career victories from 311 starts but is chasing his first since he last won Saudi Arabia in 2021.
  • Verstappen now has 36 GP wins on his CV.
  • Hamilton has a record 103 career poles.
  • Perez’s pole on Saturday is his second in Saudi Arabia, and also the second of his career
  • Red Bull have led every lap so far this season.