Sergio Perez won the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and Max Verstappen drove from 15th to second to give Red Bull a 1-2 finish in what is shaping up to be a runaway season for the reigning Formula One champions.
And there have only been two races so far.
“Nice job guys an excellent result for the team,” said Perez, who finished about 5 seconds ahead of Verstappen.
READ MORE: Smith snares ‘catch of the century’ contender
READ MORE: Raiders win soured by star’s gruesome injury
READ MORE: ‘Complacent’ Cats grilled after Pies’ avalanche
It was another disastrous race for McLaren, with Oscar Piastri, starting from eighth in just his second race, suffering front wing damage that forced him to pit on the opening lap.
He finished 15, two spots ahead of teammate Lando Norris, who also had to pit early after suffering damage.
“Tough race after an unlucky start with damage to both cars on the opening lap. Made it too difficult to turn things around. But we tried hard,” McLaren boss Zak Brown tweeted. “Time to get our season back on track in Australia.”
Through the first two races of the season it has been two Red Bull wins, two 1-2 finishes, and an air of desperation from everyone else on the grid.
Fernando Alonso finished third for the second consecutive race for what would have been his 100th career podium. But he was later handed a 10-second penalty for incorrectly serving an earlier penalty and that dropped him to fourth.
But even as the Spaniard enjoys a renaissance with his new Aston Martin team, Alonso has acknowledged he had little chance at beating Red Bull.
Verstappen won a record 15 races last season and a second consecutive F1 title, and Perez added another two victories as the 17 total wins in 23 races easily gave Red Bull the constructors title. There have been no signs of an offseason drop in performance and George Russell, who moved up to third after the Alonso penalty, predicted after the season-opener that Red Bull would win every race this season.
Lewis Hamilton finished fifth as Mercedes went third and fifth just three days after the seven-time F1 champion said the team needed three other organisations not to finish a race for Mercedes to have a shot to win.
“We are not where we want to be but we will get there,” Hamilton told his team.
The show in Saudi Arabaia was Verstappen, who overcame a mechanical problem in qualifying that forced him to start 15th and quickly worked his way up the grid. The Dutchman set the fastest lap of the race on the final lap to retain his hold atop the F1 points standings.
“Great recovery, Max, that was a really good drive at the end,” Red Bull boss Christian Horner radioed Verstappen.
Verstappen felt the late push was worth the risk.
“I gave it a go at the end and luckily it worked out,” he said.
Red Bull has now finished 1-2 in three consecutive races dating to last year’s finale.
It was the fifth career win for Perez, who started from the pole for the second consecutive year at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. He was briefly leading the championship standings until Verstappen slipped ahead by logging the fastest lap.
“Let’s keep it up, let’s keep pushing,” said the Mexican.
Perez started on pole with Alonso on the front row alongside him and Alonso jumped out to a quick lead, but was promptly penalised for being in the improper starting position. He thought he served the five-second penalty, but the race stewards docked him another 10 seconds post podium celebration.
Perez soon regained the lead while Verstappen and Charles Leclerc — starting from 12th because of a 10-place grid penalty — chewed up the cars ahead of them.
When both Ferrari’s pitted for new tyres, Verstappen was in fourth.
The 6.2-kilometre circuit beside the Red Sea is the quickest street track in F1 with average speeds exceeding 250 km/h, which suited Verstappen. It took him only a few seconds to pass Russell and Alonso didn’t last long, either, making it a Red Bull shootout.
Perez held firm.
Ferrari had another race to forget, with Carlos Sainz placing sixth ahead of Charles Leclerc in seventh. At least Leclerc finished, after retiring in Bahrain, but he wasn’t happy.
“Being behind like this is really (expletive), I don’t know what to do,” Leclerc said as he trundled behind traffic.
Frenchmen Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly were eighth and ninth for Alpine with Haas driver Kevin Magnussen in 10th.
Alonso’s teammate Lance Stroll retired on Lap 18, leading to a safety car restart that suited Verstappen.
Alex Albon retired his Williams and his teammate Logan Sargeant, the rookie American driver, started last and finished 16th.
– Additional reporting by Brett Graham
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!