Saudi Arabian Grand Prix: How to watch and what to know
When Mercedes driver George Russell got out of his car two weeks ago after the first race of the Formula 1 season, he said the title chase was already over. Red Bull’s cars, he said, were just too fast.
“They have this championship stitched together,” Russell said. Red Bull, he predicted, could win every race.
That prediction could possibly turn out to be correct: Red Bull did, after all, have the fastest car in qualifying on Saturday night, when Sergio Pérez claimed pole position ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday. But a mechanical breakdown that limped back Pérez’s teammate Max Verstappen to the garage will serve as a reminder that nothing is locked in when it comes to fragile cars, finicky systems and tight corners.
Verstappen will start 15th on Sunday. The race for the title is, for at least one day, relaunched.
How to watch
Time: Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix begins at 1 p.m. Eastern Time, which is 8 p.m. local time in Jeddah.
TV: Watch on ESPN in the US. For a full list of Formula 1 broadcast rights holders wherever you are, click here.
Sunday starting grid
Verstappen’s broken drive shaft sent him tumbling down the grid, and a pre-race penalty will do the same for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. Leclerc finished second in qualifying but will start 12th.
Mercedes (with Russell) and Ferrari (with Carlos Sainz) will be comforted to see two of their drivers just behind the leaders. Staying there will be the hardest part. “Red Bull,” said Leclerc, “is on another planet.”
This week’s stories
Are Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin real? A third-place finish in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix was a delightful surprise for Alonso, 41, and a fantastic start for his new team, Aston Martin. But Alonso was in no mood to probe the nuances of split times and speeds. “I have no idea,” he said when asked if the team had learned anything from a good week of practice. “I just drive the car and then in qualifying I see where I am.” Where he was after qualifying was alongside Red Bull’s Pérez in the front row.
Good news, bad news for Red Bull. How fast did Verstappen get his first victory in Bahrain? Fast enough for his team to tell him to slow down late in the race, a request that annoyed Verstappen and ended with a Red Bull engineer pleading, “Do it, please. It’s unclear whether the order was made to spare Verstappen’s engine or the honor of the peloton, but the sudden loss of power that ended his qualifying bid on Saturday wasn’t the jolt his team needed , and it spoiled the mood even as Pérez spun on the fastest lap. “Now it will be a bit more difficult to get past,” Verstappen said of the 15th start. “Anything is possible on this track. But let’s stay a little realistic: it’s going to be hard.
Ferrari’s power problem. Things could hardly have gone worse for Leclerc and Ferrari in Bahrain. Racing with the leaders, Leclerc was forced out of the race after his power unit suddenly stopped. (If you don’t know what causes a power unit to stop, don’t worry: the engineers at Ferrari don’t seem to know either, and it’s a much bigger problem for them than for you. ) The specter of more power trouble, however, hung over Ferrari all week: it seemed to be running its cars at less than full speed just to play it safe.
Mercedes wants a renovation. “It was one of our worst days in racing,” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said after a disastrous start to the season in Bahrain that saw Lewis Hamilton come home in fifth and Russell in seventh. . The mood did not improve. Wolff is still grumbling, Russell is still struggling, and Hamilton is still simmering. “I just don’t feel the car under me,” Hamilton said. “I don’t really know what I’m going to do about it.”
Results and standings after the first race of the season, the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 5:
What they say
“Anything is possible on this track. But let’s stay a little realistic: it’s going to be hard. — Verstappen on his chances of victory after falling 15th on the starting grid.
“I think at pure pace, Red Bull is in another league. I think we need to focus more on the other teams. — Alonsostarting in the front row but already looking over his shoulder.
“We need the Red Bulls not finishing the race, the Ferraris not finishing the race and maybe now the Astons not finishing the race, for us to win right now.” — hamilton exposing the extremely problematic path to victory for Mercedes. In its defense, eliminating half a dozen of the fastest cars would be very useful for any team in the middle of the pack, which is precisely what Mercedes seems to be at the moment.
April 2: Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit.