The hype surrounding the Formula 1 season continues as the race day of the Saudi Arabian GP approaches. As Jeddah prepares to host another exciting race, the storylines that emerged during the Bahrain GP will be scrutinized more than ever.
The biggest narrative in the paddock will be Red Bull’s convincing one-two finish in Bahrain. It’s clear to everyone they’ll be the team to beat in Saudi Arabia, but the podium’s top spot will likely be reserved for an exciting duel between Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
However, there’s more to this Grand Prix than Red Bull’s strong start to the season. Ferrari fans are worried after the Prancing Horse failed to make a podium slot. Mercedes is nowhere near the strong contenders they were during much of the 2010s. Fernando Alonso is the best feel-good story for the neutral F1 fan.
This OKBET Sports piece will look into these narratives and predict which player will cross the finish line first.
Which Red Bull Driver Will Finish First?
It’s hard not to root for Red Bull Racing to pull off another one-two finish after the performance they showed in Bahrain. It’s clear to everyone that they are the heavy favorites to walk away with the top honors of the 2023 F1 season.
However, Verstappen will be the first to tell you that complacency is far from the cards for this team. After copying what his team did last year, the two-time F1 champion revealed that he expected their advantage to dwindle.
“And if you see that one car, particularly, is doing quite well over a year, you’ll try to copy some things and that’s why naturally everyone is getting closer and in general understanding the car bit better,” Verstappen told Motorsport.com.
However, the difference didn’t matter as he was still the fastest on the track. He finished 11 seconds ahead of teammate Perez, while Alonso came in more than half a minute later.
Perez will also be eager to steal Verstappen’s thunder. While the car is made with the Dutchman’s driving style in mind, Checo has shown his quality plenty of times this season. With Christian Horner backing the Mexican to push the tempo, expect tough competition between the two at the front.
Other Notable Saudi Arabian GP Stories
Red Bull may be the strongest F1 team, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones worth discussing. There are plenty of fascinating narratives that could transform entirely after this race.
Will Jeddah Be Leclerc’s Final Straw?
Many still consider Ferrari as the likeliest team to stop Red Bull’s two-year reign. However, their terrible start to the season shows that they still need to sort out before they can seriously compete for F1’s summit.
The biggest talking point for Ferrari fans is Charles Leclerc’s disappointing exit in Bahrain. His car’s engine failed in the race’s latter laps. He’s reportedly frustrated and demanded more out of the team.
However, it doesn’t help that he’s facing a ten-place grid penalty as the team had to replace the electronics power component a second time. If Leclerc wants to win in Jeddah, he must finish qualifying at the pole position to even have a decent shot against Red Bull.
Aside from reliability issues, there’s also the problem with Carlos Sainz struggling to keep up with Red Bull and Aston Martin. We haven’t even touched on the impending exodus of talent from the Prancing Horse.
Jeddah will be a tough test for Ferrari. It already has the potential of a make-or-break season for them. If they don’t sort their issues out, Leclerc could be out the door by 2024.
Mercedes’ Pace Issues Continue
Mercedes hoped their off-season innovations would help close the gap with Red Bull. However, Lewis Hamilton and company were left helpless as no Silver Arrows car finished in the top three.
Hamilton expressed frustration at the team’s lack of competitiveness, and rumors of his departure are constantly swirling. Should the seven-time world champion leave after this year, Mercedes will find itself in a tough spot.
Team principal Toto Wolff promised significant changes for the W14 moving forward, and fans can expect them to pull off something huge in the Saudi Arabian GP. However, it’s questionable if Hamilton and George Russell can pull the rug from under Red Bull and Ferrari with their current car.
Was Alonso’s Hot Start a Fluke?
The oldest man in the Formula 1 grid has been the talk of the town for the past two weeks.
When the Spaniard announced his move from Alpine to Aston Martin, many thought it was a move that didn’t make sense as Sebastian Vettel struggled to carry the team in 2022. Some thought he saw something in Aston Martin’s plans that convinced him to join them for two years.
Alonso proved these thoughts right when he finished third, making fantastic overtakes against Hamilton and Sainz.
It’s easy to ask if Alonso’s podium finish was a matter of luck. However, Lance Stroll also performed well in the first race of the 2023 season. He was just four seconds behind Hamilton, showing how well their car is performing this year.
There’s no reason to doubt Alonso making another podium finish in the Saudi Arabian GP after the team’s solid showing in Bahrain.
Saudi Arabian GP Predictions
Plenty of adjustments have likely happened between Bahrain and Jeddah, so it’s within the realm of possibility to see improved performances from the rest of the grid. Ferrari and Aston Martin will be the likeliest teams to make the podium should things go their way.
However, the Saudia Arabian GP is still Verstappen and Red Bull’s to lose. They were clearly the fastest car on the track, and it will probably take more than a couple of races before the rest of the playing field could catch up.
If Verstappen and Perez can finish Q3 at the front, it’s reasonable to expect them to win the entire thing again. While they might be behind Ferrari regarding straight-line power, they have the more reliable car.
It’s a costly mistake to underestimate Mercedes, though. Hamilton could finish at the top if they manage to get their act together.
Saudi Arabian GP Betting Odds
The bookies also see Verstappen as the favorite to win the Saudi Arabian GP. The two-time champion has the lowest outright odds at OKBET at 1.40. Perez is a close second at 6.50. Unless an unfortunate mechanical problem happens mid-race, they’ll likely run away with the most points again.
Alonso (9.00) and Sainz (15.00) are the next big favorites to snag the win. Leclerc (19.00) and Hamilton (26.00) are outside favorites compared to the other four, but a great race could easily turn the tide.
The driver with the most surprising odds would have to be McLaren’s Lando Norris (901.00). He finished last in Bahrain, which is surprising given the team’s solid performance last year. It will be interesting to see if the Englishman can bounce back with a podium in Jeddah.
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