Perez crosses to Red Bull 1-2 as penalty denies Alonso podium

Perez crossed the line 5.3 seconds ahead of Verstappen, who spent the last few laps charging his battery for a final lap on the fastest lap – ultimately successful as he crossed the line with a lap of 1:31.906.

The Mexican driver had to overcome a setback at the start, with Alonso trickling through the first corner to take the lead and settle into first place.

But immediately Alonso was pinged for starting from the wrong location, and a quick inquiry resulted in the Spaniard taking a five-second penalty for being too far left in his starting box.

Despite his lead over Perez briefly exceeding a second, Alonso was chased down by Perez at the end of the third lap and DRS allowed the Mexican to pull in and attempt to retake the lead at the start. round four.

Alonso stayed with him in DRS range and while he never made an attack to regain the lead, he was able to sit in Perez’s slipstream for a few laps until he just couldn’t stay within a second of the Red Bull.

From there, the Aston Martin driver eased and quickly dropped to 1.6 seconds behind Perez on lap 11 – a gap that doubled two laps later.

But the race was halted on lap 17, when Lance Stroll – who had previously made a sensational overtake on Carlos Sainz on the first lap at turn 13 – came to a halt and parked in turn 8.

This eventually brought out a safety car, leading to a spate of pit stops among the front runners as they traded their medium tires for the hardest compound.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Zak Mauger/Motorsport Images

Verstappen drew level after the safety car restart, having pitted alongside the early lead pack, and was initially told to prioritize managing his tires until DRS was activated on lap 23.

This gave him the tools to take down George Russell with DRS in Turn 27, and the Dutchman was then able to overtake Alonso in an attempt to break into the top two.

Next on Verstappen’s agenda was to close the 5.4 second gap to Perez, and he managed to get about a tenth out per lap – bringing it to five seconds by the 30th lap of the circuit when Perez tried to mitigate the damage.

The polesitter managed to restore his buffer to around 5.2 seconds on the next lap, as he and Verstappen continued to battle for the fastest laps. Although Verstappen was largely matched in terms of time, he was able to continuously clear Perez’s lead.

As the gap dropped below 4.5 seconds, Verstappen became concerned as he started to feel the driveshaft making strange noises at high speed, which restored Perez’s gap to 5.2 seconds as Red Bull investigated his complaints.

But satisfied enough, Red Bull told Verstappen to keep going – and in the meantime, Perez reported a long brake pedal as the team tried to finish the race.

Once the two were reassured about their problems, Verstappen closed the gap to 4.3 seconds as the radio began chatting between the Red Bull drivers and engineers.

Perez tried to lobby his team to slow things down as Verstappen continued to push, but once he was told the season was open, Perez opened the taps and started to get ahead of his teammate who was able to get into the low 1m32s to linger.

With three laps to go, Perez’s lead grew to six seconds as Verstappen was more concerned about the fastest lap, and the lead grew in Perez’s favor to 7.1 seconds before the final lap.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C43

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C43

Photo by: Zak Mauger/Motorsport Images

Verstappen then set his 1m31.906 to snatch his team-mate’s fastest lap and cut the gap to just over five seconds to eventually follow his team-mate home, while Perez took a first victory since Singapore last season.

Alonso had initially completed the top three, having served his five-second penalty during the safety car period prior to his pit stop to clear the chasing Mercedes and Ferrari cars.

Russell was told on the radio to keep Alonso within five seconds, only to stave off the threat of further punishment, but a mighty final lap from the double world champion kept the Briton beyond that margin – and the FIA immediately placed him under investigation. for wrongly serving the penalty because a member of his team touched the car at the time.

With that, Alonso received a 10-second penalty, dropping him to fourth and promoting Russell to third.

Lewis Hamilton made sure both Mercedes made the top five after opting for a counter-strategy where he started on hard tires and completed a 32-lap stint on the medium compound.

This allowed him to finish ahead of Carlos Sainz, who had previously used his pit stop to overtake Stroll after being the subject of his lavish pass around the outside at turn 13.

Sainz stayed ahead of Charles Leclerc, who fought his way through the rankings after a 10-place penalty saw him start 12th, and the Monegask managed to make up seventh.

Esteban Ocon won the Battle of the Alpines to finish eighth, while Pierre Gasly finished ninth to repeat his result in Bahrain.

Haas came off target for the season as Kevin Magnussen completed the top 10, after battling Yuki Tsunoda for the final point throughout the second half of the race.

The Dane put a move on the AlphaTauri driver at the start of the 46th lap, denying the Italian team the chance to score its first point of 2023.

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