Perez wary of ‘lion’ Alonso in bid to ‘keep lid’ on Saudi start
By Ian Parkes
Sunday 19th March, 2023 - 11:03pm
Will Sergio Perez be mauled at the start of the Saudi Arabian GP by ‘lion’ Fernando Alonso?
Sergio Perez is wary of the threat that will be posed by ‘lion’ Fernando Alonso at the start of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
For the second successive race at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Perez netted pole position, aided by the fact Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen sustained a driveshaft failure on his RB19 in Q2.
It means the reigning F1 champion is faced with a fight through the field in his bid to land a near-certain podium place if he can avoid any incidents in the opening exchanges given the exceptional pace of his car.
Perez is joined on the front row by two-time champion Alonso, who was third quickest in qualifying but moves up to second due to Charles Leclerc serving a 10-place grid penalty for a change of the control electronics unit in his Ferrari.
Even with Verstappen starting 15th, the race is Perez’s to lose, although warrior Alonso will give it everything off the line in his resurgent Aston Martin.
“I am not going to approach the race thinking about Max,” said Perez, whose team orders spat with Verstappen in Brazil last year may yet play a part.
“First of all, I have to make sure I’m able to keep the lid on the initial laps, and if I’m able to do that, to keep this lion (Alonso) behind.
“It will be good because I think I can focus on my race.”
Perez backing Verstappen surge
Perez has no doubt, however, Verstappen will scythe his way through as the speed he had shown throughout the weekend prior to the driveshaft issue had been frightening.
The Dutch driver was quickest in all three practice sessions, notably by more than six-tenths of a second to Perez in FP3, and was almost half-a-second clear at the end of the first phase of qualifying.
“We certainly have a good race car,” said Perez, in assessing how far Verstappen could climb through the field. “It’s where we are probably a little bit better than the competition.
“But it depends. So many things can happen in a race, but I do expect him to come back.
“Our car, our race pace, was very strong on Friday, so we’ll see. Hopefully, for the team, we are able to come back and get maximum points because these weekends are very important.
“The competition, it’s only going to get closer. So, to be able to maximise the points will be important.”
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