Winners and losers from F1’s 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix might have been another Formula 1 race won at a canter by Red Bull and Max Verstappen, but that wasn’t the most significant on-track performance on Saturday evening in Jeddah.

We take a look at some particularly surprising winners and the drivers who’ll be most disappointed following the second round of the 2024 season.

Winners

Ollie Bearman

A sensational F1 debut for Bearman really couldn’t have gone much better.

Even everything his inexperience caused him to slightly fumble – a slow start and struggling to pass Yuki Tsunoda and Nico Hulkenberg – didn’t actually cost him anything result-wise.

That’s because he found a really strong rhythm when in clear air and did get the moves done on Tsunoda and Hulkenberg when he needed to.

To withstand pressure from behind from a charging Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton in the final 10 laps was highly impressive and a great testament to his mental and physical rigour.

All this after only finding out he’d be hopping in the Ferrari SF-24 a few hours before final practice. Utterly brilliant and fantastic for his future. Surely a case of if not when he’ll be in F1 properly. – Josh Suttill

Max Verstappen and Red Bull

This is too easy. Is it so easy that it’s not that satisfying? Verstappen’s not giving that impression yet, but all the “simply lovely” celebrations on the radio don’t feel like they have the same adrenaline rush as his harder-fought victories.

The ease of the wins are not Verstappen or Red Bull’s fault, though. On-track, they are deservedly peerless right now.

And Sergio Perez getting back to ideal number two form – with narrowly failing to fill the front row his only blip – means it’s all looking even easier. – Matt Beer

Fernando Alonso

After Aston Martin’s rapid fade from best-of-the rest contention in qualifying to minor-points obscurity in last weekend’s Bahrain GP season opener, the prospect of a repeat in Saudi Arabia surely loomed large in parts of the team’s mind despite another mega lap from Alonso to haul the AMR24 onto the second row of the Jeddah grid.

Alonso even conceded he was “very concerned” about his prospects after that effort.

This, though, was a far more encouraging performance for both driver and team. Sure, Alonso lost a place to the McLaren of Oscar Piastri – a car that, on reflection, he might think he could have beaten. And OK, there was the late-race brush of the track’s walled confines.

But Alonso should take encouragement from a drive – in what was basically a flat-out race – that will allay early fears that the Aston Martin might have a big race pace deficit. – Jack Cozens

Haas

The Saudi Arabian GP was one of only four grands prix in which Haas scored points last year, and given the gulf there seems to be between the top five teams and the rest in F1 2024 it might be feeding off similar scraps this year.

But the team that was expected to start this season slowest of all has proved over the first couple of weekends that it’s right in that midfield mix, and pulled off a real strategic spoiler to get off the mark here.

Kevin Magnussen looked like he’d blown the team’s shot at points by earning a needless penalty for clashing with Alex Albon, who he’d jumped in the early stages. A second penalty for passing Tsunoda illegally at Turn 4 only served to rub salt in the wounds.

But was that opportunistic pass all part of the ploy anyway? That’s unclear, but once he’d lunged ahead of Tsunoda, Magnussen came into his own by backing the pack up – including a crucial around-the-outside repass on Tsunoda right after the RB had drafted ahead along the start/finish straight – to create enough of a gap for the yet-to-stop Hulkenberg to drop into that became 10th when Zhou Guanyu pitted.

A point hard earned – through Haas’s gamble on keeping Hulkenberg out under the safety car, and Magnussen’s honourable sacrifice.

And if there’s another small win, it’s how well the pace held up throughout the race. Yes, the Jeddah circuit it ultra low-deg, but the competitive position Haas has found itself in at both weekends suggests it has gone some way towards solving its car’s tyre-chewing tendencies. – JC

Losers

Daniel Ricciardo’s main 2024 mission

Ricciardo wants to be Verstappen’s team-mate again but very little he’s done during the first two rounds of 2024 will be convincing Red Bull he should be.

It’s incredibly early days but it’s a far from ideal start and his Saudi Arabian GP was nothing short of a nightmare.

Spinning right in front of Perez – the driver Ricciardo wants to replace – couldn’t have been a more diabolical visual metaphor for how the Perez vs Ricciardo fight played out in Jeddah.

Perez did an almost-perfect job (save for letting Leclerc start on the front row) by quickly passing Leclerc and settling into a comfortable second place behind Verstappen.

There’s still plenty of time for 49 more twists in this race but Ricciardo – who did have a slow stop but was already behind team-mate Tsunoda – needs to get a move on considering how quickly Red Bull acts. – JS

Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton

Absolute credit to McLaren/Norris and Mercedes/Hamilton for trying the dice roll of staying out during the safety car.

It didn’t look like a strategy likely to succeed unless the race was interrupted again later, but at a point when everyone’s up against vast Verstappen superiority, increasing difficulty in overtaking and minimal tyre variety, there’s little to be gained by following the herd.

The danger was that this gamble would end up hurting them relative to the cars in the group they could’ve been racing against. And that’s exactly how it proved, partly due to the time lost battling each other after their pitstops.

Neither was heading for much more than mid-top 10. But lower top 10 was still a worse result than would’ve been possible had they stayed conventional on strategy. Shame, though. – MB

Kevin Magnussen

OK, without Magnussen’s creative defending, Haas wouldn’t been able to score its potentially vital point with Hulkenberg.

He deserves credit for making that tactic work and for being willing to sacrifice his own race for the good of the team.

The downside was he was in a position where his race was so wrecked it could be sacrificed at basically no cost.

And that was down to his own errors that had earned him the double penalty. Not ideal on a weekend when potential (certain?) future Haas driver Bearman impresses so much.

One bit of luck for Magnussen, though. A quirk of not quite being lapped when several midfield cars behind him were meant that 20s double penalty only cost him one place not the four it should’ve done. – MB

Lance Stroll

Drastically outperformed by Alonso, in the wall thanks to his own error very early in the race and then needlessly churlish about it on team radio.

Given so many drivers could make it back to the pits, or continue without cost, after hitting the wall at stages during the weekend, it wasn’t daft for his engineer to ask Stroll if he could, having presumably not seen the incidents on the screens yet.

Stroll’s sarcastic response was obviously the heat of the moment answer of a driver who’d just crashed so perhaps he can’t be castigated too hard. But this was a moment when apologising would’ve been more appropriate than lashing out mockingly. – MB

Pierre Gasly

Alpine was no better pace-wise at a circuit where it had slight hopes of mildly less embarrassment.

An immediate gearbox problem before the race even started added to the sense of abject crisis.

But it did save Gasly from an hour and a half of trundling around at the back at least. – MB

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