Red Bull enjoyed a tremendous start to the 2023 Formula 1 season, with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez finishing one-two in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
However, Perez and the rest of the team are expecting a much tougher challenge this weekend in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Speaking to the media at Thursday’s press conferences, Perez noted that the field will be much tighter at the top than what we saw in Bahrain. “We certainly believe that Ferrari is going to be pretty strong around this place,” noted Perez on Thursday. “Certainly Aston and Mercedes are going to be a lot closer to us.”
What might make things even tougher for Red Bull is that Verstappen will not arrive until Friday, as the two-time Drivers’ champion is recovering from a stomach bug. Verstappen shared that news on social media:
Feeling fine again, after not being fit for a few days because of a stomach bug. Therefore, I unfortunately had to postpone my flight for a day, so I won't be on the track until Friday. See you in Jeddah!— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) March 16, 2023
Perez also noted that the Jeddah Corniche Circuit presents different challenges than Bahrain, challenges which could also help to level the field this weekend. “I think it’s a very different circuit here,” said Perez on Thursday. “The requirements are very different, the degradation is not as severe as Bahrain.”
As for his own chances this weekend, Perez is confident, and with good reason. Perez secured his first-ever F1 pole at Jeddah just over a year ago, and feels that the circuit, while a challenge, is one that he enjoys. “It certainly gives me good confidence, because I feel comfortable in the circuit,” said the Red Bull driver. “I certainly enjoy a lot the circuit. I think it’s a great challenge for all the drivers, especially on Saturday in qualifying. Hopefully we can get a good quali because it’s really important here.”
The challenge begins for Red Bull and the rest of the field on Friday with open practices. Qualifying is set to begin on Saturday.
Still no word if Verstappen will blink more than a few times per lap, however.