F1 tips: Saudi Arabian Grand Prix prediction, verdict and suggested bets

Formula 1 heads to Saudi Arabia this weekend, and we think Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz could challenge the dominant Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez for a race victory.

What happened last time out?

World champion Verstappen and his team-mate Perez got Christian Horner's team off to the perfect start with a 1-2 in Bahrain - but Fernando Alonso caught the eye in his Aston Martin and Carlos Sainz bagged fourth in his Ferrari.

Bahrain Grand Prix 2023 top 10

1 Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 25 points

2 Sergio Perez, Red Bull, 18

3 Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, 15

4 Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, 12

5 Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 10

6 Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, 8

7 George Russell, Mercedes, 6

8 Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, 4

9 Pierre Gasly, Alpine, 2

10 Alex Albon, Williams 1

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Jeddah Street Circuit (March 17-19)

What's happening off track?

Verstappen had to cancel his media commitments at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix because of a stomach illness.

The double world champion, who dominated Formula One's season-opening race in Bahrain a fortnight ago, has been battling with the bug this week.

"Feeling fine again, after not being fit for a few days because of a stomach bug," wrote the Dutchman, 25, on Twitter.

Verstappen's Red Bull team tweeted: "Max has been suffering from a stomach illness over the past few days. Feel better, Max."

What has been said so far?

Lewis Hamilton said his Mercedes team needs "a kick" after conceding his chances of winning a record eighth world title are over for another year.

Mercedes are in crisis mode in Saudi Arabia following a turbulent opening race.

Hamilton finished fifth in Bahrain - more than 50 seconds behind winner Verstappen - and said: "I have 100 per cent belief in this team, it is my family. I have been here a long time and I don't plan on going anywhere else. But we all need a kick. We all need to get on.

"The proof in the pudding is in the eating. We have got to start making some bold decisions and some big moves to close the gap to these guys.

"Red Bull will run away with it this year unless Ferrari can stop them. We are hopeful we will be able close the gap at some stage, but by that point it will be too late in terms of fighting for the championship.

"We are not fighting. We need the Red Bulls and the Ferraris and maybe now the Aston Martins not to finish a race to win.

"Red Bull were not pushing in Bahrain and they were a lot quicker than they seemed. They were a second and a half a lap faster than us in the race.

"The comments I heard before the season is that we would not hit the ground straightaway at the front but we would be there or thereabouts, so it was a shock when that wasn't the case.

"I knew that we were not in the right place. When I saw the car for the first time it looked so different to our competitors.

"The colour looked nice but I don't care what colour it is as long as it is quick. We will hopefully mould it into a winning car. I will win again. It is just going to take some time."

Red Bull driver Perez is looking to make amends for his disappointment at last year's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix by securing pole position and winning the race this weekend.

"That's certainly my target; to try to be on pole position and try to win the race," said Perez, who took his first and only F1 pole position in last year's event.

Perez believes that the unique characteristics of the Bahrain circuit contributed to Red Bull's dominant performance, and that other teams will be much closer at Jeddah.

"I think it's a really different circuit here. The requirements are very different, the degradation is not as severe as Bahrain," said Perez.

"We certainly believe that the Ferraris will be pretty strong around this place. So certainly, Aston Martin, Mercedes are going to be a lot closer to us because the requirements are very different."

Verdict and suggested bets

Carlos Sainz to win Saudi Arabia GP

Finished on the podium at Saudi Arabia in 2022 and can go one better with victory at Jeddah.

Bahrain was brutal on Ferrari's tyres but there is a much smoother track surface at Jeddah and their mighty straight-line speed on a quick circuit should ensure a much closer fight with Red Bull this weekend.

Alex Albon to secure points finish

Williams were one of the main surprises of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Tipped to finish bottom of the standings this year by many but Albon dug deep to bring a point home and will have confidence to do the same again here at a track which should also complement Williams' raw speed quite nicely.

Sergio Perez to claim fastest lap

With a stronger fight expected from Ferrari, even with Charles Leclerc's 10-place grid penalty for engine component changes looming, the extra point for setting the fastest lap will become a tactical battle this weekend.

With Verstappen the clear No.1 at Red Bull, the dirty work is usually left to Perez.

Expect him to pit late on and set the fastest lap if it is a case of Red Bull having to go into damage limitation mode against Ferrari.

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