Saudi Arabian GP 2022: Red Bull Fix Reliability Issues & Heartbreak for Ricciardo

Credit: Zak Mauger

The Saudi Arabian GP was one of the cleanest and fun races we’ve seen for a while. No controversy, just straight-up racing.

Max Verstappen managed to snake the win in the last few laps against Charles Leclerc in what was a fantastic duel that we are sure to see play out throughout the season. Unlike Verstappen vs Hamilton, this duo seems to have far more respect for each other or maybe the stakes just aren’t as high just yet.

New Regulations Seem to Be Working

The new set of aero regulations seems to be doing an effective job at achieving its goals. Namely, that cars can follow each other much easier than during the hybrid-turbo era. We saw this in the amount of overtakes and duels observed across the whole grid. The change has been most apparent in the duel between Leclerc and Verstappen who just kept trading places but also with both Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso. It was a delight to watch.

Overtaking has changed as well with overtaking moves becoming more difficult to make stick due to cars being able to follow easier. We saw this several times from Verstappen and Leclerc, but it was apparent in Haas’ Kevin Magnussen against Lewis Hamilton. While an attacking car can get ahead no problem, keeping the defending car behind is harder than ever as they simply wait for the next DRS zone to overtake. It’s a new way to race that caught Verstappen by surprise last week in Bahrain and early on in Saudi Arabia before learning and adapting, winning him the race.

Mercedes Power Units Are Struggling But Not Completely Out

While it was a horror showing in qualifying for Lewis Hamilton, he was still able to climb his way up the grid and into the points at P10, proving that the Mercedes power unit isn’t completely useless. Proving it more so was George Russell who earned a comfortable P5 without having to contest his position once. However, this hasn’t been met with the same positivity from Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff who told,

“This time, for me, feels a little bit like 2013, where we just weren’t up to the speed with the Red Bull, and probably also not with the Ferrari, but we kept fighting, and this is how I feel at the moment. We need to fight. It is certainly totally unacceptable where we are on performance. We’re third on the road, sometimes not, even, like today.”

McLaren also improved this week after a terrible race in Bahrain. They seemed to have a little more pace and were able to compete for points this race. Daniel Ricciardo looked to be on form this weekend, but it was all to be stripped away from him when an engine failure ended his race just as it was about to begin. Lando Norris earned P7 in what must have been a huge sigh of relief for McLaren, at least confirming that they can race for points.

The Mercedes power unit isn’t doing better for everyone though as both Williams and Aston Martin struggled heavily in Saudi Arabia. It was especially bad for Aston Martin who couldn’t unlock any pace at all this race.

It was a horror show for Williams though with two DNFs, however those had nothing to do with the power unit but rather could be attributed to driver error. Though it didn’t look like they had much pace either so maybe it made little difference.

It looks like teams opting for the Mercedes power unit will be the back markers for this year. 

Reliability Is Still An Issue

While Red Bull have sorted their reliability issues, the same cannot be said for the rest of the grid, especially their sister team AlphaTauri. Four drivers had to end their race due to a critical failure with their cars. Valtteri Bottas retired seemingly out of nowhere due to a technical issue after a solid performance that would have surely earned him points. The same can be said of Fernando Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo. Overheating has been named as a possible culprit given the warm conditions in Saudi Arabia.

Yuki Tsunoda didn’t even get to start the race after a failure in qualifying extending well into the race. The AlphaTauri’s seem to be struggling a lot with reliability as Pierre Gasly also struggled with it during FP3, stopping his session entirely.

Yuki Tsunoda didn’t even get to start the race after an unidentified technical failure in qualifying that extended into the race. The AlphaTauri’s seem to be struggling a lot with reliability as Pierre Gasly also struggled with it during FP3, stopping his session entirely.

It’s likely this can all be attributed to the new cars and regulations, creating new problems that the teams haven’t foreseen. It’s also likely that these reliability issues will be addressed throughout the season with fewer cars retiring as a result.

For more F1 goodies, check out why Kevin Magnussen is back at Haas

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