by F1 correspondent Michael Butterworth
BEIJING, March 20 (Xinhua) -- Red Bull's Sergio Perez took victory in Sunday's Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, as teammate Max Verstappen salvaged second place after starting 15th.
Starting from pole position, Perez lost out to Fernando Alonso at the first corner, but regained the lead on Lap 4 and was never headed as he took his fifth career win and his first since last season's Monaco Grand Prix.
Verstappen had started the race well down the order after a driveshaft issue had ruined his qualifying session, but a Safety Car period on Lap 18 helped him vault up the order, and the Dutchman was up to second place behind Perez by Lap 25.
Verstappen complained about problems with his driveshaft late in the race, and though the Dutchman managed to bring the car home and set the race's fastest lap, he never came within four seconds of Perez.
"Again, the Safety Car wanted to take the victory from us, but we did the right thing and it was nice to get it done," said Perez, who had lost out on a potential win in last year's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after losing the race lead during a Safety Car period.
"I thought we both pushed more than we needed because in the end it was just one tenth between us - the result wouldn't have changed. In the end, it's a massive team result."
Behind the Red Bulls, Fernando Alonso took his second consecutive third place finish, though the Spaniard was made to sweat on the result as stewards initially demoted him to fourth for not having served a five-second time penalty correctly earlier in the race.
Having been issued with the penalty for not starting from the correct position in his grid slot, Alonso served it during his first pit stop, but stewards adjudged that Aston Martin's mechanics had touched the car before the five seconds had elapsed, handing him a further ten-second penalty that dropped him to fourth.
However, Aston Martin successfully argued that there were examples of other drivers not being penalized for similar offences, and the stewards reinstated Alonso's third place.
Behind the top three, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton took fourth and fifth for Mercedes, ahead of the twin Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.
Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly finished eighth and ninth for Alpine, with Kevin Magnussen rounding out the top ten in his Haas.
Despite failing to win, Verstappen still leads the championship standings with 44 points, with Perez just a single point adrift, and Alonso third with 30 points.
In the Constructors' Championship, Red Bull lead the way with 87 points. Aston Martin and Mercedes are a long way back in second and third place, with both teams on 38 points.
The third round of the 2023 Formula 1 season is the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne's Albert Park on April 2.