Perez achieves rare feat at 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Sergio Perez won the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix from pole position. In doing so, he achieved a rare feat – achieved only once previously in Formula 1, by John Watson back in the 1980s.

Sergio Perez dominated the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend. While his team-mate Max Verstappen was fastest in all three practice sessions, a driveshaft issue prevented the Dutchman from progressing any further than Q2 on Saturday.

Perez took pole by 0.155 seconds from Charles Leclerc – who would serve a ten-place grid penalty – and turned his pole position into a race win. Despite being overtaken at the opening corner by Fernando Alonso, Perez was soon back in front of the Spaniard and would not relinquish the lead for the rest of the race.

Sergio Perez at the 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Image: © Andrew Balfour.
Image: © Andrew Balfour

Perez’s team-mate Verstappen fought back from 15th to the runner-up spot, ultimately finishing 5.355 seconds behind Perez and setting the fastest lap in the process.

With Perez winning the race and Verstappen finishing second, Red Bull secured a 1-2 result for the second successive race. It was the first time Red Bull achieved back-to-back 1-2 results in almost 14 years, since the 2009 British Grand Prix and the 2009 German Grand Prix.

Furthermore, Red Bull made 2023 only the fifth season in which a team has secured 1-2 results at the first two races of the year. Mercedes were the last team to do so, back in 2019. This was also the first time that Perez led home a Red Bull 1-2 – the first time Verstappen was beaten to a win in a 1-2 result for the team since the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix.


The 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix marked the first time that Sergio Perez has won a Grand Prix from pole position. He took his inaugural victory – at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix – from 5th on the grid. That was despite finding himself running last at the end of the first lap as a result of contact.

Perez took his next victory, at the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, from 6th on the grid. That’s the furthest back position from which he has won so far. His next win would come at the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix, from 3rd on the grid, while his fourth career victory was recorded at the 2022 Singapore Grand Prix having started 2nd.

That means that Perez has taken all of the first five victories of his career from different grid positions. It’s a feat which has been achieved only once previously in Formula 1, by John Watson.

Watson won five races in his F1 career, with all five coming from different grid slots. He recorded his first victory with the Penske team at the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix. Starting 2nd in that race, the event remains the last win for an American-owned team in F1.

Watson would have to wait almost five years for his next victory, which came in his third season with the McLaren team. Watson won the 1981 British Grand Prix at Silverstone from 5th on the grid. It was the first time a carbon fibre moncoque took victory in F1.

The following season would prove to be Watson’s most successful in the sport, taking two victories. He took victory at the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder from 10th on the grid, overtaking Keke Rosberg on the penultimate lap. Watson’s next win was at the 1982 Detroit Grand Prix, where he won having started 17th on the grid.

John Watson raced in Formula 1 until 1985. Image: Jerry Lewis-Evans, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

While Watson’s 1982 Detroit Grand Prix victory set a new record for the furthest back Grand Prix win in F1 history, he’d go on to better that record the following season. At the 1983 United States Grand Prix West, Watson won having started 22nd of the 26 starters. It remains the record for the furthest back position from which and F1 race has been won and proved to be Watson’s last win in F1.

While Watson and Perez are the only drivers to take their first five victories from five different positions, a few other drivers have come close to doing so. Stirling Moss, Denny Hulme and Carlos Reutemann won each of their first four Grands Prix from different grid positions, before winning from a repeat position when they took their fifth victory. Meanwhile, Bruce McLaren and Eddie Irvine each took all of their first four victories from different gird slots but would never add a fifth win to their name.

If Perez takes his next Grand Prix victory from 4th or a position outside of the top six on the grid, he’ll become the first driver in F1 history to record his first six wins from six different grid positions.

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