The 2023 F1 Saudi Arabian GP will be the second race of the season and it comes at a pivotal time.
Red Bull's domination in Bahrain has left many F1 fans and teams stumped and worried about the prospect of a single team dominating the sport.
There has been a lot of troubleshooting going on at both Mercedes and Ferrari. Charles Leclerc is already destined for a 10-place grid drop and in so many ways the momentum seems to be going Red Bull's way.
Having said that, the track in Jeddah comes with new challenges and question marks.
What can we expect from the upcoming race weekend? Well, let's take a look as we share our top 5 predictions for the 2023 F1 Saudi Arabian GP.
#5 It will be an action-packed race with multiple stoppages
The last time we raced in Jeddah, it was the F1 race that featured a titanic battle between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.
What was also a feature of that race was its more straightforward nature. In the last two years, there have been six races on that track, four Formula 2 races and two Formula 1 races
Out of these races, only the 2022 F1 Saudi Arabian GP was the one that did not feature a major crash (Latifi's crash was still of a smaller magnitude). The reason behind it is the fact that the track is the fastest street circuit in the world. What this means is that while the speeds achieved on the track are spectacular, so are the crashes.
The track has seen a few modifications over the last year, but it would be hard to change its characteristics. The track in Jeddah is crash-prone in nature and more often than not, these crashes are going to bring in safety cars and mix up the field.
All in all, the action throughout the race is going to keep the fans hooked after a somewhat straightforward race in Bahrain, isn't that what everyone wants to see?
#4 Alpine leads the midfield
Alpine had a shambolic weekend in Bahrain where either driver aced one of the two days that mattered and messed up the other one.
Pierre Gasly messed up his qualifying and started the race in P20 while Esteban Ocon was the best midfield qualifier.
The tides turned in the race as Ocon served every possible penalty under those flashlights while Gasly made his way through the field and scored points.
In all of this, what was interesting to watch was how impressive Alpine looked when it ran without any issues. The car is strong and if the team has shed all of winter break's cobwebs, it should be able to lead the midfield.
It might be a bit of wishful thinking but the gap between Alpine and Mercedes will be worth keeping an eye on as well during the 2023 F1 Saudi Arabian GP weekend.
#3 Aston Martin will be quicker than Mercedes
There have been suggestions that Aston Martin's deficit at top speed could prove detrimental to the team in Saudi Arabia.
The two major areas of divergence between Mercedes and Aston Martin were tire usage and straight-line speed. Aston Martin had better tire usage but lagged in the top speed to Mercedes.
Having said that, it's hard to deny how easily Fernando Alonso was able to pull away from Lewis Hamilton in the race. This is a clear sign of an overall better package and in Jeddah, irrespective of the straight-line deficit, Aston Martin should be able to trump Mercedes once again.
Can Fernando Alonso secure another podium? It is certainly a possibility with Charles Leclerc facing a 10-place grid penalty but it could prove to be a tough ask.
#2 Charles Leclerc and Ferrari will be far more competitive
Charles Leclerc's 10-place grid penalty is just what the Ferrari driver did not need heading into the 2023 F1 Saudi Arabian GP weekend.
Having said that, there's certainly a sense of optimism within the team around the car.
Fred Vasseur has been quick to point out the one-lap speed of the car that did challenge Max Verstappen in Bahrain. The 2023 F1 Saudi Arabian GP will not be as tire-limited as Bahrain and that should help Ferrari.
What will also help the car's ability is the significant upgrade in straight-line speed. The 2023 F1 Saudi Arabian GP will see a much better outing from Ferrari as the team could possibly be the closest challenger to Red Bull in terms of pace.
#1 Max Verstappen wins the 2023 F1 Saudi Arabian GP
Charles Leclerc's penalty might just have put paid to a potential repeat of last year's battle for the win.
Max Verstappen heads to the 2023 F1 Saudi Arabian GP as the favorite to win. The car appears to have no weaknesses as even the straight-line speed deficit is not huge in any which way.
If one questions who could be a possible challenger to Verstappen at the 2023 F1 Saudi Arabian GP, then the list does narrow down to three names - Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso, and Charles Leclerc.
Charles Leclerc is already compromised even before the 2023 F1 Saudi Arabian GP weekend has begun. Sergio Perez would not be mounting much of a challenge either. With Fernando Alonso, there are still question marks over what Aston Martin will do in Jeddah as the one-lap pace was still quite a bit off the mark in Bahrain.
Unless Verstappen's stomach bug is too debilitating, the Red Bull driver is the favorite to win the 2023 F1 Saudi Arabian GP.