Sergio Perez will start on pole for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix for the second consecutive year after an entertaining qualifying session at Jeddah, although Max Verstappen suffered a mechanical problem in Q2 which will see him start in 15th.
After Ferrari seemingly struggled for pace in final practice, Charles Leclerc set a superb lap on his final lap at Jeddah to qualify second, but a 10-place grid penalty will drop him to 12th and Fernando Alonso will inherit a spot in the grid. first row. alongside Perez on Sunday.
George Russell and Carlos Sainz will form the second row, ahead of Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon, with five different cars filling the top six spots on the grid for Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Judging by the pace that Red Bull showed in FP3, the front row line-up looked like a foregone conclusion before the qualifying session even started – with Verstappen a second quicker than the third fastest car in final practice.
But at the start of Q1, it was AlphaTauri’s Nyck de Vries who found himself in trouble when he spun under braking at Turn 1 – having missed out on FP3 by having to change the total power unit in his car. The rear of his AT04 appeared to lock up as soon as his foot hit the brakes and the Dutchman was left with four flat tires from his problems.
Elsewhere, Lando Norris cornered a little too early on the final turn of turn 27 and scored the inside wall with his front left tire, forcing him to abort his first fast lap and return to the pits. Fernando Alonso also spun as the riders explored the tight confines of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, with plenty of danger around the walled street layout.
Yet another spinner came later in the session when Logan Sargeant found himself rear-end exiting the Turn 22/23 chicane – recently re-engineered for this year to reduce entry speeds into that section – and the Williams driver managed to turn and go again.
Damage to Norris’ McLaren forced an early exit from Q1 and qualifying as a P19 slot awaits Norris alongside Sargeant, whose first lap time was ruled out for a track boundary violation when crossing the pit entry line on his way to the final line – having set a good enough time to move into Q2.
He tried again for a final run, but a curb impact in turns 1 and 2, followed by a bump into the wall, damaged his Williams and forced Sargeant to abort.
Yuki Tsunoda, Alex Albon and De Vries were the others to crash in Q1 – with just 0.010s separating Tsunoda from Valtteri Bottas and a place in Q2.
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Mechanical problems force Max Verstappen out in Q2 in Saudi Arabia
A queue formed at the end of the pit lane as qualifying continued, but not all was well for Verstappen as he lapped around Jeddah. He suffered what he called “big time” with an oversteer snap at Turn 14, before slowing down with what appeared to be a transmission issue – with the transmission popping out of its gearbox.
He had already changed the gearbox earlier in the weekend, but while he managed to crawl back into the pit lane, a resigned exit from his car with several minutes still left in the session saw Verstappen out early – and suddenly, qualifying it seemed to be a much more open subject.
The Alfa Romeo and Haas pairs would eventually join Verstappen to be knocked out in Q2, but given the way the reigning world champion dominated free practice, the final part of qualifying lost the outright favorite for pole position, meaning the slot P1 was apparently a lot more up for grabs.
But the start of Q3 is where Perez came to the fore, his first effort about half a second faster than anyone else could manage, as last year’s polesitter looked to pick up where his teammate left off in terms of raw pace. .
Nobody could match the Mexican’s first race, although Leclerc managed to get within two-tenths of him in the last, and the two Aston Martins crashed in the final part of the lap after nearly matching the Red Bull in the first two sectors.
1 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:28.265
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari + 0.155
3 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin + 0.465
4 George Russell Mercedes + 0.592
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari + 0.666
6 Lance Stroll Aston Martin + 0.680
7 Esteban Ocon Alpine + 0.813
8 Lewis HamiltonMercedes + 0.958
9 Oscar Piastri McLaren + 0.978
10 Pierre Gasly Alpine + 1,092
11 Nico Hülkenberg Haas 1:29.451
12 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Racing + 0.010
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas + 0.066
14 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Racing + 0.217
15 Max Verstappen Red Bull + 20,502
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:29,939
17 Alex Albon Williams + 0.055
18 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri + 0.305
19 Lando Norris McLaren + 0.508
20 Logan Sergeant Williams + 38,571