Sergio Perez will start on pole for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix for the second consecutive year after an entertaining qualifying session in Jeddah, although Max Verstappen suffered a mechanical problem in Q2 which will see him start from the bottom in 15th.
After Ferrari seemingly struggled for pace in final practice, Charles Leclerc put in a great lap on his final tour of Jeddah to qualify second, but a 10-place grid penalty will drop him to 12th and Fernando Alonso will inherit a front row seat. alongside Perez come Sunday.
George Russell and Carlos Sainz will occupy the second row, ahead of Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon as five different cars occupy the top six places on the grid for Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Judging by the pace Red Bull displayed in FP3, the front row composition looked like a foregone conclusion before the qualifying session even started – with Verstappen a second quicker than the third fastest car in practice. final.
But at the start of Q1 it was AlphaTauri’s Nyck de Vries who found himself in a sticky situation when he made a U-turn under braking at Turn 1 – after missing FP3 due to a change of complete power unit on his car. The rear of his AT04 seemed to lock up as soon as his foot hit the brake and the Dutchman was left with four flat tires for his troubles.
Elsewhere, Lando Norris came a little too early into the final hairpin at Turn 27 and scored the inside wall with his left front tire, forcing him to abort his first flying lap and return to the pits. Fernando Alonso also turned around as the drivers explored the tight confines of the Jeddah Corniche circuit, with plenty of hazards around the route of the fortified street.
Another spinner came later in the session as Logan Sargeant found himself facing the rear exiting the Turn 22/23 chicane – newly reprofiled for this year to reduce the entry speed into this section – and the Williams driver was able to turn around and drive away.
Damage to Norris’ McLaren has forced an early exit from Q1 and qualifying, as a P19 grid spot awaits Norris alongside Sargeant, whose first time was scrapped for a track limit violation crossing the pit line on its way to the finish line – having set a good enough time to qualify for Q2.
He tried again for one last run, but an impact on the pavement at turns 1 and 2, followed by a brush with the wall, damaged his Williams and forced Sargeant to retire.
Yuki Tsunoda, Alex Albon and De Vries were the others to fall in Q1 – with just 0.010s separating Tsunoda from Valtteri Bottas and a place in Q2.
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A queue formed at the end of the pit lane as qualifying continued, but all was not well for Verstappen as he rolled around Jeddah. He suffered what he called a “big moment” with an oversteer snap at Turn 14, before slowing down with what looked like a transmission problem – with drive coming from his gearbox.
He had already changed gears earlier in the weekend, but while he was able to return to pit lane, a resigned climb from his car with several minutes remaining in the session saw Verstappen exit early – and suddenly qualifying seemed like a much more open affair.
The Alfa Romeo and Haas pairings would eventually join Verstappen in getting knocked out in Q2, but given how the reigning world champion had dominated free practice, the latter part of qualifying had lost the absolute favorite for pole position, which which means the P1 spot was apparently a lot more up for grabs.
But it was at the start of Q3 that Perez came to the fore, his first effort about half a second faster than anyone could as last year’s poleman seemed to pick up where his teammate left off. was stopped in terms of raw rhythm.
No one could match that first race for the Mexican, although Leclerc was able to come within two-tenths of him at the last, and both Aston Martins fell in the latter part of the lap after nearly leveling 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 Balade Aston Martin + 0.680
7 Esteban Ocon Alpine + 0.813
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes + 0.958
9 Oscar Piastri McLaren + 0.978
10 Pierre Gasly Alpine + 1.092
11 Nico Hulkenberg 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 Alpha Tauri 1:29.939
17 Alex Albon Williams +0.055
18 Nyck de Vries Alpha Tauri + 0.305
19 Lando Norris McLaren +0.508
20 Logan Sargeant Williams + 38.571