Sergio Perez clinched pole position for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in an action-packed qualifying session at Jeddah’s Corniche circuit after teammate and championship leader Max Verstappen retired in Q2 due to technical problems.
Verstappen was the strong favorite for pole position after leading the way in FP1, FP2, FP3 and the opening Q1 phase of qualifying, but a driveshaft problem that occurred in Q2 means he will start Sunday’s race from 15th on the grid.
WATCH: Pole favorite Verstappen suffers ‘very annoying’ mechanical problem in Saudi Arabia qualifying
Perez picked up the pieces in Verstappen’s absence, posting a 1m 28.265 in the decisive phase of Q3 to clinch a second consecutive pole in the Kingdom, 0.155s ahead of Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc, who will drop 10 places due to a an engine penalty.
Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin therefore jump to the front row as their strong start to the season continues, followed by the leading Mercedes of George Russell, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and team-mate Lance Stroll.
A much stronger qualifying performance from Alpine saw them finish seventh and 10th with Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly respectively, Lewis Hamilton taking eighth in his Mercedes and rookie Oscar Piastri impressive en route to P9 in his McLaren.
Haas and Alfa Romeo were unable to clear the second qualifying hurdle, with Nico Hulkenberg finishing 11th ahead of Zhou Guanyu, Kevin Magnussen and Valtteri Bottas, as Verstappen completed the list of drivers to retire in Q2 amid his costly issues.
AlphaTauri lost both their cars in Q1, with Yuki Tsunoda and Nyck de Vries taking 16th and 18th place respectively – the latter having made a mistake on the final corner of his final lap after missing FP3 due to a change in speed. unit of power.
Alex Albon was ahead of Williams in 17th, separating the two AlphaTauris, while Lando Norris was the biggest name to retire in Q1 after hitting the wall at Turn 27 and sustaining steering damage that could not be repaired.
It was a messy second F1 qualifying session for Logan Sargeant, who lost his first lap for going over the track limits, got lost on his second effort and eventually ran into a technical problem on his final attempt – leaving it at the bottom of the grid without a beat. .
The Jeddah Corniche circuit shone in the floodlights during qualifying
HOW IT HAPPENED
Q1 – Verstappen and Red Bull set the tone from the start
As the action began in Q1 there was the start of drama when De Vries’ car broke away from him under braking for Turn 1 on his opening lap, ruining a set of soft tires and adding to the Dutchman’s misfortunes after his lost practice run.
It was a much smoother start for compatriot Verstappen, who immediately declared his intentions by clocking a quick 1m 28.761s in his first race, putting him in P1 exactly half a second over Perez’s Red Bull sister.
After De Vries’ crazy spin, there were similar issues for Norris, who cut the wall on the final corner and reported damage to the steering, and Alonso, who turned on the rears coming out of the first chicane and did a 360 – forcing him to back up and go again.
Moments later, Logan Sargeant had the biggest moment of Q1 when he spun at the high-speed 22/23 turn and came to a stop dangerously close to the barriers, leaving him in a rush to set a lap time after also lost his first effort due to the track. boundaries.
It was a messy end to qualifying for Logan Sargeant
As the second phase of racing unfolded amid sporadic yellow flags, Red Bull maintained their one-two finish, ahead of the Aston Martins, Ferraris, Hulkenberg’s Haas and the two Mercedes drivers, who were separated by the Zhou’s Alfa Romeo.
McLaren had mixed fortunes in Q1 as rookie Piastri finished 11th and qualified for Q2, ahead of Ocon, Magnussen, Gasly and Bottas, but team-mate Norris fell at the first hurdle due to his aforementioned incident .
As expected from their Friday practice form, AlphaTauri lost both cars in the initial phase, with Tsunoda going 16th and De Vries retiring in 18th after a messy end to his final lap, with Albon’s Williams getting in between them.
Norris finished 19th amid his Q1 drama, with Sargeant bringing up the rear – the only driver without time – after his suppressed lap and spin was followed by a final attempt abandoned when the American reported that “something is broken”.
Eliminated: Tsunoda, Albon, De Vries, Norris, Sargeant
Norris was a shock exit from Q1 after hitting the wall at Turn 27
Q2 – Huge drama as Verstappen’s Jeddah pole hopes dashed
When the green light came on again at the end of pit lane for the start of Q2, it was Alonso who made the first move and stormed to the top of the timesheets with a 1m 28.757s – slightly faster than the time posted by Q1 leader Verstappen.
Then, just as Verstappen was winding down for his first run, disaster struck the reigning world champion who – shortly after surviving a “great moment” in the first sector – reported engine trouble at the radio.
Verstappen limped back to the pits in an attempt to save the day but with just half a dozen minutes on the clock there was little his mechanics could do – meaning he jumped out of the cockpit and out of Q2 , in 15th position. .
Amid a flurry of late races, Perez took the upper hand with a 1m 28.635s, moving just over a tenth from Alonso, followed by Ferrari, Stroll’s other Aston Martin and the Mercedes pair Russell and Hamilton, separated by the Alpine d’Ocon.
Piastri and Gasly were the other two drivers to advance to Q3, meaning the two Alfa Romeos (of Zhou and Bottas) and the two Haas machines (of Hulkenberg and Magnussen) joined the frustrated Verstappen as eliminated from the Q2.
Eliminated: Hulkenberg, Zhou, Magnussen, Bottas, Verstappen
2023 Saudi GP qualifying: Max Verstappen out of Q2 qualifying after car trouble in Jeddah
Q3 – Perez makes two out of two poles in Jeddah
When the pole position shoot-out began, with no Verstappen expected to be the favourite, the opening phase of the races was dominated by Perez, who clocked 1m 28.265s aboard his RB19 – half a second ahead of Leclerc’s Ferrari, Russell’s Mercedes and Alonso’s Aston Martin.
There was a close call as the various race plans converged, with Sainz meeting Russell on the pit exit and losing some momentum, but the pair managed to avoid contact and all 10 drivers involved in Q3 took everyone was able to make it to the checkered flag.
Leclerc was one of the big improvers in his second moto to propel Alonso into P2, albeit with the side note that he will drop 10 grid places due to his engine change ahead of the weekend – but no one could challenge Perez, meaning he was able to give up his last trick.
Alonso was third with another solid outing in his Aston Martin, but will be the primary beneficiary of Leclerc’s fall from P2 to P12, joining Perez on the front row and putting on a tantalizing run to Turn 1 on Sunday.
Russell finished fourth, ahead of Sainz, Stroll, Ocon and team-mate Hamilton, with Piastri and Gasly completing the top 10 positions – all earning a place on the grid when Leclerc’s penalty kicks in.
Verstappen was a glaring omission from the top three in qualifying
“It was tricky, this Q3, especially not getting that second round. [first Q3 run] was pretty good, it was pretty clean. Really clean. Nailing that lap you really feel the Formula 1 cars come to life there and maximizing that lap was very important because with the problem we had in the last lap it was really important because the track was improving .
“That’s a shame [about Verstappen’s stoppage]. Max has been very strong all weekend and hopefully tomorrow we can have both cars up there. You never know with these cars, reliability issues can hit you at any time” – Sergio Perez, Red Bull
The 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will start on Sunday evening at 8:00 p.m. local time. Verstappen leads the league after winning the season opener in Bahrain, but will he leave Jeddah with that advantage intact?
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