Sergio Perez takes pole position at Saudi Arabia for the second year running, whilst teammate Verstappen starts 15th after a driveshaft failure.
On pure pace the Red Bull cars looked strong from the very start, though gearbox issues from practice re-emerged to end Verstappen’s qualifying early.
Leclerc had managed to put his Ferrari 1.5 tenths behind Perez, though his 10-place grid penalty means he’ll start tomorrow’s race in 12th, with Alonso filling out the front row.
The first qualifying session proved to be a bit of a struggle for a few drivers. Nyck De Vries spun whilst braking into turn 1 on his first lap, demonstrating the Alpha Tauri’s instability on the brakes.
Williams’ Logan Sargeant had a spin of his own at the fast chicane at the start of sector 3, narrowly avoiding the wall. He also had a time deleted for track limits at the last corner. Furthermore, on his last flying lap he overshot turn 1, bounced over the turn 2 kerb, and then grazes the wall on the exit, saying he thinks he broke something.
With McLaren looking stronger this weekend Norris looked likely to avoid a Q1 exit once more. However, he hit the wall on the apex of the last corner, causing damage that wasn’t able to be repaired in time.
Even Fernando Alonso had a spin, having been to eager on the throttle on the turn 2 exit.
Things were tight at the bottom of the grid, as Albon’s final time had initially put him 11th, though he had been pushed down to 17th by the end. Tsunoda was also unlucky not to make Q2, being beaten out by Bottas by just one hundredth of a second.
16 Yuki Tsunoda – Alpha Tauri +0.010
17 Alex Albon – Williams +0.065
18 Nyck De Vries – Alpha Tauri +0.315
19 Lando Norris – McLaren +0.518
20 Logan Sargeant – Williams+38.581
The second qualifying session saw Fernando Alonso set the pace early, going to 1st place with a 1.28.730. Even Perez in the Red Bull didn’t have an answer to it on his first lap.
Verstappen likely would have been challenging at the top as well, but his driveshaft issue ended his Saturday early. This is a continuation of an issue he has already been experiencing this season. He complained of downshifts causing minor rear locking during the Bahrain grand prix, and ‘long downshifts’ persisted over practice. Red Bull had changed his gearbox going into qualifying as a precaution.
Across the rest of the grid, Hulkenberg had a time deleted for track limits that had put him in a provisional 4th place. He managed to put in a similar time on his last run, but he just about missed out on Q3.
Piastri made it into his first Q3 as a Formula 1 driver, putting in a time good enough for 9th. Gasly makes his first Q3 appearance as an Alpine driver, squeezing ahead of Hulkenberg by 4 hundredths. Only a tenth of a second separated P10 from P13.
11 Nico Hulkenberg – Haas +0.040
12 Zhou Guanyu – Alfa Romeo +0.050
13 Kevin Magnussen – Haas +0.106
14 Valtteri Bottas – Alfa Romeo +0.257
15 Max Verstappen – Red Bull +20.231
Alonso set the pace early once more in Q3, though with a time slower than his Q2 best. He was quickly beaten by Leclerc putting in a 1.28.757, and then by Perez doing a 1.28.265.
Russell, pushing for lap time, took the exit kerb at turn 10 quite aggressively, and asked for his team to check for damage. There didn’t appear to be any issue as he was able to set another lap later that would place him 4th.
Alonso did improve with a 1.28.730, though had been beaten by Leclerc’s 1.28.420. Stroll looked very close to Perez’s pole time for much of the lap, even setting the best first sector of anybody, but ultimately fell away at the end, putting in a time good enough for 5th.
Perez didn’t improve at the end of the session, but the margin he created was large enough to keep the top spot by 1.5 tenths.
1 Sergio Perez – Red Bull 1.28.265
2 Charles Leclerc – Ferrari +0.155 (10 PLACE GRID PENALTY)
3 Fernando Alonso – Aston Martin +0.465
4 George Russell – Mercedes +0.446s
5 Carlos Sainz – Ferrari +0.592
6 Lance Stroll – Aston Martin +0.666
7 Esteban Ocon – Alpine +0.680
8 Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes +0.813
9 Oscar Piastri – McLaren +0.978
10 Pierre Gasly – Alpine +1.092