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Sergio Perez claims pole for Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Verstappen out in Q2

Sergio Perez claims pole for Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Verstappen out in Q2

18 March - 18:07 Last update: 19:11

Sergio Perez claims pole position for the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix, as Max Verstappen bows out in Q2 through a reported driveshaft issue with his car. The Red Bull driver finished ahead of Charles Leclerc in second and Fernando Alonso in third.

Verstappen was on track for another potential pole position, as a dominant single flying lap in Q1 was more than enough to hold a position for Q2, but had to limp around the track back to the pits after reporting an issue with his car.

George Russell, Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll trailed the top three, with Esteban Ocon, Lewis Hamilton, Oscar Piastri and Pierre Gasly rounding off the top 10.

Leclerc will start in 12th for the race tomorrow, due to his 10-place grid penalty.

Sargeant struggles in Q1, whilst Verstappen's dominance continues

As expected, there was a traffic jam waiting for the pit lane light to turn green and soon into the session we’d already seen a spin. Nyck de Vries didn’t feature in FP3 due to a power unit issue and it seemed as though the limited track time didn’t help, as he went spinning into turn one on his flying lap.

Within five minutes of Q1, everyone but Aston Martin were on track and flying around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit under the bright lights. Soon enough, Verstappen and Perez topped the timing charts as expected, but it was Nico Hulkenberg that trailed the two Red Bulls. 

Mercedes looked to have some pace to place in the top four, but not to compete with the Austrian team as both Russell and Hamilton found themselves over a second behind Verstappen on provisional pole, whilst Perez sat 0.5 seconds behind his teammate.

Lando Norris was the first to collide with a part of the street circuit as he collided with the wall, but there wasn’t major damage and it was just a small issue that did need to be sorted in the pits however. Alonso found himself in a similar situation as de Vries did prior and was facing the wrong way on track after losing the rear of his car.

After 10 minutes, Red Bull still held the lead but the gap behind to Verstappen and Perez was closed by Ferrari and Mercedes, as they claimed third through to sixth. Aston Martin finally managed to get their tyres warm and Alonso slid into fourth, behind Leclerc and ahead of Russell.

We had the first yellow flag of the session with four minutes to go, as Logan Sargeant’s spin forced the flags to be flown in Sector 3. The Williams rookie was pushing on a fast lap, looking to set his first time of the session due to having it deleted early on for track limits.

The American made the finish line in time to have one final attempt to make Q2 but was forced to stop the car on track, causing another yellow flag in the session. Fellow rookie Piastri was able to finish 11th, just behind Hamilton who could only best a 10th-place finish in Q1.

OUT IN Q1 - Tsunoda, Albon, de Vries, Norris, Sargeant

Verstappen out in Q2 with driveshaft issue

Both Russell and Hamilton returned to the track for Q2 on used tyres, as they looked to find the pace later on in conjunction with the increasing track pace. Aston Martin leapt into the lead with Alonso and Stroll claiming the one-two spots, but Leclerc soon found the pace to split the two drivers.

Verstappen looked to storm into the lead again, but had a ‘big moment’ in the middle of his flying lap but soon reported on team radio that he was having engine issues and was moving slowly around the track. It wasn’t just the Dutchman who was struggling though, as Sainz found himself in 11th after the first set of flying laps. Verstappen returned to the garage and was seen removing himself from the car, thus ending his qualifying session.

Sainz still found himself in the bottom five with only a minute left, meaning that it all came down to his final flying lap, but with Verstappen out, a potential pole could be on for the Spaniard if he found himself in Q3. He found the pace and pushed himself into the top four, whilst Gasly slid into Q3 by 0.040 seconds.

OUT IN Q2 - Hulkenberg, Zhou, Magnussen, Bottas, Verstappen

Tight margins in Q3

There wasn’t as big of a rush to leave the pit lane compared with sessions past but the bright lights were bouncing off the gleaming liveries nicely, as Alonso set off on the first flying lap of Q3. The Spaniard managed to stay ahead of Gasly, Sainz and Ocon, but it was Leclerc that found a small 0.168 gap to hold provisional pole.

Mercedes were struggling through Q1 and Q2, but in the first minutes of the final qualifying session, the team timed leaving the pits to perfection and Russell and Hamilton found themselves sitting second and fourth, splitting Aston Martin’s Alonso.

However, Perez stormed through the field and moved ahead of everyone, holding a lead of almost half a second over Leclerc as the session hit its halfway mark. Piastri and Stroll were the final two drivers to complete their first flying laps, with Stroll managing to slot himself in the top five, whilst Piastri struggled to find any pace and found himself in tenth.

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