Sergio Perez secured pole position for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix for a second consecutive year after team mate Max Verstappen was eliminated in 15th after a driveshaft failure.
Verstappen lost power midway through Q2, dooming him to start no higher than 15th. With the other Red Bull out of contention, Perez duly secured pole position with Charles Leclerc second for Ferrari ahead of Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin. However, Leclerc’s 10-place power unit grid penalty will see him drop to 12th, promoting Alonso onto the front row.
The second qualifying session of the season began with a large queue at the end of the pit lane, led by the two Williams of Alexander Albon and team mate Logan Sargeant. Having missed all of final practice while his AlphaTauri’s power unit was changed, Nyck de Vries ventured out for his first lap of the day, but immediately spun under braking for turn one on his first flying lap attempt. He recovered back onto the track and returned to the garage.
Sargeant appeared to set the initial benchmark with a 1’29.721, but his effort was deleted for putting his wheel over a forbidden section on the inside of the pit straight. That elevated Nico Hulkenberg to the top of the times in his Haas, but he was replaced by the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
Lando Norris had to abandon his qualifying effort after striking the inside barrier at the apex of the final corner. He entered the pits to have his left-front suspension and wheel checked.
Fernando Alonso’s first timed effort was ruined in turn two, when he spun under throttle on the exit of the corner. After a charge lap to prepare, Alonso successfully completed a lap that put him into fourth place.
Sargeant attempted to set his first valid lap time but lost control at turn 22, spinning across the circuit but managing to avoid the barriers. That ruined the laps of Hulkenberg and the two Alpine drivers of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon who had been set to improve before reaching the yellow flag zone.
In the closing minutes, the five drivers in the drop zone were Norris, the two AlphaTauris of Yuki Tsunoda and De Vries, plus Gasly and Sargeant. Gasly managed to move into 11th with seconds remaining, dropping Valtteri Bottas into danger in 16th, until the Alfa Romeo driver improved to 14th.
Tsunoda also improved on his personal best, but only moved onto the bubble of safety in 15th, while Albon was bumped into danger in 17th. At the chequered flag, only Oscar Piastri had the opportunity to move into safety and managed to escape out of the drop zone with his final attempt, moving Tusnoda back into 16th and elimination.
Joining Tsunoda out of Q1 was his team mate De Vries, who made a mistake at the final corner on his last attempt, Norris’s damaged McLaren and the Williams pair. Sargeant pulled off track on his final attempt after running wide at the first corner and appearing to damage his car on the kerb.
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
Aston Martin chose to start racing a day early as the second phase of qualifying began, with Alonso ordered to push hard on his out-lap to overtake both Haas cars of Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen to gain clear air for his first flying lap. He promptly moved to the top of the times with a 1’28.757, just under half a second quicker than team mate Lance Stroll.
Verstappen took to the track on fresh soft tyres, but his first effort of the session was ruined by a loss of traction on the exit of turn four. Matters got worse on his second attempt, as he experienced a driveshaft failure on the approach to turn 13. His engine revs suddenly climbed, leading the driver to suspect a power unit problem.
Verstappen managed to recover to the pits, but immediately climbed out of his car. His participation ended there, and the car which had topped all three practice sessions finished qualifying in a lowly 15th place.
Meanwhile, Perez moved up to second in the other Red Bull, while Leclerc claimed third in his Ferrari, a tenth-and-a-half slower than Alonso’s best. Leclerc’s Ferrari team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr lost his first time running wide at turn 10, while his second time was only good enough for 11th, which put him under intense pressure as the first driver set to be eliminated at the end of the session.
In the final minute, Sainz began his last flying lap attempt and managed to successfully put himself through into Q3 by almost matching his team mate. Magnussen was eliminated – he improved his personal best time but not by enough to break into the top 10, and then had the time deleted for a track limits infringement, though his second effort was good enough to keep him in 13th. The two Alfa Romeos of Zhou and Bottas were also cut having failed to reach the top ten.
Gasly held his nerve to secure the final place in Q3, less than five-hundredths of a second over Hulkenberg, who was eliminated as a result. Perez finished the session fastest, having put Red Bull on top by a tenth over Alonso with his final effort of the session.
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
With Verstappen eliminated, the battle for pole position appeared to be blown wide open. When the green light appeared at the end of the pit lane, Aston Martin were quick to send out Alonso on fresh soft tyres for his first run of the final phase and he duly moved into provisional pole position with a 1’28.925.
But Alonso’s position did not last long, as he was pipped by Leclerc’s Ferrari by just over a tenth of a second. George Russell moved Mercedes provisionally onto the front row with his first timed lap, but then Perez reaffirmed Red Bull’s authority by easily taking provisional pole position by almost half a second with his first flying lap.
Hamilton could only manage fifth with his first effort, three tenths of a second slower than team mate Russell, while the two Alpines were split by the second Ferrari of Sainz. Reaching Q3 for the first time in his career, Piastri managed only 10th in the McLaren as Stroll moved just behind team mate Alonso in the second Aston Martin.
In the final three minutes of the session, the field returned to the track for their final attempts to secure pole position. Alonso was the first driver to begin his last effort of qualifying, but while he could not come close to Perez’s pole time, he still managed to move into second place.
Despite going fastest of all through the first sector, Stroll could not trouble the front row with his final lap, moving to sixth, while Russell took to fourth with his last effort. Perez did not need to improve and abandoned his final run, while Leclerc was the only driver to come close to his pole time, moving second behind the Red Bull.
Leclerc’s penalty means Alonso will start on the front row of the grid alongside Perez, with Russell third and Sainz fourth. Stroll will start fifth ahead of Ocon’s Alpine and Hamilton in the second Mercedes. Piastri beat Gasly to ninth place, which will become eighth for tomorrow’s grand prix.