Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – Sergio Perez beat Charles Leclerc to pole in Jeddah after Max Verstappen’s day ended in Q2 with a driveshaft issue.
Alex Albon’s Williams led the way out of the pits as the lights went green for the start of the first part of qualifying, the Thai driver opening the timesheets with a 1:30.167. After missing FP3 earlier as AlphaTauri needed to change his power unit, Nyck de Vries didn’t have the best start to qualifying as he lost the rear of his car under braking and went into a spinning slide into the run-off.
Qualifying Results – 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
With ten minutes to go the Aston Martins had only just left their garages and they, along with the Alpines and de Vries, were the only ones still to set times. The Red Bulls were at the top of the times, Max Verstappen with a 1:28.761, exactly half a second ahead of Sergio Perez, while Nico Hulkenberg was the best of the rest with a 1:29.787 in P3.
De Vries wasn’t the only one having interesting times out on track, Fernando Alonso spinning to face the wrong way while Lando Norris tapped his front left on the wall at the final corner and had to head to the pits for McLaren to check there wasn’t any damage.
In the final five minutes Logan Sargeant had his own smokey, sliding spin in the final sector, he did manage to keep his Williams out of the wall though, and was able to get back going. The American might’ve been slightly distracted as he had just been told that his lap time, a 1:29.721, was deleted for track limits. That would’ve been enough to see him through to Q2 but as it was he wasn’t able to set another lap and will be at the very back.
Verstappen remained in the pits for the end of the session but his time wasn’t challenged. A late flyer from Oscar Piastri saw him pull himself out of the elimination zone and instead demote Yuki Tsunoda to join Albon, de Vries, Norris – who hadn’t headed back out after his contact with the wall – and Sargeant.
The Alfa Romeos were the first to the track as the fight to get into the top ten started, and Zhou Guanyu’s 1:30.262 was the first Q2 time. Sergio Perez was the last to head out, doing like the Astons did in Q1 and only emerging for the last ten minutes. At that point Fernando Alonso was in P1 with a 1:28.757, the only driver other than Verstappen into the 1:28s so far, while Charles Leclerc and Lance Stroll were P2 and P3.
Things did not go as Red Bull were expecting as Verstappen was slow on track and reported engine issues. The Dutch driver did manage to get the car back to his garage and the Red Bull mechanics swarmed the car to try figure out what happened while Verstappen jumped out and went to get weighed and end his session.
Perez got ahead of Alonso at the end with a 1:28.635, while it was game over for both of the Haas and Alfa Romeo drivers who joined Verstappen in the P11 – P15 spots. Red Bull confirmed that it was a mechanical issue with the driveshaft that caused Verstappen’s retirement.
Pierre Gasly emerged first for the pole position shoot out and started with a 1:29.655. Stroll and Piastri sat it out in the pits for the opening runs, only appearing out for the second half of the session.
Once the eight early runners had set their first times it was Perez in provisional pole with a 1:28.265, half a second ahead of Leclerc who set an identical time to what Alonso had managed in Q2.
Everyone was out for the final couple of minutes of the session as they tried to set themselves up to give themselves the best chance of improving. Stroll looked like he’d be challenging for the front row or even the pole after setting the fastest first sector but the remainder of the lap didn’t pan out for him so he only finished P6.
Perez remained on top and didn’t need to put in a final flyer, Leclerc took P2 but with a 10 place grid penalty will drop him back to P12 and promote Alonso on to the front row. George Russell’s 1:28.857 saw him end P4 ahead of Sainz. Esteban Ocon took P7 ahead of Hamilton while the top ten was rounded out by Piastri and Gasly.