The Saturday in F1 Saudi Arabian GP turned out to be different after the problem that Max Verstappen faced which opened the grid for Sunday.
It wasn’t the end that Red Bull wanted at one spectrum on Saturday of F1 Saudi Arabian GP qualifying after Verstappen’s dominant charge ended with a driveshaft failure in Q2 which aided in Sergio Perez taking pole bringing some respite to the team.
Verstappen is due to start from 15th provided there is no other penalty which puts him in a good space to charge through the field with the pace he has, while this is a good opportunity for Perez to score good to take some advantage of his teammate’s misery.
Despite the Red Bull slip-up, it isn’t much joy for the other teams as the likes of Aston Martin, Ferrari, Mercedes and even Alpine will be mostly fighting against each other. The good news for Aston Martin is the car being quick even on a track like Jeddah.
Fernando Alonso has a front row start and he is not looking at Perez to fight but others around him in a realistic manner. Having looked off on one lap pace, Ferrari did well eventually and Charles Leclerc put in a good lap to start from around the Top 10.
It won’t be an easy walk for him as he admitted that the pace gap is real between Red Bull and Ferrari. For Mercedes, it was two halves where George Russell did well but Lewis Hamilton had another day to forget, even though he made it to Q3 unlike last year.
Perez: “When you have a good car that you can push around this place, you really feel the F1 cars coming alive. And getting a clean, good lap, you know when you nail it. And yeah, that Q3 run one was quite a good jump. I had a good jump from all my previous laps. And that meant that I was able to get the pole, because my second lap, I didn’t manage to get it. I just had a front lock going into Turn 1. That has been really tricky. Turn 1 and Turn 2, always starting the lap into 1 and 2, it was so easy just to lose two tenths straightaway there, especially with the low downforce that we’re running. And just nailing that combination of corners will require a lot of temperature on our tyres as well, so yeah, just in general, just getting that lap, nailing that lap, was really nice. I think it’s just tiny. I went a little bit deep into Turn 4. But no, nothing major. It was already a very clean lap. But I think, yeah, the track was improving, there should have been a little bit more to come. I am not going to approach the race tomorrow thinking about Max. First of all, I have to make sure I’m able to keep the lid on the initial laps. And if I’m able to do that, to keep this lion behind, it will be good, because I think I can focus on my race.”
Leclerc: “In the lap, I’m really, really happy. It was really on the limit. On the other hand, I feel like Red Bull are quite far ahead. And that is our goal, to beat them. So there’s still a lot of work to do. Having said that, I think it’s a bit better than what we expected for this qualifying session. We expected to be a bit further back. But there’s a lot of work to do. I think our race pace is stronger this weekend. So this is a good thing. Then, I don’t know how easy it is going to be to overtake on this track because the midfield seems to be all extremely close in terms of race pace. And if you have a DRS train, then it makes things very difficult. But I’ll give my best, try to come back to the front as quickly as possible. And we’ll see what happens.”
Alonso: “The thing that probably we didn’t improve much from Q2 to Q3. Q2 we were P1 with 28.7, and more or less we repeat the same lap in Q3, so we still miss a little bit that jump from Q2 to Q3 and follow the track evolution. But, yeah, all in all, I think we have to be very happy. We start on the first row of the grid, on the second race, very different circuit compared to Bahrain. So yeah, I think it has been a very positive weekend for the team. I don’t think so. I don’t want to sound pessimistic but if we see the pace the whole weekend in free practice, we see the Bahrain race, we have to be honest with ourselves and know that Red Bull is a little bit ahead of everyone. So that’s not, let’s say, the target tomorrow, you know, to fight for the win with Checo. But as I said before, Formula 1 is not exact mathematics, you know, anything can happen and today no one of us will put Verstappen P15, you know, but these things happen sometimes. So, for us, the most important thing is to score points. We are starting both cars in the top five. We try to finish both cars in the top five and keep accumulating points for the Constructors’ Championship. That’s the main goal for Aston Martin this year.”
Verstappen: “The driveshaft broke out of turn 10 on the right rear so that was it for qualifying. It happened really out of the blue, we hadn’t had any issues before that. It was annoying because the car was good up until then, I was comfortable in every session and every time I was on the track, I was quick, so for sure we could have fought for pole. Instead, we now have a bit more work ahead of us tomorrow but it is what it is, it is a long Championship and we will stay positive. I think a win is tricky from that position but I will try to score as many points as possible. It will be hard to get to the front, but we won’t give up. Anything is possible at this track, we have seen some crazy things here, but we have to be realistic. It will be tough but we have good pace so, for sure, we will move forward.”
Hamilton: “I feel like I struggled with the car in the high speed sections particularly. But I just don’t feel the car underneath me. I just don’t feel connected to this car and I can’t get it, so I don’t really know what I’m going to do about that. It’s miserable. It’s tough. I’m giving it absolutely everything; I’m here as late as I can be every day, I’m preparing the best you can, and I just get in the car and I can’t connect with it. “I don’t really know what to say about it, but it’s good that George had a good run today, so it’s great to be able to hopefully score some good points for the team, and I’ll try and recover tomorrow – it’s a new day so I’ll give it everything.”
Even though Alpine showed good pace but it wasn’t smooth as such for both Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly who were on the brink of a Q1 exit. The former revealed about wall hits in Q2 which scared him, while the latter was not happy as he couldn’t get the tyres going.
The surprise of the pack was Oscar Piastri making it in the Top 10 in the McLaren which was a much better show from them, especially when his teammate Lando Norris was knocked out in Q1 where he was not happy with himself for the silly mistake.
The Haas pair had brake issues which hampered their progress from Q2, while the Alfa Romeo pair had a much better outing than practice to be a bit happier than what they expected. There wasn’t much joy at Williams and AlphaTauri, though.
Logan Sargeant got his lap deleted for minor fraction and subsequent spin ended his chances. He is allowed to start even though he didn’t finish under the 107% rule, while teammate Alexander Albon just couldn’t get going as he did in practice.
Over at AlphaTauri, the early spin for Nyck de Vries didn’t hurt as much as some other issue with the car, while Yuki Tsunoda felt good but missed Q2 by only just. They are hopeful of points but it looks challenging from where they are starting.
Piastri: “It felt good. I think we were in a pretty good spot in FP3 with the balance and it transferred to qualifying as well, which was nice. So, feeling a bit better than yesterday. Also, I’m just getting more confidence with the car as well and just getting back up to speed around Jeddah. All felt good, put in some good laps and here we are in the top 10 Points are definitely on offer. It will be tricky. I think this result probably wasn’t that expected to be completely honest. But we will try our best. Our race pace we thought was actually better than our quali pace yesterday. We will see if that is true tomorrow. But we will try our best. Obviously, our straight-line speed is not exactly our strength so we will see how that goes, but confident to try and fight for the points.”
Norris: “It was a silly mistake I should not make, to be honest with you. I paid the price very quickly, so frustrated. I easily should have been into Q2 and potentially Q3, and let the team down today, so I’m annoyed. I don’t know yet. The potential is there, the car is better paced than we had in Bahrain, so I want to be a little bit more hopeful. But it’s probably a harder track to overtake on than Bahrain, so I don’t know what to expect yet, I’ve not been thinking about that, so I’ll see tonight.”
Ocon: “It was a very good qualifying. I’m pretty pleased with how we managed in general from FP3 to qualifying. We really turned the car around and improved a lot. But you know, what a hell of a challenge it is here. I’m still breathing [heavily] because the amount of risks you need to take on a qualifying lap getting close to the walls – I touched the wall twice on my last lap and I thought it was over. I really banged the wall hard. I kept the pedal to metal to see what happens but that doesn’t feel right. Realising now, [it’s] all good, we’ve done well – hopefully we can have a strong day tomorrow.”
Sargeant: “I put in a very fast lap but it was deleted as I crossed the pitlane entry by a margin. There was no performance gain so it’s frustrating, but I still had two more laps to deliver and I didn’t, so my apologies go to the team as they deserved more today. We need to take the positives from today, put this behind us and bounce back. The car is quick, we have a lot of straight-line speed and fortunately it can be a crazy race here in Jeddah and there can be a lot of positions to pick up. Although I’ve given myself a lot more work than I needed to, I’m quite optimistic about tomorrow and I’ll make it up to the team.”
De Vries: “Jumping into qualifying without driving any laps in FP3 made it a tricky day. Given the unique layout of the circuit, getting the tyres into the right window for a flying lap is difficult, so I heavily locked up the rears going into Turn 1. My last run was pretty decent though, but we lost a lot in the last sector. It’s a shame we missed that, and I am disappointed because the potential to make it into Q2 was there. We want to be further ahead, and the team is working together closely to extract the most out of the car.”
Here’s how F1 Saudi Arabian GP qualifying panned out