The Saturday in F1 Saudi Arabian GP eventually surprised many with the result but it came after another big incident causing more talks.

There was a huge delay in the ending of F1 Saudi Arabian GP qualifying after the incidents for both Williams’ Nicholas Latifi and Haas’ Mick Schumacher at separate times. The disrupted session saw Red Bull on pole but not Max Verstappen.

In a last gasp effort, Sergio Perez went up by 0.025s to take his F1 career’s first pole from Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard couldn’t improve on a new set, while Perez’s teammate Verstappen complained mostly of lack of grip.

On Mercedes side, it was a shocker to find Lewis Hamilton getting knocked out in Q1. A set-up decision left him with no grip or pace. Teammate George Russell found his way into Q3, but lost out to Alpine’s Esteban Ocon in the final standings.

Perez: “I have to say, well done to the whole team. It’s been a tough weekend in Bahrain, where we were so disappointed to miss both cars. But the team didn’t put their heads down and we kept pushing. We felt we were not as strong as we feel we’re going to be in the race. So it’s already a very good sign to be on pole. I think it was so difficult this qualifying because if you remember, in Q2, we stopped like for half an hour and just keeping your head, keeping in focus.

“It’s quite difficult and it’s a lot of time that you have to stay focused to be thinking what you have to do to make sure you put that perfect lap and I put it when it mattered. I mean, I can do another 1000 laps, and I don’t think I can improve this lap time. I think there is no other circuit like this. If I can get pole here, I can get pole anywhere in the world. So this is definitely the most demanding place to get the perfect lap, the level of risk, the level of precision you’ve got to have around this place is just tremendous. I think the amount of risk that I had to take but I think risk together with precision, you know, just nailing it on all the entries. But the level of risk was extremely high. It could very easily go on.”

Leclerc: “It has to be an incredible lap from Checo because I knew I had done quite a good lap. And then Checo just came out and did better. So yeah, a great job to him. I struggled a bit more in the last sector and I think the risk that he took have probably paid at the end. For the race, I think it’s very strange because we’re actually quicker with the use tyres than the new tyres and we need to understand that as a team, just to be a bit better prepared for next race with these new tyres, and to put them in the right window. But overall, I think for the race tomorrow, I’m quite confident. I think we were quick this morning during the race simulation. So yeah, pretty confident.”

Sainz: “I thought pole was on, yeah after probably the first run of Q3, because I knew that I had done the lab on the used tyre in Q3 because this weekend, for some reason, as Charles said, I feel a lot better with a used tyre than what I what I feel with a new tyre, which in the end, probably it has cost me pole position, doing my fastest lap of qualifying in Q3, run one with a used that is giving me a better feeling, and not being able to improve on a new, is just what I need to dig into with the team and see why these new tyre is giving us those extra snaps of oversteer in high speed, that in the end, they take out a lot of confidence and they don’t allow you to improve on lap time.

“So, overall, quite pleased because I’ve been there or thereabouts again the whole quali – but in the end it’s fair play to Checo for that mega lap that he did,  and obviously to Charles for nearly beating him. So, all good. I’ve been trying a lot of different things, particularly Friday, I played with the setup around a lot more than maybe I would do on a normal Friday, just to explore a bit the car. So now, for me, the Friday’s are going to be a bit more in that side: experimental – to try to understand the car and try to put it a bit more to my liking. And then for Quali,  I just put everything together, to be quite strong. And I felt like, yeah, probably this weekend, particularly in qualifying, I felt even stronger than Bahrain. Now I need to see in this pace I can replicate tomorrow in the race, which should be possible and yeah, I’m excited to see what progress we’ve done.”

Verstappen: “It was not good. Q1 and Q2, everything felt normal, felt good but then I don’t know, my first set [of tyres] in Q3 was terrible, I had no grip and honestly, I don’t understand because there was not really anything weird going on. And then the second set, again I just didn’t have a good feeling, I didn’t feel comfortable to put the power down, throw the car into the corners – and when you don’t have that around a street circuit, it’s not going to happen for you. And that’s exactly what happened. Race pace looks good. [Ferrari] didn’t really do a long run so I don’t know against them, but from my side it felt good.”

Hamilton: “I just struggled with the balance of the car. And not where I want to be. I don’t know how different the cars are with the set-up, but it was undriveable with the set-up that I chose. I think it was my decision, I made some set-up changes, I don’t know if that was everything to do with it but it was very unstable. It was constantly snappy and I was losing the rear-end. I don’t know what George did set-up-wise. The car was feeling good in FP3, and I made a couple of adjustments, but I had no rear end, as I said.

“Everyone is working as hard as they can and trying to keep positive regardless of what’s happening around us. When the other car is quick as it is, it is disappointing that I am not able to deliver with my teammate. We are generally slow on straights, so it will be a difficult race for us. It is probably not going to be hardest race ever. It’s probably going to be a so-so race, it’s probably not going to be that great. Maybe I’ll start from the pit lane and change the car again to make sure it doesn’t handle the way it just did.”

With Hamilton having to push through the field, they will have a challenge from the Alpine duo who were fifth and seventh finishing as the best of the rest outside the Top 3 F1 teams. It was Ocon ahead again from Fernando Alonso, with the team continuing its goodish form from Bahrain into Saudi Arabia.

They managed to get ahead of the cars of Alfa Romeo, AlphaTauri and Haas, the only other cars to challenge for the Top 10 places. Both the Alpine pair were quite chuffed with the pace they could show in qualifying. Valtteri Bottas, meanwhile, thought he could have done a bit better but they were happy to have the pace on a track like Saudi Arabia.

For AlphaTauri and Haas, it was all on the one car with Pierre Gasly making it in Q3 despite a floor issue from Q1. Teammate Yuki Tsunoda faced a water system problem which left him with laps, while Haas’ side saw Kevin Magnussen in the Top 10 but he had lot trouble with his neck which hampered his driving.

Ocon: “I don’t know if I have the secret keys or sauce that you mean, but no, it was definitely a great qualifying for sure. I always say that here you need to let the horsepower go at the right time, and putting it together when it counts, and that’s what we did today. We built [up] our weekend and both our cars are in the top 10 – it’s extremely strong. But we need to keep going. Obviously the race is going to be long tomorrow, things are going to happen, but we are in the mix.

“Of course, it’s always the target to do as best as we can, but yes, [the podium is] for sure in our mind. Only time will tell if we manage to do so, but the good news today is that Mick is fine. I had a very close moment, very similar to him, in Q3 – almost ended up in the wall there – so it’s a very fast, very technical [circuit] but it’s risk and reward, this track. In the end, I’m happy with the lap and happy with the risk I took and that’s good.”

Gasly: “I’m really happy to make it through to Q3 again today. It wasn’t that easy, as we suffered some damage to the floor during Q1, we managed to tape this during the session and get through to the top 10, but we’ll need to go away to analyse the data and see how much this impacted our performance. It was a really tight Quali today, with only a few tenths separating P5-P10, so I’m pleased with where we are. We’ll fight for everything we can tomorrow but it’s going to be a long race and considering the tyre degradation we’ve already seen in the practice session I think there will be a lot of different strategies tomorrow; we’ll be working hard tonight to decide what will work best for us.

Magnussen: “I think he was having a great qualifying session up until that point and he was up for a good result, so he’ll just need to come back and get on the horse and bounce back. We have to be happy with Q3, but the car was better than P10, I didn’t get the most out of it. Honestly, my neck is broken and the last couple of runs I just wasn’t able to drive properly. I just couldn’t hold my head in the corners, then you can’t control the car properly.

“But as I said, the car had more in it, I’m sure there was a half second in it. That time I got in Q3 was on used tyres and it wasn’t a great lap. So I think the car had half a second in it that would put it P5. So great job to the team for another strong car at this track and hopefully I can sort out my neck for tomorrow and get some points.”

Outside the Top 10, McLaren had a much better showing to be in Q2 and ahead of the likes of Aston Martin and Williams in the order. There was some benefit after one car of Haas and AlphaTauri were not in play, but the car looked to be in a much better space than what it did in Bahrain.

For Aston Martin, there was lack of grip to go the extra mile with Lance Stroll, while Nico Hulkenberg admitted of making a mistake. On Williams side, Alexander Albon felt the tyres’ operating window made it difficult for him while Nicholas Latifi added of losing his rear end at Turn 13 and getting caught out simply.

Norris: “Today was much better. There are more positives to take since Bahrain and, realistically, we should have been into Q3. There were few areas where we could have been quicker, which cost us getting into Q3. There was a lot of traffic and people doing warm-up laps, which made it difficult to put a clean lap together, but I also made a mistake. We had a better day today, and I think we can aim for some points tomorrow.”

Hulkenberg: “I think qualifying could have gone a little bit better – I made mistakes in Turns One and 13, which probably cost me three-tenths and it did not help my push to make Q2. This circuit is so intense and fast, with a lot happening to the car in each corner, and that has been the hardest thing for me to get used to after a spell away from racing. Purely in a physical sense, this could be one of the hardest races of my career, but my goal tomorrow is to keep it clean, make progress, complete the race and provide as much info as possible for the team as we keep developing the car.

Latifi: “It just seemed like I lost the rear under braking into Turn 13, so we need to look at the data to understand exactly why as it was the first time I became rear limited in that corner all weekend. It caught me by surprise quite a bit. I feel really sorry for the team because it was a costly mistake. It’s difficult to say at the moment about tomorrow; the car is feeling a bit better than it did in Bahrain, but we still have a lot of work to do. It will be a long race so we just have to be there.”

Here’s how F1 Saudi Arabian GP panned out