Lewis Hamilton fended off a threatening Max Verstappen to claim what could be a crucial pole position at the Saudi Arabian GP. Valtteri Bottas will start from P2, offering a front-row lock-out for Mercedes.
Behind the Mercedes duo, the Dutchman secured P3 for Red Bull. For a moment, it almost looked like Verstappen could claim pole position. However, he ended up kissing the barriers around the final corner, deflating his tires, and even destroying the rear suspension.
Hence, behind the closely packed top 3 arrived Leclerc locking out the second row. Sergio Perez, when Red Bull needed him the most, failed to impress yet again, as he only managed P5.
The short run into turn 1 and the follow-up wavy circuit layout will certainly make overtaking harder than ever for the drivers. Hence, a more aggressive approach from Verstappen at lights out is highly likely.
Q3- Mercedes vs Red Bull for Saudi Arabian GP pole
Hamilton and Bottas rushed out of the pits to post their respective lap times by taking advantage of the empty track. However, the former failed to complete his lap, after wrecking it due to massive under-steering, but managed to set a lap time on the second run with a 1:28:035 to claim provisional pole.
Then arrived a smashing lap from Verstappen, as he snatched the lead by going 0.4s quicker than Hamilton. But, it all went haywire for the Dutchman during the final Q3 run. Hamilton produced a stunning lap to claim provisional pole, but, what came as even more shocking was Verstappen’s final lap.
Purple lap times around sectors 1 & 2, and almost 3 as well. But, the Dutchman pushed his Red Bull a bit too hard around the final corner, as he ended up clipping his rear-wheel onto the barriers.
Q2- Alfa Romeo into Q3 as Sainz bows out
All 15 drivers joined the track as the lights went green for the second part of qualifying. Bottas did suffer a scare late in Q1 after his ‘misfiring’ engine shut off around the pit lane entry. However, the engineers managed to fire up the car and get the Finn onto the track for Q2.
Verstappen, yet again, took an early lead with a lap time of 1:27:953 on a fresh set of medium tires. Neither Bottas nor Hamilton failed to challenge the Dutchman’s lap time on their first runs, with Hamilton coming out the worst, lapping 0.8s slower than the leader.
However, the Briton did improve on his initial lap time by going quickest with a 1:27:712. But, drivers like Raikkonen and Alonso? Not so much. Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Alonso, Russell, and Sainz, failed to qualify for Q3. The latter of all had to back out of his final flying lap citing loss of grip due to a damaged rear wing.
Q1- Heartbreak for Aston Martin F1 drivers
Verstappen posted a decent first enough lap time to claim P1; 1:28:659. However, Hamilton snatched the lead with a 1:28:466, beating the Dutchman by 0.193s. And while many expected the top 5 to be quite straightforward, the reality had some element of excitement in store.
Amidst the rapid evolution of the track, even Hamilton’s incredible lap time looked pretty unsafe. However, both the title contenders managed to stay safe with Perez taking P1 followed by Bottas, Ricciardo, Sainz, and Verstappen. Contrastingly, there was a moment of heartbreak for Aston Martin as neither Vettel nor Stroll made it to Q2.
Latifi will start from P16 ahead of the two Aston Martins and the two Haas.
Overall, an ecstatic qualifying session comes to an end at the tricky Jeddah Corniche Circuit, and all eyes now shift to the penultimate race on Sunday night. So, who is going to grab onto the potential title-deciding victory at the Saudi Arabian GP?