SAUDI ARABIAN GP – Sergio Perez beats Charles Leclerc by a tenth taking back-to-back poles in Jeddah

Blog Testing & Race Reports

Sergio Perez has taken pole position for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, the Mexican was a tenth faster than the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc allowing him to take back-to-back poles in Jeddah. Red Bull went into qualifying having topped all three practice sessions, but it wasn’t Max Verstappen who topped qualifying after a drive shaft issue saw him knocked out in Q2.

Perez picked up where his teammate left off, he went second in Q2 before his first lap in Q3 put him fastest. That meant he was Red Bull’s best hope for pole and while Leclerc gave it his best shot he was still a tenth and a half behind but a change of gearbox means he will join Verstappen towards the midfield.

The Mexican was comfortably fastest despite him not getting a second run in Q3, while others did close it was clear that no one could fight for pole.  That was despite him making a mistake on his first run. But Perez kept his composure to seal just the second pole position of his career, with the first having come at the same circuit a year ago.

Verstappen session wasn’t clean, he aborted his first run in Q2 and on his second run, he lost drive during the middle sector and reported that he could no longer accelerate. He had gone into the weekend as the man to beat after his dominance in Bahrain, but despite illness he was still looking on form going into qualifying.

The dutchman said, “In Turn 10 the driveshaft just broke, so that’s really unfortunate. And, also, something I don’t really understand, because we never had any issues with that so far this year. But it did happen and we’ll analyse everything and try to understand how that happen.””

Perez said, “It was tricky, the Q3, not getting the second lap. Just nailing that lap, you really feel the F1 cars coming alive in this place.”

Leclerc added “Happy? Yes and no. On the one hand, it has been a very difficult weekend in terms of pace for us. I am very happy about my lap – I put everything in it and it was really on the limit. On the other hand, Red Bull are on another planet.”

Leclerc’s ten-place penalty is the result of two separate failures of his car’s electronics control units in Bahrain two weeks ago. That meant Ferrari needed to fit a new one in Saudi Arabia, and only two are permitted for the entire season. This obviously has given him mixed feelings about this race, and will likely lead to further penalities later in the season.

Fernando Alonso continued to show Aston Martin’s strong pace, the Spaniard going third fastest ahead of George Russell by almost a tenth and a half. Alonso looks as the biggest dark horse in tomorrow’s race with both Verstappen and Leclerc out of position on the grid.

Alonso said, “It has been a very good weekend for us. Qualifying was a weak point in Bahrain but today the car seemed to perform very well on one lap. Let’s see what we can do from here.”

Russell’s fourth showing a step forwards for Mercedes but overshadowed by the issues for Verstappen and Leclerc. ‘Mr Saturday’ once again proving how good he can be at extracting the most out of the car, but Mercedes are still lacking the pace to challenge Red Bull and Ferrari.

Going into qualifying Verstappen was the favourite and topped Q1, but halfway through Q2, a driveshaft issue brought his session to an end with him unable to set a reprehensive lap going twenty seconds behind Valtteri Bottas. His one lap in the first session would have put him fourth on the grid, underlining his pace, and many will think he has a decent chance of winning the race, despite his lowly starting position.

Carlos Sainz was fifth fastest the Ferrari going a hundredth and a half ahead of the second Aston Martin of Lance Stroll. Stroll had looked like a challenger for pole going fastest in the first sector, but time disappeared in the middle sector, throwing away the chance of pole.

Sainz also was at risk of joining Verstappen on the slide lines in Q2, he found himself shuffled down to tenth before on his final run moving up to fourth safely through to the top ten. Esteban Ocon was seventh, the Frenchman going ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

Oscar Piastri made his first Q3 appearance in F1 and was ninth, the McLaren driver going a tenth faster than Pierre Gasly. Gasly got through to Q3 on his final attempt after pipping the Haas of Nico Hulkenberg by four hundredths. The German had his own issues, he was fourteenth after the first runs before jumping to eleventh but that wasn’t enough to see him through to Q3.

Across the field, qualifying proved to be about hundredths of a second, in Q2 all the drivers were covered by just over a second. Piastri himself had just scraped through to Q2 going two-tenths faster than Yuki Tsunoda to get out of the drop zone on his final attempt.

Guanyu Zhou put his Alfa Romeo twelfth and splitting the two Haas’s, the Chinese driver was a hundredth behind Hulkenberg and ahead of Kevin Magnussen by over a tenth and a half. Zhou’s teammate Valtteri Bottas was fourteenth ahead of Verstappen, whose issue left him twenty seconds behind the Finn.

Yuki Tsunoda going sixteenth ahead of Alex Albon. The surprise exit in Q1 perhaps being Lando Norris in nineteenth, the Englishman getting knocked out after hitting the wall on his last run in Q1. He apologised to his team for what he called a “silly mistake”.

Albon seventeenth going ahead of Nyck De Vries by three and a half tenths. It wasn’t any better for Verstappen’s Dutch counterpart, De Vries’s day went from bad to worse, he missed FP3 after a technical failure that required a change of power unit.

Logan Sargent failed to set a time within the 107% rule, the American spun earlier in the session before damaging his car on the kerb.


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,