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Verstappen tops qualifying to take pole for Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Written by Ria Ann Sam, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Image Credits - Formula One

After a relatively uneventful first race of the season at Bahrain, all eyes turned to Jeddah for the second race of the season. Qualifying saw Verstappen take pole — his first pole position at Jeddah, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez starting from second and third respectively.

Given that Ramadan begins on Sunday, the Grand Prix weekend has been brought forward a day, with qualifying being on Friday and race day being Saturday instead. In a surprising turn of events, Carlos Sainz has had to pull out of the race due to appendicitis, with Prema’s Oliver Bearman set to be in the spotlight all weekend, replacing the Spaniard.

Ollie Bearman would replace Carlos Sainz for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix; Image Credit: Formula One

Red Bull had one less set of soft tyres after using them during practice, leaving for an interesting prospect to see how their drivers performed — Sergio Perez had been on pole before at Jeddah, however, Verstappen has never.

Hulkenberg was first to do his fast lap, setting a time of 1:29:173, eclipsed by a time of 1:28:876 from the charging Fernando Alonso; teammate Lance Stroll was two tenths of a second behind him. With eleven minutes to go, Leclerc jumped Stroll’s time, being one tenth of a second behind Alonso. Despite clipping the wall twice, Piastri then set the fastest lap.

In his first flying lap, Oliver Bearman went fourth fastest, three tenths of a second behind his teammate Charles Leclerc.

Russell was shown the black and white flag for failing to follow director’s orders — crossing the line from the pitlane entry, and Lance Stroll was the first to have his time deleted for exceeding track limits, while on a slow lap.

Verstappen came out to set the fastest lap with a time of 1:28:491. Leclerc went on to set the new fastest lap, with only three minutes left, setting a 1:28:316, and Verstappen came out again in order to challenge him.

Sergeant and Zhou were both still in the pitlane with a few minutes to spare, but neither of them were able to get out of Q1.

As was the case in Bahrain, neither Alpine driver made it past Q1 again, with Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly qualifying 17th and 18th respectively. 

Out in Q1 - Bottas, Ocon, Gasly, Sargeant, and Zhou.

Image Credit: Getty Images


Nine drivers were out on track in the first seven minutes of Q2; Alex Albon was the only driver to not race alongside his teammate.

It wasn’t long before yellow flags were flown, as Hulkenberg stopped on track, radioing to his team about a loss of power. The yellow flag soon came out for sector one, but it was quickly upgraded to a red flag, with a swift turnaround ensuring resumption of racing action.

With 10 minutes left on the clock, Verstappen set a fast lap, a time of 1:28:078, and Alonso and Leclerc were behind him. Oscar Piastri was the driver at risk with five minutes to spare, however, he finished fourth.

Ollie Bearman started 14th, and only improved to 11th after his next lap. However, he had enough power left for a second fast lap; although it was to no avail, as he finished 11th overall. Unfortunately, Alex Albon was unable to pull himself out of Q2, finishing 12th with about 30 seconds to spare.

Out in Q2: Bearman, Albon, Magnussen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg.

Image Credit: Getty Images


With Q3 getting underway, Ollie Bearman was under investigation for driving too slowly in Q2 — before he was cleared of any wrongdoing, retaining his 11th position starting spot.

Russell set the fastest lap of 1:28:316, and Piastri finished behind him with nine minutes to spare. The Mexican then set the fastest lap, however, teammate Verstappen eclipsed his time with a time of 1:27:472 — a provisional Red Bull front row lockout.

With five minutes left in the final round of qualifying, Charles Leclerc came on his radio to speak of the new tyres feeling “weird” and “difficult” to drive on.

With 50 seconds to spare, Hamilton finished his qualifying in eight place, and his British teammate, seventh. Cheekily, Fernando Alonso slotted behind his fellow veteran, using the seven-time champion as a tow down the main straight, giving him more speed onto his flying lap. 

Leclerc, at one point eight tenths off Verstappen’s benchmark, finished second three tenths of a second behind the Dutchman, meaning he would start on the front row for the seventh consecutive race, fifth alongside Verstappen — a Red Bull sandwich if you will, with Alonso finishing fourth. Teammate Lance Stroll was the slowest of the runners in Q3, netting a tenth position spot for the race. 

Both McLaren drivers locked out the third row, with two Mercedes’ behind them. Yuki Tsunaoda and Lance Stroll closed out the top 10 in ninth and tenth respectively.

It would be interesting to see how the race itself plays out, especially for Ollie Bearman, who goes about his first Formula One race, and also to see whether the Alpines manage to improve at all.


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