A driveshaft failure for reigning Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen left him 15th on the grid for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, with Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez on pole instead.
Verstappen had topped every practice session of the Jeddah weekend and was almost half a second clear of the chasing pack in the first qualifying segment – but suddenly slowed dramatically in Q2 before he could set a time.
He limped back to the pits but climbed out of the car with six minutes left on the clock, the issue clearly impossible to rectify in time.
The Dutchman’s exit left an open goal for Perez, and though Perez didn’t go quickest by much in Q2, he then found a good chunk of time on his very first run of Q3 to go half a second clear.
He failed to improve upon the 1m28.265s on his second attempt, abandoning his effort early, but still held on to pole.
The nearest challenge to Perez came from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, lapping two tenths slower, but the Monegasque will have to start Sunday’s race from 12th on the grid due to a 10-place grid penalty for an engine component change.
Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso will therefore be on the front row with Perez instead, having jumped ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell late on.
Carlos Sainz will line up fourth in the other Ferrari. The Spaniard trailed Leclerc all throughout qualifying and ended up half a second off his team-mate, but did at least narrowly fight off Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll for a spot on the second row.
Fresh off Pierre Gasly suggesting Alpine had the pace to “annoy” Mercedes in Bahrain, team-mate Esteban Ocon outpaced Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in Jeddah Q3 for what will be sixth place on the grid.
Hamilton, McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri and Gasly completed the Q3 order.
Nico Hulkenberg overcame a nerve-racking laptime deletion in Q2 to post a better lap anyway with his final attempt, but it was 0.04s short of the final Q3 transfer spot, occupied by Gasly.
Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu was likewise close to making Q3 but had to settle for outqualifying team-mate Valtteri Bottas by two tenths. He and Hulkenberg are the two final drivers to move up a place thanks to Leclerc’s penalty.
The other Haas of Kevin Magnussen slotted in between the two Alfas and will share row seven with Bottas, with Verstappen right behind them.
Both AlphaTauris were eliminated in Q1, albeit Yuki Tsunoda came close to a second-segment berth, denied by Bottas by just 0.010s.
Team-mate Nyck de Vries, who had to sit out the entirety of third practice due to an unscheduled engine change, had a big spin at the very start of his first Q1 push lap and ultimately only recovered to 18th – with Williams driver Alex Albon ending up between the two AlphaTauris.
Lando Norris was the headline Q1 dropout, tapping the final-corner inside wall with his left front – which forced him to pit immediately and left McLaren in a race against time to repair the car for a final run, a race it ultimately lost.
He was at least spared last place by Williams driver Logan Sargeant, who with his very first attempt had set a time that would’ve been easily good enough for Q2 – only to have it deleted because of a remarkable track limits infringement on the curved run to the start-finish line, as he dipped his left-side wheels over the painted area on the inside.
Neither of the following laps came off for him, Sargeant having to make a speedy late pitstop after a spin and then reporting that “something broke” on his final attempt.
|1||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull||1m29.244s||1m28.635s||1m28.265s|
|3||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin-Mercedes||1m29.298s||1m28.757s||1m28.73s|
|6||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||1m29.335s||1m28.962s||1m28.945s|
|12||Guanyu Zhou||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||1m29.654s||1m29.461s|
|14||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||1m29.929s||1m29.668s|
|15||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1m28.761s||1m49.953s|
|16||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT||1m29.939s|
|18||Nyck de Vries||AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT||1m30.244s|