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Formula 1

Verstappen on Saudi F1 pole, Bearman makes Ferrari qualifying debut

by Matt Beer
4 min read

Max Verstappen again kept Formula 1’s main storylines at arm’s length as he took a comfortable Saudi Arabian Grand Prix pole ahead of a much closer battle behind, while Ferrari’s teenage stand-in Ollie Bearman came agonisingly close to a top 10 start on his F1 debut.


Verstappen’s margins - over Lance Stroll and Charles Leclerc - in Q1 and Q2 had been negligible, but when he counted he pulled comfortably clear with a 1m27.472s pole lap.

While that gave Verstappen pole by 0.319s, just 0.055s covered the three cars behind him - Leclerc’s Ferrari, the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin.

All three had reason to be encouraged by that. Leclerc had struggled on earlier qualifying runs and was a worrying eight tenths off provisional pole after his first attempt before leaping much closer with a lap he felt squeezed everything possible out of the Ferrari. Verstappen might not quite have had to do that with his Red Bull.

For Perez, third place marked a first top-three starting position for a grand prix since last year’s Belgian GP on the eve of the 2023 summer break. But failing to improve on his second Q3 run prevented it being a return to the front row.

And for Alonso, that very close fourth - with a lap nearly eight tenths faster than team-mate Stroll in 10th - emphasised that the pace Aston Martin had shown in practice was sustainable, at least over a single lap.


The McLarens shared row three (Oscar Piastri ahead of Lando Norris) ahead of the two Mercedes.

A Q3 error meant George Russell was only fractionally faster than Lewis Hamilton, having carried much larger margins over his team-mate up to that point.

Yuki Tsuoda’s RB and Stroll’s Aston Martin brought up the rear of the top 10.


Bearman’s first day in an F1 car could be filed under ‘very impressive’, if not quite ‘fairytale’ as he exited in Q2. The 18-year-old was ninth quickest in Q1, six and a half tenths away from team-mate Leclerc, and then came within 0.036s of getting into Q3.

He rued what he called a “messy” session, having never quite improved on his first Q2 time and had a minor wall brush/big kerb hop combination while on his next push.

But given the completely out-of-the-blue nature of his F1 debut after Carlos Sainz’s appendicitis diagnosis, and the enormous pressure of it happening in a Ferrari, and with just one practice session before going into qualifying, Bearman had absolutely nothing to kick himself for. This was clearly the start of a great F1 career.


Of the rest of the drivers in the bottom half of the field, Alex Albon had most to be proud of as he showed more encouraging form for Williams with 12th on the grid.

Nico Hulkenberg couldn’t repeat his Bahrain qualifying heroics as his Haas-Ferrari lost power early in Q2, parking in a run-off area and prompting a red flag. He starts 15th, two places behind team-mate Kevin Magnussen.

A four-and-a-half tenth deficit to Q3-bound RB team-mate Tsunoda was not great for Ricciardo in 14th place.

The Alpines at least outpaced Logan Sargeant this time and end up sharing the penultimate row as Zhou Guanyu didn’t quite make it to the line before the Q1 chequered flag following Sauber’s heavy repair job after his practice three crash. Zhou’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas starts 16th.

Qualifying result

1Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPT1m28.171s1m28.033s1m27.472s
2Charles LeclercFerrari1m28.318s1m28.112s0m01.000s
3Sergio PérezRed Bull-Honda RBPT1m28.638s1m28.467s0m01.000s
4Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-Mercedes1m28.706s1m28.122s0m01.000s
5Oscar PiastriMcLaren-Mercedes1m28.755s1m28.343s0m01.000s
6Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1m28.805s1m28.479s0m01.000s
7George RussellMercedes1m28.749s1m28.448s0m01.000s
8Lewis HamiltonMercedes1m28.994s1m28.606s0m01.000s
9Yuki TsunodaRB-Honda RBPT1m28.988s1m28.564s0m01.000s
10Lance StrollAston Martin4-Mercedes1m28.250s1m28.578s0m01.000s
11Oliver BearmanFerrari1m28.984s1m28.642s
12Alex AlbonWilliams-Mercedes1m29.107s1m28.980s
13Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1m29.069s1m29.020s
14Daniel RicciardoRB-Honda RBPT1m29.065s1m29.025s
15Nico HülkenbergHaas-Ferrari1m29.055s
16Valtteri BottasSauber-Ferrari1m29.179s
17Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1m29.475s
18Pierre GaslyAlpine-Renault1m29.479s
19Logan SargeantWilliams-Mercedes1m29.526s
20Guanyu ZhouSauber-Ferrari
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