Verstappen storms to pole in Saudi Arabia, heading Leclerc and Perez; Bearman impresses on F1 debut

Photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool
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There was an unexpected lineup change at Ferrari, with Formula 2 driver Oliver Bearman getting called up this morning to replace Carlos Sainz after the Spaniard was diagnosed with appendicitis and taken to hospital for surgery. 

Verstappen set the pace in Q1 with a 1.28.181. Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll delivered an impressive lap to go second-fastest, just 0.079 off Verstappen’s pace, while Leclerc rounded off the top three. 

Both Sauber drivers were eliminated in Q1. Bottas qualified 16th, after expressing frustration about traffic on his flying lap. Zhou—who had a high speed shunt in FP3—ultimately failed to set a time.

Alpine’s struggles continued, with both drivers failing to progress into Q2; they will line up 17th and 18th on the grid. Sargeant also tumbled out of Q1, qualifying 19th.

Q2 was disrupted after Hulkenberg pulled over, reporting a loss of power. A yellow flag was thrown initially, before the session was briefly red flagged with 10 minutes left on the clock. 

Verstappen finished on top of the pile once again, but Alonso flexed his muscles as the session resumed, posting the second-fastest time, 0.044 off Verstappen’s 1.28.078. Leclerc once again slotted into third on a set of used softs. The McLaren duo traded times, going fourth and fifth fastest, until they were split by Russell and Perez. 

Both Haas drivers were knocked out in Q2, with Magnussen securing P13 and Hulkenberg ending up P15 by default as he failed to set a time after his car gave up the ghost, and resorted to watching the action from the sidelines. 

Albon was the only Williams driver participating in Q2 following Sargeant’s elimination in the previous segment, but he was unable to haul his car into Q3 and will line up 12th on the grid. 

It was an impressive effort from Bearman who qualified 11th, just 0.036 off Hamilton’s time, after what he labelled a “messy session.”

Both Red Bulls, McLarens, Mercedes and Astons progressed into Q3, along with Leclerc and Tsunoda.

Perez initially topped the timesheet, but his time was smashed by Verstappen, who set a 1:27.472 to take provisional pole.

Another stellar lap from Alonso saw him go second, later relegated to third by Perez. 

At one point Leclerc was heard complaining about the way his SF-24 handled after switching to a new set of tyres, saying, “It just feels very weird on new tyres, and very difficult to drive.”

Verstappen proved unassailable in Q3, storming to pole with a 1:27.472. This is the Dutchman’s maiden pole position in Saudi Arabia. 

Leclerc improved on his final lap to clinch P2, 0.319 off Verstappen, for a seventh consecutive front row start. Perez took the P3 spot, with Alonso behind him in fourth.

Further down, Piastri out-qualified Norris as the McLarens locked out the third row, with Russell—who made an error on his final lap—and Hamilton behind them in P7 and P8.

Tsunoda hauled the RB to a solid P9, with Stroll completing the top 10.