Sergio Perez profits from Max Verstappen woes to claim Saudi Arabian GP pole

The Mexican secured back-to-back poles at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit by a tenth and a half

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Sergio Perez salvaged Red Bull’s qualifying session by claiming a superb pole position at the 2023 Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

All the facts pointed towards a rout for Red Bull and Max Verstappen, in particular, who led all three practice sessions but the reigning two-time world champion was knocked out in Q2 as a result of an engine problem. He failed to set a lap time after being comfortably clear of the pack in Q1 and will start 15th at best.

“Out of Turn 10 it happened,” Verstappen said. “It’s very annoying that it happened because we were having a very good weekend.

“So now, it will be a bit more challenging to get to the front but it’s all about scoring points, it’s a very long season.”

The Dutchman’s absence from Q3 opened the door for an unexpected pole-sitter at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit and Perez, who claimed pole at this race last season, took full advantage of his teammate’s woes.

Charles Leclerc was second fastest in the Ferrari but his grid penalty will see Fernando Alonso start second in the Aston Martin. George Russell and Carlos Sainz will take their place on the second row with Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon on row three.

Mistakes aplenty

After all three free practice sessions went by without much of a hiccup for any driver, things suddenly took a turn for the chaotic when the full brunt of the cars was unleashed.

Q1 saw Lando Norris the most notable casualty after he clipped the inside wall at Turn 27 on his second flying lap, causing his suspension to break. He did not get back onto the track while Logan Sargeant also had a spin and failed to set a proper lap time.

Nyck de Vries span at the first corner on his first lap of the day after missing FP3 due to an engine change and even Alonso found himself facing the wrong way at the slowest corner on the track.

Rookie sensation

Oscar Piastri came into F1 in 2023 with a lot of excitement surrounding him after a stellar charge through the junior formulae ranks but he didn’t show his true class in Bahrain. It was a different story in Saudi Arabia as the Australian made it into Q3 at the track where he won twice in his title-winning Formula 2 campaign.

It was even more impressive given Norris‘ accident in Q1 and the lack of pace from his fellow rookies in F1. Sargeant’s spin saw him end up last in Q1 while De Vries lacked speed in the AlphaTauri to also exit at the first hurdle of qualifying.

Piastri’s race in Bahrain was over before it really got going with an electrical problem so he will hope to get the full distance under his belt on Sunday (March 19).

Joe Ellis
Joe Ellis
Motorsport journalist, indyCar correspondent and F1 writer for Total-Motorsport.com
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