Verstappen pips Leclerc to Saudi Arabian GP pole by three tenths of a second

Verstappen pips Leclerc to Saudi Arabian GP pole by three tenths of a second

Max Verstappen took pole for the 2024 FIA Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, three tenths of a second ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, with Sergio Pérez third in the other Red Bull.

Verstappen claimed provisional pole with this first of Q3, setting a time of 1:27.472 to sit ahead of Pérez. However, while neither Red Bull improved on their final runs, Leclerc made good time on his final run to beat Pérez by 0.016s and steal a front row spot from the Mexican.  

Red Bull were to the fore from the start of the session. Pérez jumped to P1 with his flying lap of 1:28.761 but Verstappen edged ahead when he stopped the clock at 1:28.491. There were improvements elsewhere though and when Leclerc slotted into P2 ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, Mercedes’ George Russell and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, Pérez dropped to sixth place. 

Leclerc took P1 in the closing stages with a lap of 1:38.318, 0.173 ahead of Verstappen, but with his final run in Verstappen reclaimed top spot putting in a lap of 1:28.171. Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll put in a strong final flyer to take P2 just eight hundredths of a second behind the Dutchman, while Leclerc took third. Pérez also found time on his final flyer and he climbed to fourth place at the flag, ahead of Alonso. 

However, there was no place in Q2 for Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas who was ruled out in P16 ahead of the Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly and the Williams of Logan Sargeant. Sauber’s Zhou Guanyu made it out on track right at the end of the session following repairs to his car after his FP3 crash, but he failed to set a time and was eliminated in P20. 

At the start of Q2, Russell was the first to lay down a marker with a lap of 1:28.608, ahead of Norris and Hamilton, but soon after the red flags came out. Haas’ Nico Hülkenberg crossed the line to start a lap but almost immediately he began to lose power and the German was eventually forced to pull over in a run-off area and the session was stopped.  

After a five-minute delay, running resumed and Pérez, on used tyres, posted a lap of 1:28.539. That was beaten by Verstappen who took P1 with a lap of 1:28.078 on fresh Soft rubber. Alonso, also on fresh tyres, then stole P2, just 0.044s behind Verstappen, while Leclerc took fourth on used tyres. 

In the final runs Verstappen found a slim improvement of 0.045s to take top spot, just eight hundredths of a second ahead of Leclerc, with Alonso a further one hundredth of a second back in third. McLaren’s Oscar Piastri was fourth ahead of Russell and although Pérez improved to 1:28.467 it was only good enough for P6 ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris, RB’s Yuki Tsunoda, the second Aston of Stroll and Hamilton, who claimed the last Q3 spot ahead of Ferrari new boy Oliver Bearman, by the tiny margin of 0.036s. Eliminated along with the Ferrari driver were Williams’ Alex Albon in P12 ahead of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, the second RB of Daniel Ricciardo and the unfortunate Hülkenberg. 

In the opening runs of Q3 Verstappen laid down a strong marker, with the Dutchman posting a lap of 1:27.472 to take provisional pole, an impressive 0.335s ahead of Pérez who took P2 0.181s clear of Alonso, with Leclerc, who complained that his car felt “really weird” on new Soft tyres, in P4. 

Neither of the Red Bull drivers could improve on the first run, however. Verstappen crossed the line just under two tenths off his opening time and behind him Pérez also had to settle for his first lap time. That left both vulnerable and Leclerc tried to find a way through. The Ferrari driver couldn’t match Verstappen, however, and his 1:27.791 left him 0.319 behind the champion. It was, however, good enough to deny Red Bull a front-row lockout, with Pérez being pushed out to P3 by 0.016s. Behind Pérez, Alonso took fourth, with Piastri in fifth place ahead of Russell and Hamilton. Tsunoda will start in P9 for RB ahead of Hamilton. 

2024 FIA Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – Qualifying 
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:27.472 
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:27.791 0.319
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing 1:27.807 0.335
4 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:27.846 0.374
5 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:28.089 0.617
6 Lando Norris McLaren 1:28.132 0.660
7 George Russell Mercedes 1:28.316 0.844
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:28.460 0.988
9 Yuki Tsunoda RB 1:28.547 1.075
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:28.572 1.100
11 Ollie Bearman Ferrari 1:28.642 1.170
12 Alexander Albon Williams 1:28.980 1.508
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:29.020 1.548
14 Daniel Ricciardo RB 1:29.025 1.553
15 Nico Hulkenberg Haas - -
16 Valtteri Bottas Sauber 1:29.179 1.707
17 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:29.475 2.003
18 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:29.479 2.007
19 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:29.526 2.054
20 Zhou Guanyu Sauber No Time

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