Red Bull’s Sergio Perez took his second consecutive Saudi Arabian Grand Prix pole position during Saturday’s (March 18) qualifying sessions at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
Perez will be accompanied on the front row by Fernando Alonso, as Charles Leclerc — who set the second fastest time of Q3 — will be dropped to 12th place on the grid after a 10-place grid penalty.
“You really feel the Formula 1 cars coming alive in this place,” Perez told SkySports’ Khalil Beschir. “Max has been really strong the whole weekend, so hopefully tomorrow we can have all four cars up there.”
Both Alonso and his Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll stole the show in Q3 by launching back-to-back threats to knock Perez off the top spot. Alonso bested his fifth-place qualifying effort from Bahrain, with Stroll likewise improving on his effort from the previous race with a fifth-place result.
“Well done, guys,” Alonso told his crew following the conclusion of Q3. “Amazing – amazing! Let’s go!”
Without Verstappen to go through in Q3, pole was an open target for Perez as the straight-line pace of the Red Bull team remains uncontested by the rest of the field.
Australian Oscar Piastri, meanwhile, made an improvement from his pace in Bahrain and raised some eyebrows by placing his McLaren in the top-10 shootout, ending the evening in ninth.
Max Verstappen will start the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix from 15th on the grid after a sudden driveshaft failure undid his qualifying effort in the first half of Q2.
The Dutchman had yet to set a flying lap time before his RB19 suddenly lost power. Verstappen limped back to the paddock and was quickly out of the car, signalling that Red Bull had no hopes of fixing the issue in time for the two-time champion to set a competitive lap.
Nico Hulkenberg was given a track limits penalty for dipping his tires outside of the racing surface on the frontstretch. The rulebook stipulates that any part of the car crossing the line that separates the Jeddah Corniche Circuit’s pit lane entry from the frontstretch constitutes a track limits violation.
Hulkenberg was able to post a second lap that had Q3 potential, but the German was eliminated from qualifying by Pierre Gasly at the last second of Q2.
Eliminated from Q2 were:
11. Nico Hulkenberg
12. Zhou Guanyu
13. Kevin Magnussen
14. Valtteri Bottas
15. Max Verstappen
An uneventful Q1 saw the usual suspects rise to the top of the field, though McLaren’s rocky start to the 2023 season continued when Lando Norris was surprisingly eliminated after finishing the first session of the evening in 19th place. Furthermore, Norris was in 19th by virtue of setting the slowest time of the session.
Coming in behind Norris was American rookie Logan Sargeant, who nearly pulled a rabbit from his hat to place his Williams into Q2. However, Sargeant was snagged by the same track limits violation that later caught out Hulkenberg in Q2.
Sargeant was unable to put together a flying lap after having this lap time deleted on account of the penalty, and was thusly eliminated in 20th place.
Sargeant’s first flying lap would have advanced him through to Q2 had it not been disallowed.
Eliminated from Q1 were:
16. Yuki Tsunoda
17. Alex Albon
18. Nyck De Vries
19. Lando Norris
20. Logan Sargeant
2023 Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Qualifying Results
The 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will take place on Sunday, March 19 at 1:00 p.m. ET with coverage on ESPN.
About the author
Alex is the IndyCar Editor at Frontstretch, having initially joined as an entry-level contributor in 2021. He also leads the Center for Asia-Pacific Policy at the BIED Society, an international think tank in Washington, D.C. With previous experience in China, Japan and Poland, Alex is particularly passionate about the international realm of motorsport and the politics that make the wheels turn - literally - behind the scenes.
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