Perez on Pole in Saudi Arabia as Verstappen struggles
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez clinched pole position in Saudi Arabia for a second consecutive season on Saturday after team-mate of Formula One World Champion Max Verstappen suffered a driveshaft failure and only qualified 15th.
Aston Martin’s 41-year-old two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who was hoping for his first pole since Germany 2012 with Ferrari, will join the Mexican on the front row of Sunday’s race in Jeddah.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc qualified second fastest but has a 10-place grid penalty that sees the Monegasque drop to 12th.
Perez’s best time of one minute and 28.265 seconds on the floodlit Corniche street course was more than a tenth faster than Leclerc’s performance.
“You really feel the Formula 1 cars come alive in this place and it was very important to maximize that lap,” Perez said of his second career pole.
“It’s a shame,” he added of Verstappen’s early exit. “Max has been very strong all weekend, so hopefully we can have both cars up there tomorrow.”
Alonso will be the first Aston Martin driver to start a Grand Prix from the front row since Britain’s Roy Salvadori at Silverstone in 1959.
“Qualifying was our weak point in Bahrain, but we showed a very good performance. Let’s see what we can do. It’s incredible,” said the Spaniard.
“We are confident, we feel very strong. The strongest part is the long run pace, so it should be better on Sunday.”
Mercedes’ George Russell and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz share the second row.
Verstappen, last year’s winner in Jeddah, had dominated all three practice sessions and was fastest in the first phase of qualifying before everything went wrong.
“I have a problem,” he told the team over the radio.
“It almost doesn’t accelerate,” added the Dutch driver as he brought the car back into the pits and was wheeled back into the garage before retiring with just over six minutes of session two remaining.
“It will be a bit more difficult to get up front, but it will only be about collecting points,” said Verstappen.
“Of course I would have liked to have started further up the field, but now I can’t do anything. Let’s be realistic – it’s going to be tough but we have good pace so let’s keep going.”
McLaren’s troubles continued after a tough season opener in Bahrain, with Lando Norris starting 19th after a contact with the wall that damaged his car in the first stage of qualifying.
Australian rookie teammate Oscar Piastri has made it through to Stage Two and will start eighth.
Both AlphaTauris also eliminated at the first hurdle, with Yuki Tsunoda qualifying in 16th and Dutch rookie teammate Nyck de Vries spinning on his way to 18th.
The two Williams also failed to make it into Q2, with Alex Albon qualifying 17th and US rookie Logan Sargeant last after exceeding track limits.