Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – Latest updates as Verstappen starts from 15th place
Good day F1 fans
Welcome to our live coverage of the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix from the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. After Max Verstappen drove home to victory on the opening lap, it will have a more difficult task to take victory in the second race of the new season after suffering a mechanical problem in qualifying.
Verstappen, who had led every session up to that point and was miles ahead in Q1, suffered a driveshaft failure in the second part of qualifying yesterday without a lap on the board. So he starts the race today as 15th. In fairness it is probably just as good as the dominance he has shown meant a repeat of his easy win in Bahrain two weeks ago looked very likely. As an example, the gap between Verstappen and second-placed Sergio Perez in Q1 was greater than the gap between Perez and 12th-placed Esteban Ocon…
Ultimately it was Perez who found time in Q3 to claim his second career pole position – his last came a year ago at the circuit although he was unable to convert it into a win. Charles Leclerc set a fairly encouraging lap for Ferrari, just a tenth and a half behind Perez’s time. The concern is that the gap might have been closer to a second had Verstappen made it into Q3. However, Leclerc will lose 10 places on the grid due to an unscheduled change of drive unit and will start from 12th place.
Fernando Alonso’s new life continues and the Spaniard finished third for Aston Martin with George Russell fourth for Mercedes. However, Alonso will start alongside Perez on the front row after Leclerc’s penalty was awarded. It should be an interesting start, although the Red Bull’s pace could be too high even in the hands of Perez if he gets ahead at the start. In fact, even if he doesn’t stay ahead, it might be too much.
However, Jeddah is a very fast street circuit and there is a high possibility that there will be a safety car or even a red flag phase. This introduces some unpredictability into the equation. Very few riders out there rule out a Verstappen win and Russell cited his effort through the field at Spa last year as an example. It certainly can’t be ruled out, although it should be at least slightly more difficult than his win two weeks ago.
Anyway, the race starts at 17:00 GMT and we’ll be here for all the setup, latest updates and reactions from the race.