Sergio Pérez claimed his second consecutive pole position for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, beating Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by 0.155s as Fernando Alonso finished third for Aston Martin. There was disappointment for Max Verstappen, though, as the championship leader was forced to retire from the session with a driveshaft problem in Q2.
In Q1 the early pavce was set by Haas’ Nico Hülkenberg, with a lap of 1:29.875, as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took P2, 0.028s off the German’s time. Pérez then moved ahead with a lap of 1:29.261. Verstappen was on track, though, and the Dutchman quickly established a new benchmark, posting an opening lap of 1:28.761 to claim top spot, half a second clear of his team-mate.
Leclerc improved to 1:29.376 to rise to third place ahead of Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz, but Mercedes’ George Russell and Lewis Hamilton then split the Ferrari drivers with Russell taking fourth spot ahead of his team-mate. Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso then emerged for the first time and the Spaniard vaulted to P4 behind Leclerc with a lap of 1:29.404.
Verstappen, comfortable in P1, electeds to stay in the Red Bull garage for the final runs, while Pérez headed out on track for a final attempt and he found time in the final two thirds of the track and trimmed his Q1 personal best to 1:29.244.
Behind him Alonso held onto third ahead of team-mate Stroll, with the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz in fifth and sixth ahead of Hülkenberg, Russell, the Alfa Romeo of Zhou Guanyu and Hamilton’s Mercedes.
Eliminated at the end of Q1 were the AlphaTauri cars of Yuki Tsunoda and Nyck de Vries in P16 and P18 respectively, 17th-placed Williams driver Alex Albon, McLaren’s Lando Norris, who clipped the wall and damaged his steering and the second Williams of Logan Sargeant.
At the start of the second segment, Alonso seized the initiative and he took P1 with a lap of 1:28.757. Behind him, Verstappen was winding up for his first flying lap of the session, but he was soon on the radio reporting a mechanical issue. He limped back to the pits but after being pushed back to the garage he quickly climbed out of the car, his qualifying session ended by a driveshaft issue. Verstappen finished in P15.
Pérez took over the reins at Red Bull and on his opening lap of the session he posted a time of 1:28.874, just under a tenth off Alonso’s opener.
There was more to come from the Mexican though and on his final run, after posting personal best times in the opening two sectors, he went purple in the final third to leapfrog Alonso and claim P1 with lap of 1:28.635, 0.122s ahead of the Spaniard, who was followed by the Ferrari pair of Leclerc and Sainz.
It was Leclerc who set the early pace in Q3. Alonso crossed the line in 1:29.925 but he was bypassed by both Russell and then Leclerc, who went quickest with a lap of 1:28.757.
Pérez , though, was one of the last on track for the opening runs and after a solid opening sector, the Mexican set purple times across the rest of the lap and he secured top spot with a lap of 1:28.265, almost half a second clear of Leclerc. The time remained unchallenged in the final runs and Pérez duly took his first pole of the year and the second of his career ahead of Leclerc, who is set for a 10-place grid penalty for the race, and Alonso.
2023 FIA Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Racing 1:28.265
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:28.420 0.155
3 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:28.730 0.465
4 George Russell Mercedes 1:28.857 0.592
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:28.931 0.666
6 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:28.945 0.680
7 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:29.078 0.813
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:29.223 0.958
9 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:29.243 0.978
10 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:29.357 1.092
11 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:29.451 1.186
12 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:29.461 1.196
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:29.517 1.252
14 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:29.668 1.403
15 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:49.953 21.688
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:29.939 1.674
17 Alex Albon Williams 1:29.994 1.729
18 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri 1:30.244 1.979
19 Lando Norris McLaren 1:30.447 2.182
20 Logan Sargeant Williams 2’08.510 40.245