Perez takes pole after Verstappen loses power: 2023 Saudi Arabain GP qualifying

Max Verstappen will start 15th on the F1 grid in the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after a driveshaft failure abruptly ended his qualifying session. It left Sergio Perez to take pole. He'll be alongside Fernando Alonso at the front of the grid

Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc after qualifying in 2023 Saudi Arabian GP

Perez secured pole ahead of Leclerc, who has a 10-place grid penalty


There will be a Red Bull starting the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on pole, with Sergio Perez is set to lead off the line after a driveshaft failure left Max Verstappen 15th in qualifying.

The reigning world champion will start three places behind Charles Leclerc who was second-fastest but has a ten-place grid penalty as a result of replacing the engine electronics unit that failed in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

It leaves Fernando Alonso on the front row alongside Perez, followed by George Russell and Carlos Sainz who will also hope to take an early lead as Leclerc and Verstappen fight through the pack.

Leclerc had mixed feelings about the session. “Happy yes and no,” he said. “On one hand it has been a very difficult weekend for us. I’m very happy with my lap — I was on the limit but Red Bull are on another planet.

“The race pace looked quite good but it is very difficult to compare. It’s not going to be easy because I feel everybody is close.”

Charles Leclerc Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso after 2023 Saudi Arabian GP qualifying

The top three from qualifying


There was less reservation in Alonso’s hopes for Sunday’s race: “Today the car seemed to perform very well on one lap, so let’s see what tomorrow we can do from here. We are confident. Yesterday the car felt very strong. It should be better on Sunday than on Saturday.”

Verstappen’s dominant form looked set to continue on the high-speed Jeddah circuit, as the Dutchman became the only drive to dip below 1min 29sec in the first Q1 stage.

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But his march was halted in Q2 when he lost drive on a flying lap, limped back to the pits and immediately got out of the car. The team confirmed a driveshaft failure.

“It’s very annoying,” said Verstappen. “So far we had a really good weekend. It will now be a bit more tricky to get to the front but it is all about scoring points.”

Asked if a win was in his sights, he replied: “Anything is possible at this track. We have good pace so for sure we will move forwards.”

Max Verstappen looks downcast after a car failure in 2023 F1 Saudi Arabian GP

Verstappen’s session was over mid-way through Q2

Eric Alonso/Getty Images

By that time, Lando Norris was also out: eliminated in Q1 after hitting the wall. Although he brought his car back to the pits, it proved terminal for his session. Only Logan Sargeant will start behind him having had a disastrous session, which began with his first lap being deleted for putting a wheel off-track in the area between the main straight and pitlane.

The Williams driver then spun his car but had time for a final flying lap, at which point a car failure brought him to a halt. His team-mate Alex Albon and both AlphaTauri drivers joined him in the drop zone.

All four Alfa Romeo and Haas cars were eliminated alongside Verstappen in Q2, which left Perez fighting the pacy Aston Martins and Ferraris.

Oscar Piastri had also driven his McLaren into Q3, as did the Alpine and Mercedes drivers.

Logan Sargeant climbs out of his broken down F1 Williams in 2023 Saudi Arabian GP qualifying

A miserable end to a forgettable session for Logan Sargeant

Bryn Lennon/F1 via Getty Images

Perez topped the table after the first runs, but his time appeared far from secure as Alonso’s second flying lap took him to within a tenth of the Red Bull over the opening corners. Anticipation was high, but the double world champion couldn’t sustain the challenge and slotted in just under half a second behind Perez.

His team-mate looked to be on an even quicker charge: Lance Stroll setting the fastest first sector of all as he looked to challenge for pole, but once again he couldn’t match Perez’s pace towards the end of the lap and ended sixth quickest.

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Leclerc couldn’t topple the Mexican either. He was the closest challenger, but was of no concern to Red Bull thanks to his grid penalty, and finished 0.155sec back, handing Perez his second successive Saudi Arabian pole.

An exuberant Russell ended the session fourth fastest — “They were some nice laps. I really enjoyed that,” radioed the Mercedes driver after the chequered flag. He didn’t hold out much hope of taking points from Verstappen though, pointing out that the Dutchman had already won from 14th on the grid last year at Spa — and that this year’s car had an even greater advantage over its rivals.

Perez echoed both thoughts: “You really feel the Formula 1 cars coming alive in this place,” he said in post-qualifying interviews. “Hopefully tomorrow we can have both cars up there.”

Sergio Perez clenches his fist after securing pole for the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

2023 Saudi Arabian  Grand Prix qualifying results

Position Driver Team Time
1 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1min 28.265sec
2 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1min 28.730sec
3 George Russell Mercedes 1min 28.857sec
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1min 28.931sec
5 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1min 28.945sec
6 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1min 29.078sec
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1min 29.223sec
8 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1min 29.243sec
9 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1min 29.357sec
Q2 times
10 Nico Hülkenberg Haas 1min 29.451sec
11 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1min 29.461sec
12 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1min 28.420sec* (Q3 time)
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1min 29.517sec
14 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1min 29.668sec
15 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1min 49.953sec
Q1 times
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1min 29.939sec
17 Alex Albon Williams 1min 29.994sec
18 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri 1min 30.244sec
19 Lando Norris McLaren 1min 30.447sec
20 Logan Sargeant Williams 2min 08.510sec

*Takes 10th-place grid penalty into account