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Perez Red Bull

A shock elimination and reliability issues define qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Formula One took the Jeddah Corniche Circuit for an evening qualifying for Round Two of the season

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Qualifying in Saudi Arabia saw Sergio Perez take pole position after reliability issues for many and a shock elimination for his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen. 

Saudi Arabia Jeddah Red Bull Verstappen Aston Martin Alonso Norris Mercedes
The F1 pitlane ahead of Qualifying (Credit: Twitter @F1)

This weekend marks the second round of the 2023 Formula One season. Coming from Bahrain, all eyes were on Aston Martin after their P3 podium and Mercedes, who unfortunately underperformed.

The free practice sessions of the weekend saw Red Bull continue to demonstrate a strong performance. Mercedes didn’t quite have the pace compared to competitors with their highest FP position being P5. Aston Martin continued to impress as well and the McLaren drivers showed an improvement; both Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri were in the top 10 in FP3 after an unfortunate start in Bahrain with reliability issues.

For this weekend, Ferrari, who suffered a DNF in Bahrain with Charles Leclerc, have brought new power units for both drivers. However, Leclerc will be receiving a 10-place grid penalty after today’s qualifying for the Grand Prix tomorrow. But Team Principal Fred Vasseur has said the team is “confident” that the new components will be reliable.

This year the Jeddah Corniche circuit also has some track changes. The most notable is the tightened chicane of Turns 22 and Turn 23, making it slightly slower but still “unbelievably fast” as Karun Chandhok said during Sky Sports F1’s broadcast.

Now with lots to note for the weekend, let’s look at what happened in Qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.


Heading into Q1, the AlphaTauri cars went out first. They were joined on track by both Williams, Alfa Romeos, McLaren, Ferraris and Haas’. De Vries, who wasn’t able to get out in FP3 due to engine problems, had a spin early on in Q1, but got it going again for his first qualifying session at this circuit.

Alex Albon was the first driver to set a lap-time. He completed a 1:30.1 on the soft-compound tyres. He was soon beaten by Nico Hulkenberg and his own teammate, Logan Sargeant, who is making his F1 debut at Jeddah. However, the American’s quick lap-time was deleted after exceeding track limits on the final corner.

Carlos Sainz’s first time put him ninth, whilst Charles Leclerc put his Ferrari in P2. But from there, more and more drivers began putting faster times on the board.

The track got faster and issues ensued

With both Red Bulls going fastest with Max Verstappen completing a 1:28.7, it was Hulkenberg who was the outlier in Q1. The Haas driver, who was using a Ferrari power unit, was third in the timings with just over 10 minutes to go.

Oscar Piastri’s first lap put him 1.3 seconds off Verstappen’s time. However, Lando Norris didn’t achieve quite what his teammate did as the Brit was forced to go back into the pits after brushing the wall and damaging his front left tyre.

Both Aston Martins were the last ones out on the Jeddah Corniche circuit. Fernando Alonso spun during one of his laps meaning with seven minutes to go he didn’t have a time on the board. However, his first flying lap put him fourth, 0.6 seconds off of Verstappen.

For Alpine, whilst they looked to have some pace earlier on in the weekend, they weren’t equalling that performance in Q1. Pierre Gasly was in the elimination zone for the majority of the session whilst Esteban Ocon was P13.

Yellow flag

A yellow flag was brought out with four minutes to go. It was Williams’ Sargeant who went off the track and ended up facing the wrong way at Turn 22 and Turn 23. But he managed to turn it around and carry on.

Final two minutes

The bottom five with two minutes to go was Norris, Yuki Tsunoda, de Vries, Gasly and Sargeant. However, after his issues from hitting the wall, Norris never returned to the track meaning he was out of qualifying.

Alonso set another lap and put his AMR25 in third whilst Sainz put his car in fifth. When the clock ticked down, it was flat-out for all drivers remaining.

Stroll went fourth fastest, after having never qualified in the top 10 at Jeddah. Hulkenberg put his Haas in the top 10 and rookie Piastri got himself out of Q1 into 11th.

A double yellow was waved at the end of the session. Sargeant stopped on track meaning he didn’t post another time after his spin. Over the radio, he said:

“It’s over. I think I have to stop. Something’s broken.”

Drivers Out of Q1

The five drivers out of Q1 were:

  • Yuki Tsunoda
  • Alex Albon
  • Nyck de Vries
  • Lando Norris
  • Logan Sargeant

For the second session, both Mercedes drivers went out on used-tyre sets for their first run. In Q2, Alonso improved on his Q1 lap time by half a second after setting a 1:28.757.

Both Ferraris were on new soft tyres for their first runs. Leclerc managed to go just behind Alonso in second whilst Sainz was further down the grid.

Hulkenberg continued to show pace after completing a lap quick enough for P4. But the lap-time was deleted after track limits at the final corner.

Verstappen, who was ill earlier in the week, said over the radio he had a “big moment”. Soon after that, Verstappen then said there was issue with the engine.

Red bull Qualifying Verstappen Perez Alonso
Verstappen out of Q2 in Saudi Arabia (Credit: Twitter @F1)

On the radio the Dutchman said: “It’s like it’s not accelerating.” When he returned to the pits, Verstappen got out of the car and was out of qualifying.

With Verstappen out, the top three with five minutes to go was: Alonso, Perez and Leclerc. But as the clock ticked down, times began improving.

Final two minutes

Sainz was in the bottom five with two minutes to go but his lap times weren’t looking to be improving. However, the Spaniard kept trying and his final flying lap saw him finish in P4.

When the Q2 session finished, it was Alonso who was in P1. His teammate Lance Stroll was also in the top 10. Piastri also improved getting into Q3, making him the only rookie to get into the final qualifying session.

However, Perez soon pushed Alonso out of P1 making it a Red Bull at the top and bottom of the 15 in Q2. With only Q3 left, the fight for pole was on.

Drivers Out of Q2

The five drivers out of Q2 were:

  • Nico Hulkenberg
  • Zhou Guanyu
  • Kevin Magnussen
  • Valtteri Bottas
  • Max Verstappen

The fight for pole was on in the final session of qualifying. The remaining drivers in the top 10 were both Mercedes, both Ferraris, both Aston Martins, both Alpines, Perez and Piastri.

Alonso was setting purple sectors on his first Q3 lap. He completed a lap-time of 1:28.925. This was two-tenths slower than his Q2 time, but still put him at the top of the timesheets.

Leclerc soon beat Alonso going fastest whilst the Mercedes drivers went second and fourth with Russell ahead. Alonso was then in a Mercedes sandwich.

As the only remaining Red Bull, Perez gave it his all and by half a second, put his RB19 in provisional pole. For Russell things soon took a turn as he came into the pits to assess damage after going over some kerbs aggressively.

Final two minutes

Alonso’s final lap-time was half a second off Perez’s provisional pole time, but it kept the Spaniard on the front row. Stroll, however, was going faster than his teammate with a purple sector one. The Canadian put his car in fifth for the race tomorrow.

Hamilton couldn’t improve during his final lap and unfortunately finished eighth; Sainz completed a lap putting his Ferrari in sixth. Whilst Leclerc went second on the front row, he will start in 12th for the Grand Prix due to his grid-place penalty. This means it’ll be Alonso in P2 for the race ahead of Mercedes’ Russell.

Perez Red Bull Qualifying
Sergio Perez, Charles Leclerc and Fernando Alonso, the top three in the Saudi Arabian Qualifying of 2023. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)
Qualifying results

The top 10 of Qualifying were:

  1. Sergio Perez
  2. Charles Leclerc
  3. Fernando Alonso
  4. George Russell
  5. Carlos Sainz
  6. Lance Stroll
  7. Esteban Ocon
  8. Lewis Hamilton
  9. Oscar Piastri
  10. Pierre Gasly

Tomorrow is the Grand Prix and after some surprise reliability issues in qualifying, anything can happen. Will Perez be able to convert the pole position into a race victory for Red Bull? Or will Alonso battle for the win?

Headline Image: GettyImages

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