Red Bull’s Sergio Perez will start from pole position in Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix alongside Fernando Alonso after championship leader Max Verstappen was forced out of qualifying in Q2 with a drive shaft issue.
Perez set a time of 1:29.244s in Q3 under the lights of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. The Red Bull driver set a time 0.115s ahead of the second fastest time set by Charles Leclerc, who will start the race in 12th due to a penalty.
READ MORE: F1 2023 Saudi Arabian GP – Qualifying Results
Red Bull’s Verstappen made a shock exit from qualifying, as the session entered into the final five minutes of Q2. The Dutchman was forced to limp back to the pits, saying over the radio, “I have a problem. Engine problem”.
Verstappen’s absence in Q3 opened up the possibility for three different teams to occupy the top three positions. But no one could match the pace of Perez in the remaining Red Bull, even with Aston Martin and Ferrari coming within touching distance.
George Russell made a surprise leap to set the fourth fastest time in Q1, followed by Carlos Sainz who had appeared to struggle throughout the session, the pair will start on the second row of the grid.
McLaren’s Oscar Piastri also made a surprise appearance in Q1 after the team faced a troubling season opener in Bahrain. Lando Norris couldn’t repeat the same for his side of the garage, after hitting the wall in Q1.
Times were tight throughout the session, with the Q1 and Q2 midfield battles proving to be close throughout.
Gasly was the final driver to scrape into Q3, knocking out Nico Hulkenberg after it had initially looked like he would progress into Q1 after out qualifying team-mate Kevin Magnussen who qualified P13.
Lodged between the two Haas drivers was Zhou Guanyu, who out-qualified team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Bottas, too, was a victim of the Q2 dropzone in 14th, ahead of the stricken Red Bull driven by Verstappen.
It was a disappointing day for the AlphaTauri drivers, with both dropping out of the session in Q1.
Yuki Tsunoda bested rookie team-mate Nyck de Vries, with the latter admitting to making a mistake at the final corner which cost him lap time.
Fresh from his points finish at the Bahrain Grand Prix, Alexander Alon was 17th for Williams, while his stable-mate Logan Sargeant likely ended up as the most disappointed driver in the field.
The American driver had set a lap time that would’ve been enough to easily see him into the second stage of qualifying – however he was marked for track limits.
Sargeant dipped a wheel into the painted line on the run-up to the line, which is illegal as outlined in the race director’s notes.
On his next attempt, he made a costly mistake and was forced to pull over and rue his effort.
Norris, too, tapped the wall on one of his efforts which left him with a damaged car. He returned to the pits but was unable to return and will share the back row with Sargeant on Sunday evening.
The 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is scheduled for 20:00 local time on Sunday.