Hamilton on pole as Verstappen crashes

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton has claimed pole position for the Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix while Max Verstappen crashed out.

The Englishman threw down the gauntlet in the final moments of the session, the Dutchman making a mistake in his quest to overcome his championship rival.

Contact with the barrier at the final corner as the chequered flag fell left Verstappen to climb from his car, raising questions over the health of his gearbox ahead of Sunday’s race.

A queue formed at pit exit as the qualifying hour commenced, all bar the two Mercedes immediately taking to the track.

Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton were both soon on circuit, the former with a new power unit since Free Practice 3.

Predictably, with so many cars on track, queuing was a factor in approach to the final corner.

George Russell got proceedings underway, logging a 1:30.964s only for his Williams team-mate to go half a second faster.

The first of the serious runners to record a time was Verstappen, who set three purple sectors en route to a 1:28.659s.

Sergio Perez logged a 1:29.039s to move into second, while Hamilton ran off the road early on his first flying lap.

The Mercedes driver carried on with the lap regardless, pushing next time round to set a 1:28.466s.

Track evolution appeared significant, Antonio Giovinazzi setting a 1:28.945s suggesting as much.

The hectic session continued with Carlos Sainz going fastest with a 1:28.330s with eight minutes to run.

On his second run, Verstappen improved to 1:28.285s to top proceedings.

It didn’t stand for long, with Bottas going 0.2s better as the order continued to change rapidly.

Verstappen was forced to abandon a late lap when he was caught in traffic approaching the final corner.

As the chequered flag fell on the segment, Bottas reported misfiring in his car before the engine switched off and left him stranded in the pit lane.

Eliminated from the session were Nicholas Latifi, Sebastian Vettel, Lance Stroll, Mick Schumacher, and Nikita Mazepin.

Bottas was among those to head out immediately as Qualifying 2 commenced.

He quickly went second best behind Verstappen with a 1:28.230s, versus the Red Bull’s 1:27.953s.

Having exceeded track limits at Turn 4, Sainz had a spin at Turn 11, launching the Ferrari over the kerb and pitching it sideways.

He brushed the rear wing end fence on the Tecpro barrier, the car otherwise unscathed as he recovered to the pits.

Earlier in the session, he’d found himself baulked by Pierre Gasly, an incident which officials confirmed they would investigate post-session.

Having struggled on his first run in Qualifying 2, Hamilton logged a 1:28.068s on the second time of asking.

That was good enough for second at the time, which became third when Perez went fastest on a 1:27.946s.

Having headed back out on track, another moment for Sainz scuppered any hope he had of improving his time, leaving him languishing in 15th and out of the running for Qualifying 3.

Also eliminated as the chequered flag fell were Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, and George Russell.

A moment for Hamilton early in Qualifying 3 almost saw the Mercedes swap ends, promptly aborting the lap.

Bottas logged a 1:28.143s to open the running, Yuki Tsunoda and Charles Leclerc slotting in second and third respectively.

The two Red Bulls and Lando Norris waited a few minutes before heading out, running slightly out of sequence presumably in their quest for a traffic-free run.

Hamilton’s next lap logged a 1:28.035s to top proceedings, though it was still a scrappy with the Mercedes looking far from settled.

Verstappen quickly improved, his 1:27.653s leaving him nearly 0.4s clear of his title rival.

Bottas further relegated Hamilton when he logged a 1:27.974s, but still 0.321s behind Verstappen’s provisional pole time.

Gasly set a 1:28.125s to move into fourth, pushing Perez to fifth just as the Mexican began another lap.

Hamilton’s next run was more settled, the Brit duly delivering a 1:27.511s to claim provisional pole over Verstappen by little more than 0.1s.

With 45 seconds remaining, Verstappen started his final flying lap.

It was an aggressive lap, wide at Turn 2 and perilously close to the barrier on exit as he went purple through the first sector.

He looked on course for pole position until a locked brake entering the final corner resulted in him tagging the wall on the exit.

The Dutchman was forced to stop the car and climb out, ending the session and leaving him third on the grid behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Charles Leclerc was fourth best over Perez, then was Gasly, Norris, Tsunoda, Esteban Ocon, and Antonio Giovinazzi.

Results: Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Qualifying

Pos Num Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:28.466 1:27.712 1:27.511
2 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:28.057 1:28.054 1:27.622
3 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:28.285 1:27.953 1:27.653
4 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:28.310 1:28.459 1:28.054
5 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing 1:28.021 1:27.946 1:28.123
6 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:28.401 1:28.314 1:28.125
7 4 Lando Norris McLaren 1:28.338 1:28.344 1:28.180
8 22 Yuki Tsunoda Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:28.503 1:28.222 1:28.442
9 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:28.752 1:28.574 1:28.647
10 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 1:28.899 1:28.616 1:28.754
11 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:28.216 1:28.668
12 7 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 1:28.856 1:28.885
13 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:28.944 1:28.920
14 63 George Russell Williams 1:28.926 1:29.054
15 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:28.237 1:53.652
16 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:29.177
17 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:29.198
18 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:29.368
19 47 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:29.464
20 9 Nikita Mazepin Haas 1:30.473

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