Sergio Perez has taken his first F1 pole position in an elongated qualifying session at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after a major crash for Mick Schumacher delayed the completion of Q2.
Schumacher ran deep onto the curb at Turn 10 which unsettled his car and spun it backwards in a shower of sparks. It slammed sideways into the concrete barrier at the exit of Turn 11, ripping both right-hand wheels from the chassis, and was catapulted further down the track, eventually coming to rest at Turn 12.
The German was reported to be conscious and talking but had to be extricated from the car by the medical team, after which he was transported by ambulance to the medical center. Haas said afterwards that he appeared physically fine but would be airlifted to hospital for precautionary checks.
The session’s resumption was delayed by almost an hour as the wreckage was cleared and the track was repaired, with particular attention paid to fluid dropped by the car which split in half as the marshals attempted to lift it onto the recovery truck.
When qualifying got back underway, the Ferrari teammates sought to press their advantage while Carlos Sainz led Charles Leclerc in a provisional front-row lockout after the first laps of Q3.
Leclerc inverted the order at the end of their second laps, but it was Sergio Perez who pipped the lot, jumping from third to first.
His teammate, Max Verstappen, was last over the line, but the Dutchman was struggling for grip and couldn’t come close, handing the Mexican driver his first ever Formula 1 pole position in his 215th grand prix with a 0.025s margin.
“It took me a couple of races, but what a lap,” he said. “Unbelievable. I can do 1000 laps and I don’t think I can beat that lap. It was unbelievable.
“We weren’t really expecting to match the Ferraris in qualifying. We were concentrating mainly on the race, so hopefully we get that tomorrow.”
Charles Leclerc was equally stunned to miss out on pole after setting three purple sectors with his second lap.
“The lap felt good,” he said. “Honestly, I am very happy with the lap.
“I definitely did not expect Checo to come with that lap time, so congratulations to him.
“It’s another day tomorrow, and hopefully we’ll have a good start.”
Carlos Sainz qualified third on a set of used soft tires but was looking forward to the prospect of splitting the Red Bull Racing cars in what’s expected to be a race featuring at least two stops tomorrow.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Sainz said. “All four cars mixed up between the Ferraris and the Red Bulls. We will play around with each other on strategy. It will be an exciting race.”
Verstappen qualified fourth, suffering from a lack of grip, dropping him to 0.261s off Perez’s pace in an unexpected switch of places for the teammates.
Esteban Ocon qualified fifth ahead of George Russell in sixth, the Briton 0.9s off the pace, but the biggest surprise came from Lewis Hamilton — eliminated in Q1 (16th) in another difficult weekend for Mercedes and Mercedes-powered cars.
The seven-time champion lacked grip in the opening qualifying segment and missed out on progression by just 0.087s, albeit with a lap that was 0.663s slower than teammate Russell.
It’s the first time Hamilton has been knocked out in Q1 since crashing out of qualifying in the 2017 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso qualified seventh for Alpine ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, and Pierre Gasly and Kevin Magnussen completed the top 10 for AlphaTauri and Haas.
McLaren teammates Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo qualified 11th and 12th ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu.
Schumacher wound up 14th after his crash, but team principal Guenther Steiner told Sky Sports he thought the 23-year-old would be unlikely to race on Sunday.
Lance Stroll qualified 15th alongside Hamilton at the head of a gaggle of Mercedes-powered cars occupying the back rows.
Alex Albon followed in 17th for Williams ahead of Aston Martin’s Nico Hulkenberg.
Nicholas Latifi will start 19th after spinning out of Q1 at Turn 13. The Williams swapped ends as the Canadian tipped into the corner and made heavy side-on impact with the barrier.
Yuki Tsunoda will start last, having failed to complete a lap before he was called back to his garage with a mechanical problem that couldn’t be fixed before the end of the session.
The Japanese driver’s AlphaTauri was running a host of new power unit components after an engine failure during Friday practice.