Sergio Perez has taken a second straight Saudi Arabian Grand Prix pole position after teammate Max Verstappen exited qualifying in 15th with a driveshaft issue.
Verstappen was on his first flying lap of Q2 when his driveshaft suddenly let go, forcing him to limp back to pit lane, where his car couldn’t be repaired in time to rejoin the session. Red Bull had just changed the gearbox before FP3 earlier in the day.
The Dutchman won from as far back as 14th at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix. The last driver to win from 15th was Fernando Alonso at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.
“Anything is possible at this track,” Verstappen told Sky Sports. “We’ve seen a lot of crazy things.”
Without the Dutchman in the frame, Perez needed just one lap in his formidable Red Bull Racing machine to secure top spot with a pole time of 1m 28.265s.
Charles Leclerc ran him close, to within 0.155s, but the Monegasque will serve a 10-place grid penalty for a power unit component change this weekend, dropping him to 12th.
“Happy yes and no,” Leclerc said. “On one hand I think it’s been a very difficult weekend in terms of pace for us, but I’m very happy about our lap.”
The grid drop promotes Fernando Alonso to the front row for Aston Martin after the Spaniard was 0.465s off the pace.
“It has been a very good weekend for us,” the former World Champion said. “Qualifying was our weak point in Bahrain, but today the car seemed to perform very well on one lap. Let’s see tomorrow what we can do from here.”
George Russell was fourth fastest for Mercedes at 0.592s adrift, pipping Carlos Sainz in the second Ferrari. Lance Stroll was sixth fastest ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes.
Oscar Piastri made his first Q3 appearance in Formula 1 to put his McLaren ninth fastest ahead of Pierre Gasly in the second Alpine car.
Haas and Alfa Romeo battled in the midfield for an unlikely spot in Q3, and though neither team managed it, Nico Hulkenberg and Zhou Guanyu will be promoted to 10th and 11th by Leclerc’s penalty. Leclerc will line up 12th ahead of Kevin Magnussen and Valtteri Bottas.
Yuki Tsunoda was knocked out in Q1 by just 0.01s to line up 16th.
Alex Albon qualified 17th ahead of Nyck de Vries, who struggled with his first laps of the day after skipping FP3 to have his AlphaTauri’s power unit changed. The Dutchman suffered a major rear axle lock-up at the first corner that spun him around, and he said he made a mistake in the last corner that cost him a shot at improving.
Lando Norris could only manage 19th after hitting the apex wall on the final corner, breaking his left-front suspension and requiring repairs that couldn’t be completed in time to send him out for another lap.
Logan Sargeant was last, without a time, after having his fastest lap — which would have seen him through to Q2 — deleted for crossing the pit entry line out of the last corner. He spun through the turn 22-23 chicane on his second attempt, and his third attempt was undone at that same chicane, where he broke his car riding the curbs.