Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2023

Perez on pole after Verstappen’s driveshaft fails, Alonso inherits second from Leclerc

2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix qualifying

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Sergio Perez secured pole position for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix for a second consecutive year after team mate Max Verstappen was eliminated in 15th after a driveshaft failure.

Verstappen lost power midway through Q2, dooming him to start no higher than 15th. With the other Red Bull out of contention, Perez duly secured pole position with Charles Leclerc second for Ferrari ahead of Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin. However, Leclerc’s 10-place power unit grid penalty will see him drop to 12th, promoting Alonso onto the front row.


The second qualifying session of the season began with a large queue at the end of the pit lane, led by the two Williams of Alexander Albon and team mate Logan Sargeant. Having missed all of final practice while his AlphaTauri’s power unit was changed, Nyck de Vries ventured out for his first lap of the day, but immediately spun under braking for turn one on his first flying lap attempt. He recovered back onto the track and returned to the garage.

Sargeant appeared to set the initial benchmark with a 1’29.721, but his effort was deleted for putting his wheel over a forbidden section on the inside of the pit straight. That elevated Nico Hulkenberg to the top of the times in his Haas, but he was replaced by the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

Lando Norris had to abandon his qualifying effort after striking the inside barrier at the apex of the final corner. He entered the pits to have his left-front suspension and wheel checked.

Fernando Alonso’s first timed effort was ruined in turn two, when he spun under throttle on the exit of the corner. After a charge lap to prepare, Alonso successfully completed a lap that put him into fourth place.

Sargeant attempted to set his first valid lap time but lost control at turn 22, spinning across the circuit but managing to avoid the barriers. That ruined the laps of Hulkenberg and the two Alpine drivers of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon who had been set to improve before reaching the yellow flag zone.

In the closing minutes, the five drivers in the drop zone were Norris, the two AlphaTauris of Yuki Tsunoda and De Vries, plus Gasly and Sargeant. Gasly managed to move into 11th with seconds remaining, dropping Valtteri Bottas into danger in 16th, until the Alfa Romeo driver improved to 14th.

Tsunoda also improved on his personal best, but only moved onto the bubble of safety in 15th, while Albon was bumped into danger in 17th. At the chequered flag, only Oscar Piastri had the opportunity to move into safety and managed to escape out of the drop zone with his final attempt, moving Tusnoda back into 16th and elimination.

Joining Tsunoda out of Q1 was his team mate De Vries, who made a mistake at the final corner on his last attempt, Norris’s damaged McLaren and the Williams pair. Sargeant pulled off track on his final attempt after running wide at the first corner and appearing to damage his car on the kerb.

Q1 result

11Max VerstappenRed BullRB191’28.7613
211Sergio PerezRed BullRB191’29.2440.4837
314Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’29.2980.5377
418Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’29.3350.5747
516Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’29.3760.6158
655Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’29.4110.6509
727Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’29.5470.78610
863George RussellMercedesW141’29.5920.8317
924Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’29.6540.89310
1044Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’29.6890.9287
1181Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’29.7060.94510
1231Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’29.7070.9468
1320Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’29.7440.9839
1410Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’29.8901.1298
1577Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’29.9291.16810
1622Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Red BullAT041’29.9391.17810
1723Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’29.9941.2339
1821Nyck de VriesAlphaTauri-Red BullAT041’30.2441.48310
194Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’30.4471.6864
202Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW452’08.51039.7498

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Aston Martin chose to start racing a day early as the second phase of qualifying began, with Alonso ordered to push hard on his out-lap to overtake both Haas cars of Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen to gain clear air for his first flying lap. He promptly moved to the top of the times with a 1’28.757, just under half a second quicker than team mate Lance Stroll.

Verstappen took to the track on fresh soft tyres, but his first effort of the session was ruined by a loss of traction on the exit of turn four. Matters got worse on his second attempt, as he experienced a driveshaft failure on the approach to turn 13. His engine revs suddenly climbed, leading the driver to suspect a power unit problem.

Verstappen managed to recover to the pits, but immediately climbed out of his car. His participation ended there, and the car which had topped all three practice sessions finished qualifying in a lowly 15th place.

Meanwhile, Perez moved up to second in the other Red Bull, while Leclerc claimed third in his Ferrari, a tenth-and-a-half slower than Alonso’s best. Leclerc’s Ferrari team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr lost his first time running wide at turn 10, while his second time was only good enough for 11th, which put him under intense pressure as the first driver set to be eliminated at the end of the session.

In the final minute, Sainz began his last flying lap attempt and managed to successfully put himself through into Q3 by almost matching his team mate. Magnussen was eliminated – he improved his personal best time but not by enough to break into the top 10, and then had the time deleted for a track limits infringement, though his second effort was good enough to keep him in 13th. The two Alfa Romeos of Zhou and Bottas were also cut having failed to reach the top ten.

Gasly held his nerve to secure the final place in Q3, less than five-hundredths of a second over Hulkenberg, who was eliminated as a result. Perez finished the session fastest, having put Red Bull on top by a tenth over Alonso with his final effort of the session.

Q2 result

111Sergio PerezRed BullRB191’28.63513
214Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’28.7570.12212
316Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’28.9030.26813
455Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’28.9570.32217
518Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’28.9620.32715
663George RussellMercedesW141’29.1320.49715
731Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’29.2550.62017
844Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’29.3740.73915
981Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’29.3780.74318
1010Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’29.4110.77616
1127Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’29.4510.81618
1224Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’29.4610.82618
1320Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’29.5170.88217
1477Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’29.6681.03318
151Max VerstappenRed BullRB191’49.95321.3186

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With Verstappen eliminated, the battle for pole position appeared to be blown wide open. When the green light appeared at the end of the pit lane, Aston Martin were quick to send out Alonso on fresh soft tyres for his first run of the final phase and he duly moved into provisional pole position with a 1’28.925.

But Alonso’s position did not last long, as he was pipped by Leclerc’s Ferrari by just over a tenth of a second. George Russell moved Mercedes provisionally onto the front row with his first timed lap, but then Perez reaffirmed Red Bull’s authority by easily taking provisional pole position by almost half a second with his first flying lap.

Hamilton could only manage fifth with his first effort, three tenths of a second slower than team mate Russell, while the two Alpines were split by the second Ferrari of Sainz. Reaching Q3 for the first time in his career, Piastri managed only 10th in the McLaren as Stroll moved just behind team mate Alonso in the second Aston Martin.

In the final three minutes of the session, the field returned to the track for their final attempts to secure pole position. Alonso was the first driver to begin his last effort of qualifying, but while he could not come close to Perez’s pole time, he still managed to move into second place.

Despite going fastest of all through the first sector, Stroll could not trouble the front row with his final lap, moving to sixth, while Russell took to fourth with his last effort. Perez did not need to improve and abandoned his final run, while Leclerc was the only driver to come close to his pole time, moving second behind the Red Bull.

Leclerc’s penalty means Alonso will start on the front row of the grid alongside Perez, with Russell third and Sainz fourth. Stroll will start fifth ahead of Ocon’s Alpine and Hamilton in the second Mercedes. Piastri beat Gasly to ninth place, which will become eighth for tomorrow’s grand prix.

Q3 result

111Sergio PerezRed BullRB191’28.26518
216Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’28.4200.15519
314Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’28.7300.46518
463George RussellMercedesW141’28.8570.59221
555Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’28.9310.66624
618Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’28.9450.68020
731Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’29.0780.81324
844Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’29.2230.95821
981Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’29.2430.97823
1010Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’29.3571.09223

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2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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35 comments on “Perez on pole after Verstappen’s driveshaft fails, Alonso inherits second from Leclerc”

  1. Verstappen would be in 1’27.8 easily if driveshaft doesnt caused problem.

    1. So, it seems the car is important, even for MV.

    2. I am not doubting that he may have got such a time. I do doubt that it would have been ‘easy’.

  2. So, Perez is fighting for the win, whereas Leclerc, Alonso and Verstappen are fighting for a podium finish.

    1. Especially w/the RBR’s straight line speed. Watching the real time gaps on Alonso’s + Leclerc’s steering wheels via the driver cam, I noticed coming out of the corner both were ahead of Checo and not just by a tenth or two. Yet as each half second ticked away they were losing a tenth to him and were behind by the finish line.

      So, even if they get by, they’ll be sitting ducks to SP/MV.

      1. The RB is very aero efficient. If Aston can make their car more slippery while retaining their good down force and grip then they could end up a real pain for RB later on. They have plenty of wind tunnel time over RB to do something about it.

  3. When Checo dominates the field by almost half a second, you know the Red Bull is probably quite good.

    1. No “probably” in it. It is an EXTREMELY fast car – the same as last year.

      Perez was never known as a good qualifier. Ever. His two pole positions have been courtesy of the Red Bull.

      If Perez can lead the field by half a second in qualifying, Verstappen would have led it by a second.

      1. They are all extremely fast. Ferrari and Merc just did a bad job unfortunately. Aston Martin have shown this.
        It’s all relative.

    2. After Bahrain, Leclerc said that they were on another planet and seeing how easy for Perez to be on pole today is a confirmation for that statement.

    3. The gap between Checo and Leclerc was 0.155.
      The gap between Leclerc and Alonso ws 0.310.
      Your post doesn’t make sense.

      1. It might have made sense for him at time he posted because the topic had the incorrect time for Leclerc.

        1. Thanks for pointing out the original error, I did indeed comment based on the initially listed numbers.

      2. Interesting, it’s exactly double the gap from 2nd to 3rd than 1st to 2nd!

      3. Ahh, you made some rounding, I was talking about your comment, not the actual precise gaps.

      4. Checo looked like he was barely pushing on his Q3 runs and Leclerc’s quali lap was incredible. So, the point still works. You’ve got probably the 2nd best qualifier on the grid who needed to push hard due to his penalty vs a guy who, while great at making maximizing race strategies, is a mediocre qualifier who was up by nearly two tenths despite looking like he wasn’t trying to explore the limit at all.

  4. Leclerc time appears incorrect. I think 1:28:420.

  5. Interesting race tomorrow. I hope for an Alonso win, with Max 2nd coming through the field.

  6. Checo’s win to lose.

    1. I’d say verstappen has more chance in a regular race, remembering what he did at spa; it should be harder to overtake here, but this year’s red bull looks insane.

      1. Verstappen said that tyre management is much harder in Jeddah. So it probably won’t be Spa 2022 all over again

    2. Honestly, I think it could be somewhat of a lottery. Since 2020, F1 has begun throwing an SC or VSC if even a bird’s shadow appears on track. It’s absurd. So, I’m expecting about 5 safety cars, 2 VSCs and a red flag.

      1. This could be a big factor indeed.

  7. Predicting Max will probably still win

  8. Piastri impressed. I was expecting him to get on pace with Norris by race 3, but he’s getting there ahead of schedule.

    1. LOL, without a Lando problem, Judas Piastri wouldn’t be be on his pace by 2027

      1. Even so, he impressed, because we know the 2023 mclaren is terrible, so I don’t see how norris could’ve been significantly higher up than piastri.

        1. Do we know the McLaren is terrible? Based on a single race impacted by all sorts of reliability problems and lack of testing? People were also pronouncing the Alpine garbage due to one bad qualifying and a disastrous string of penalties for Ocon.

          F1 fans and pundits have the memories of fleas, the patience of toddlers and are prone to deem a driver’s career over after one or two tough weekends preceded by five strong weekends.

      2. Given Piastri was a tenth up on Norris on both their last runs in Q1 before Norris crashed… you are wrong.

    2. Surely McLaren owe their Saudi backers a huge result in their “home G.P.”

    3. Agreed, he was impressive.

      @Dale – I’m not a fan of Judas Piastri either, but he would’ve still gotten to Q3 even if Lando didn’t have a problem. So, your post makes no sense.

      1. Piastri is no Judas, he was only doing what Otmar told him to when he went looking for other teams because they thought they were going to have Alonso and Ocon at Alpine. Then Otmar rather than admitting that he screwed up when Alonso jumped ship and Piastri had secured a seat elsewhere started bleating on about honour to DTS and anyone who’d listen, thereby making an even worse mistake by burning bridges with Piastri so that he won’t be driving with the team in the foreseeable future.

  9. Predicting Verstappen will will because he seems half a second faster than perez, and this will be the easiest track Verstappen to make at least one pass a lap. I think he will be in p4 by lap 10. This is a dissapointing result for Formula one.

    1. *will win

    2. Assuming he can make his way through the field safely. I wouldn’t be surprised if his chances are scuppered by a racing incident with Lewis given their history…

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