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Saudi Arabian GP qualifying: Sergio Perez on pole as Max Verstappen 15th after issue

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PErez
The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is live on BBC Radio 5 Live and the BBC Sport website

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez took pole position for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after team-mate Max Verstappen suffered a power problem.

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso will line up second on the grid because Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who qualified second, has a 10-place grid penalty for engine usage.

Verstappen’s driveshaft failed in the second session and he will start 15th.

Mercedes’ George Russell will start third, ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

Alonso’s team-mate Lance Stroll was sixth fastest, ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and the second Alpine of Pierre Gasly.

Lando Norris made a driving error in the first session, hitting the inside wall at the final corner, and will start down in 19th. He apologised to his team for what he called a “silly mistake”.

British-born Thai Alex Albon was 17th in the Williams.

How Perez claimed pole

Perez had only one run in the final part of qualifying because Red Bull chose a different tyre allocation from the other top teams but he made it count with a blistering time.

At the time, he was just under 0.5secs quicker than Leclerc. The others drew closer on their second runs, but the Red Bull had more than enough pace to hold them off.

“It was tricky, the Q3, not getting the second lap,” Perez said. “Just nailing that lap, you really feel the F1 cars coming alive in this place.”

Leclerc had mixed feelings about his second fastest time, knowing that he will drop to 12th on the grid.

His penalty is the result of two separate failures of his car’s electronics control units in Bahrain two weeks ago. That meant Ferrari needed to fit a new one in Saudi Arabia, and only two are permitted for the entire season.

Leclerc said: “Happy? Yes and no. On the one hand, it has been a very difficult weekend in terms of pace for us. I am very happy about my lap – I put everything in it and it was really on the limit. On the other hand, Red Bull are on another planet.”

Alonso, who finished third in the first race of the season following a huge step forward in performance from his team over the winter, said: “It has been a very good weekend for us. Qualifying was a weak point in Bahrain but today the car seemed to perform very well on one lap. Let’s see what we can do from here.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Formula 1
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and his team-mate Sergio Perez dominated the weekend so far…

Drama when it looked nailed on

Verstappen was a hot favourite for pole going into qualifying but he suffered a loss of drive on his first lap in the second session. It came after he had bounced over a kerb but it is not clear at this stage whether the two incidents are related.

Team principal Christian Horner said the problem “looked like” a driveshaft failure but the team would not know for sure until they had taken the car apart.

His one lap in the first session would have put him fourth on the grid, underlining his pace, and many will think he has a decent chance of winning the grand prix, despite his lowly starting position.

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