F1 in Saudi Arabia: Verstappen breaks the axle shaft and Checo Pérez takes pole

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Sergius Czech perez took pole position in qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, after his teammate Red Bull and double reigning champion, Max Verstappen, suffered a break in the axle shaft, which prevented him from continuing in the competition when Q2 was underway. Therefore, the Dutchman will start the second Formula 1 race 15th, this Sunday at 14:00 (Star+).

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With a record of 1:28,265, the Mexican secured pole position in his first outing in Q3. Charles Leclerc, who will penalize ten positions on the starting grid, was second at 155 thousandths on his last lap, while Fernando Alonso was third at almost half a second, although he will share the front row with the Guadalajara driver, who repeated the first place in the last year.

Checo Pérez, owner of the pole, like last year.  REUTERS/Luca Bruno photo

Checo Pérez, owner of the pole, like last year. REUTERS/Luca Bruno photo
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The news of the day, however, was not the poleman but the abandonment of Verstappen, which occurred when he had six minutes from the end of Q2. The Dutchman was doing a fast lap when the gearbox stuck in third gear. “I’ll try to get to the pits”, announced the two-time champion and complied. Looking at Red Bull, the engineers didn’t hesitate: there was no solution. Here because, the absolute ruler of training got out of the car.

“It was the first time I heard that noise. It happened coming out of turn 10. It’s very annoying. We were having a good weekend, every session was going well. It will be a little more difficult to get up front. Anything is possible on this trackBut let’s be a little more realistic. But we have good pace, so I’m sure we’ll keep going,” explained the man who will start from 15th on Sunday.

An exciting leaderboard from start to finish

Red Bull let the first minutes of the Q1 for their rivals to warm up their engines. Ferrari, then, was the first top team to go out in a spin but the first attempt by Leclerc and Sainz did not go well, as they found themselves behind the Haas of Nico Hulkenberg, the best of the first drivers to put themselves to the test on the Jeddah trail.

When Checo Pérez and Verstappen came out, there was no doubt that they would be the fastest. The Mexican moved up to first place with a time of 1:29.261, which his teammate and two-time defending champion dropped by half a second to sign the time of 1:28.761 and stay in the pits until Q2.

Haas took advantage of Ferrari’s poor performance and absence of Aston Martin momentarily being in third and fourth place until Leclerc and Sainz undermined them, thus leaving themselves 615 thousandths and 968ths from Verstappen respectively. A few moments later, the Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton moved between the men from Maranello.

Fernando Alonso did not have a good first round: spin at the exit of turn 2. But it was only the first attempt, because he would have closed Q1 third, 537 thousandths from the lead, followed by his teammate Lance Stroll, 574 from Verstappen and detaching Leclerc and Sainz by 41 and 76 thousandths respectively.

Not much fun in his first experience on the street circuit of Saudi Arabia Nyck de Vriesthe only rookie not to have driven in it, as Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant both had Formula 2 experience. The Dutchman ultimately finished 18th and failed to advance into Q2, as did his teammate from ‘Alpha Tauri Yuki. Williams of Alex Albon (17th) and Sargeant (20th) – who set an excellent time with which he could have qualified – and Lando Norris (19th, McLaren).

The unexpected would obviously come in Q2 with that failure in Verstappen’s Red Bull that left him out of the standings too soon. Without him on the track, Pérez set the best record seconds before time ran out, stopping the clock 1:28,635just 122 thousandths faster than the one obtained by Alonso in his first lap.

AS, unable to lap, the two-time F1 champion was in 15th place and was eliminated together with the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas (14th) and Zhou Guanyu (12th) and the Haas of Nico Hulkenberg (11th) and Kevin Magnussen (13th). The big news was ninth place in the rookies Piastri after a bad start to the World Cup two weeks ago in Bahrain.

Without Verstappen, Q3 It started with Alonso on the attack and a time of 1m28s925, which his compatriot Sainz was unable to lower but Leclerc with the other Ferrari could by 168 thousandths. Obviously Pérez’s comeback was missing, who on his first attempt – and despite the traffic – stopped the clock 1:28.265, almost half a second better than the Monegasque. Until then, four brands occupied the top positions: Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes (Russell, 3rd) and Aston Martin.

But the expectations in the Jeddah road map held up to the last second of qualifying. While no one bettered that Guadalajara record, Leclerc showed Ferrari’s recovery by falling 115 thousandths behind. Alonso will obviously be in the front row, given that the Monegasque will start 12th due to his switchboard change.

The second row, meanwhile, will have a Ferrari, as Sainz will rise to fourth place and will start next to the one who messed up his best lap, Russell (Mercedes). Behind them will be Stroll, Ocon, Hamilton, Piastri and Gasly, who will have Hulkenberg’s company despite Haas being 11th in the standings.

Rivals from the start of last season, Leclerc and Verstappen, will appear in the backpack, giving the Saudi Arabian GP an unexpected hot spice.

Source: Clarin

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