Pole position turns into third place on the grid for Max Verstappen after costly last-lap, last-corner error when he hit the wall; Lewis Hamilton heads all-Mercedes front row; Watch Sunday’s Saudi Arabian GP at 5.30pm on Sky Sports F1 and Main Event
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 04/12/21 6:45pm
Lewis Hamilton will start on pole position for the Saudi Arabian GP after title rival Max Verstappen let the chance to head the grid slip by hitting the wall on the final corner of qualifying.
Verstappen, the eight-point championship leader, will now start from third behind an all-Mercedes front row of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas for Sunday’s race, the penultimate round of an incredible season.
At the end of tense and dramatic qualifying hour around the relentlessly fast Jeddah street track, Verstappen was absolutely flying on his final attempt and was two tenths of a second up on Hamilton, who had just taken over provisional pole, through the lap’s first two sectors.
But then, disaster. Locking his car’s front-left brake into the Turn 27 final turn, Verstappen was slightly out of shape into the left hander and his right-rear wheel tagged the barrier with significant force.
“It’s of course terrible,” said a disappointed Verstappen afterwards.
“In general it was a good qualifying, I knew the pace was there and it showed at the end. I don’t really understand what happened but I locked up, I still tried to keep the car on track and keep going but clipped the rear and had to stop.”
Sky F1’s Martin Brundle’s said: “He locked a front wheel and got frustrated.”
Verstappen has an outside chance to close out his maiden title on Sunday if he outscores Hamilton by 18 points but the prospect of the required difficult race for his Mercedes rival has been further lessened by Hamilton’s heading for an all-Mercedes front row.
Indeed Verstappen now has a nervy wait to discover whether the impact with the barriers damaged any core elements of his car, such as gearbox, which could require a penalty-triggering change.
“That was looking like the lap of the year…it’s a great shame,” said Red Bull boss Christian Horner to Sky F1. “Let’s hope the gearbox isn’t damaged and we will see what we can do tomorrow.”
In a further complication for Red Bull, Sergio Perez was beaten to fourth by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
Pierre Gasly was next up in sixth amid a strong weekend for both AlphaTauri cars – Yuki Tsunoda qualified eighth – with Lando Norris the only McLaren in the top 10 in seventh.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was the surprise driver to drop out in Q2, the Spaniard lucky not to make significant contact with the barriers in a high-speed win on his first run of the session and then making an error on his second.
Saudi Arabian GP Qualifying: Top 10
1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
3) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
4) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
5) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
6) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
7) Lando Norris, McLaren
8) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
9) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
10) Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo
More to follow…
Source : Sky Sports