Videos by OutKick
A Red Bull is starting on pole for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, but Max Verstappen isn’t behind the wheel of it.
Nope, the Red Bull that topped the time sheets has two 1s on it and belongs to Sergio Perez. While Perez was in parc fermé getting interviewed, Max’s ride was getting dragged back to the garage.
And with that, kids, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix just got very interesting.
That’s because the reigning world champ will start deep in the field. He’ll line up in P15 after his RB19 showed a rare moment of weakness by crapping out on track with a mechanical issue. I don’t think that there’s any doubt Max will tear the field and could very well be in the points after a few laps. This will however be the first time we’ve seen the RB19 have to charge through the field like this.
Leclerc Minimized The Damage
Charles Leclerc nearly stole pole from Perez and was just 0.155 seconds off Perez’s time. That’s huge because it minimized the damage from the 10-place grid penalty he’ll be taking. The Monagasque will start P12 and will probably have Verstappen on his gearbox soon after the lights go out.
Ferrari needs to focus on their race and worry about scoring points. If Verstappen blows past them, so what? Get Leclerc on the board, there’s a long way to go.
Further up the order, Aston Martin continued to impress. Fernando Alonso qualified P3, but will start the race in P2 thanks to Leclerc’s penalty. The opening lap battle between Perez and Alonso should be interesting
Perez will need a start that is the opposite of the one he had in Bahrain, which was terrible. If he bogs down like that again, Alonso will beat him into turn 1. From there, he’s a tough dude to pass, even if the Red Bull has the pace to do it.
He’s cunning, that Fernando Alonso.
The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Is Wide Open
George Russell and Carlos Sainz will share the second row of the grid on Sunday, with Lance Stroll and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon in the third, a strong result for the French outfit which has two cars in the top 10. Stroll’s result makes Aston martin the only team with both carts in the top 6 which gives them some strategic leverage over the likes of Ferrari and Red Bull.
Lewis Hamilton qualified P8 and Pierre Gasly qualified P10. Sandwiched between them was McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, who grabbed a great result for McLaren, one that they really needed. His teammate, Lando Norris, was eliminated in Q1 after clipping the inside wall of turn 27.
That same corner caused a problem for Williams’ Logan Sargeant. He had a great lap time deleted due to a track limits violation at turn 27 as well. He tried to shoehorn one final flying lap into the end of Q1, but hit a curb at turn 2 and had to retire with damage. He’ll start in the last row at P20, with Norris beside him in P19.
In case you’re confused by that Leclerc penalty and where everyone is starting, I’ve got you, bud:
I’m getting the sense that anything can and will happen. If we’ve learned anything from the previous two Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, safety cars and red flags are very common. Ask Sergio Perez, he would’ve won last year if the safety car hadn’t come out at the worst possible time for him.
My prediction for Sunday: Perez hangs on for the win with Alonso in second. Verstappen will dash through the field but run out of laps to hunt down Alonso.
You get to sleep in for this one. The race doesn’t get started until 1 pm eastern, and I can assure you it will be a doozy.
Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle