Sergio Perez Scores Saudi Pole As Verstappen Suffers Failure

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 17: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 17, 2023 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202303170504 // Usage for editorial use only //
JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 17: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 17, 2023 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202303170504 // Usage for editorial use only //

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez took his second career pole position in Saudi Arabia as championship leader Max Verstappen suffered a suspected transmission failure in Q2, leaving the Dutchman 15th for Sunday’s race.

Perez, who took his only other pole in Jeddah last year, beat Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by just over a tenth of a second but the Mexican will be joined on the front row by Spaniard Fernando Alonso.

Perez, 33, said: “It was tricky, that Q3,” adding that it was “a shame” for teammate Verstappen, who had looked certain for pole throughout practice.

“I certainly enjoy the track here in Jeddah. The car came alive at high speeds and I was able to push right to the limit to secure pole position. That said, it has been tricky today. You can lose two tenths through the early section of corners if you’re not careful, especially with the low downforce that we’re running, so I’m very happy to come away with pole. It will be very interesting to see what happens in the race tomorrow, especially with some of the other cars running high downforce. As we saw last year, anything can happen. We have a good race car and showed strong race pace on Friday, so let’s hope Max can also push up the grid and together, we can aim for maximum points for the Team,” said Perez.

Leclerc has exceeded his allowance of control electronics in his power unit, resulting in a 10-place grid drop which leaves the 25-year-old 12th for Sunday’s race.

Alonso, who has consistently been one of Red Bull’s closest challengers

Verstappen had led the way comfortably in Q1, before being sidelined midway through Q2, having earlier abandoned a lap following a slide in the first sector.

“The driveshaft broke out of turn 10 on the right rear so that was it for qualifying. It happened really out of the blue, we hadn’t had any issues before that. It was annoying because the car was good up until then, I was comfortable in every session and every time I was on the track, I was quick, so for sure we could have fought for pole. Instead, we now have a bit more work ahead of us tomorrow but it is what it is, it is a long Championship and we will stay positive. I think a win is tricky from that position but I will try to score as many points as possible. It will be hard to get to the front, but we won’t give up. Anything is possible at this track, we have seen some crazy things here, but we have to be realistic. It will be tough but we have good pace so, for sure, we will move forward,” added Verstappen.

Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner said the Red Bull has “good straight-line speed, a good race car”, and didn’t rule out Verstappen winning the race from a lowly start position, which the Dutchman has managed before at Spa last year.

“A tale of two qualifying sessions out there today. Firstly, a brilliant performance from Checo. He drove incredibly well and put down a fantastic lap which sees him on pole; his second pole here in Jeddah, back to back. On the other hand, its hugely frustrating for Max, a drive shaft failure knocked him out of qualifying when we were really just getting started in Q2. His lap in Q1 would have put him in P4 for the race tomorrow. It is a real shame, but we are already in the process of understanding the issue. Max has a mountain to climb from 15th, but knowing Max, he will rise to the challenge and it will certainly be interesting to see what he achieves. For Checo, its about sticking with the strategy, staying out of trouble and surviving those early laps. Plenty of action to come and plenty to look forward to,” concluded Horner.

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