Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will start the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix from second and third on the grid respectively. The result came at the end of a very closely contested qualifying session, which lasted two hours, with a stoppage due to a horrible accident that befell Mick Schumacher. Fortunately, the Ferrari driver, racing for Haas, seems to have escaped any serious injury. Apart from some regrets at missing out on pole by a whisker, with Charles just 25 thousandths slower than Sergio Perez, today at the Jeddah Corniche circuit, Scuderia Ferrari confirmed that it is on the pace once again.
As they did a week ago in Bahrain, the two drivers made it through to Q3 without too much difficulty, for the top ten shoot-out. Charles went out on new Soft tyres, while Carlos opted for a bedded-in set of the same compound. On the first run, the Monegasque did a 1’28”445, while the Spaniard managed a 1’28”402. This put the Ferrari drivers first and second. On the second run, Sainz did not improve, while Charles got down to 1’28”445, but in the end, Perez snatched pole ahead of Leclerc in 1’28”200.
As was already clear to see yesterday, the Jeddah Corniche track is very tricky and today, qualifying had to be red-flagged twice. In preparing for the race, tonight the team will have to study data from the long runs that Charles and Carlos only managed to do today and prepare for any eventuality. Last year the race had to be red flagged and the Safety Car was also kept busy. Given how close everything was in qualifying, timing in terms of pit stops and strategy decisions could play a key role.
“It is disappointing to miss pole position today because I know that I put in a great lap. The risk Checo (Perez) took in the last sector paid off and his lap was exceptional. Congratulations to him for a job well done. On our side, there is plenty to learn from this qualifying. We were quicker on used tyres than we were on new ones and we have to understand why that was, so that we can put them in a better window next time. We were quick in our race simulation this morning and I feel confident for tomorrow. A race in warm conditions, taking place at night, on a very fast and narrow street circuit – it should be an exciting one.”
“It was a good quali overall, putting good laps together every time we went out. Interestingly enough, I’ve been fast and more comfortable on a used set of softs than on the new set, so maybe I should have also done my second push on Q3 on used tyres. We’ll look into that for sure. In any case, the feeling with the car has been better so far this weekend and we’ll keep digging into the data to extract the maximum out of the car. Now we have to focus on tomorrow. Of course, the target will be to bring the pace of today’s quali into the race. We have saved several sets to give us different strategic options in case the race gets tricky as it did last year, so we’ll try to make everything work. Let’s race.”
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal & Managing Director
“The most important thing today is that Mick is okay after his terrible accident. As for qualifying, our gap to pole is really small, a few thousandths, so I think being fastest was within reach today, but never mind, because starting second and third is still a great result and even more important is the fact we are competitive. We proved to be quick on a track with different characteristics to the previous ones, which is what we wanted to see. Everything could happen in tomorrow’s race – safety cars, red flags – therefore it will be important not to make any mistakes on the pit wall and to try and make the most of every opportunity and react quickly to whatever situations arise. To sum up, we need to be quick to react, keep on our toes and concentrate.”