Perez beats Ferraris to claim first-ever F1 pole in Jeddah

Sergio Perez produced a stunning late lap to beat the Ferraris and claim his first-ever Formula 1 pole position during a dramatic qualifying session for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. 
Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing celebrates his pole position in qualifying parc ferme.
Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing celebrates his pole position in…

Charles Leclerc appeared on course to make it back-to-back poles for Ferrari after laying down the initial competitive marker but Perez had other ideas as he snatched pole with his final lap in Q3 to finally top qualifying at the 215th time of asking. 

Perez’s effort - a 1m28.200s - ended up beating Leclerc’s time by just 0.025s at the end of an extraordinary qualifying session in which Lewis Hamilton suffered a shock elimination in Q1 and Mick Schumacher taken to hospital after a huge crash.

“What a lap, unbelievable,” the Mexican said after qualifying. “I can do a thousand laps and I wouldn’t be able to beat that one.”

Carlos Sainz sat on provisional pole after the opening salvo of Q3 but slipped down to third after being usurped by Ferrari teammate Leclerc and Perez’s Red Bull, with the Spaniard finishing 0.202s off the pace. 

Reigning world champion Verstappen was disappointed with fourth place, two-tenths down on Perez, as he suffered just the second qualifying defeat to his Red Bull teammate since the start of 2021. 

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W13.
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W13.

Meanwhile, seven-time world champion Hamilton could only set the 16th fastest time as he ended up a huge sixth tenths down on Mercedes teammate George Russell in a mysteriously poor qualifying showing for the man who has the most poles in F1. 

It marked the first Q1 elimination for Hamilton since he crashed during qualifying at the 2017 Brazilian Grand Prix, while it is the first time since Silverstone 2009 that the Briton has failed to progress out of the first session on performance alone. 

With the shock of Hamilton’s Q1 exit still sinking in, qualifying was then halted by a huge shunt for Schumacher, who slammed violently into the barriers at the high-speed Turn 12, causing Q2 to be immediately red-flagged and resulting in a lengthy suspension. 

The German has since been airlifted to the King Fahad Armed Forces Hospital in Jeddah for precautionary checks. 

Mick Schumacher (GER) is extracted from his Haas VF-22 after he crashed during qualifying.
Mick Schumacher (GER) is extracted from his Haas VF-22 after he crashed…

Esteban Ocon claimed best of the rest spot behind the Red Bulls and Ferraris in fifth, while Russell was remarkably the only Mercedes-powered car to finish inside the top 10 on his way to taking sixth. 

Fernando Alonso, Valtteri Bottas, Pierre Gasly and Kevin Magnussen completed the rest of the top-10 order for Alpine, Alfa Romeo, AlphaTauri and Haas respectively. 

Lando Norris spearheaded an improved qualifying showing for McLaren by leading teammate Daniel Ricciardo in 11th, ahead of Alfa Romeo rookie Guanyu Zhou, Schumacher and Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin. 

Joining Hamilton towards the back of the grid was Alex Albon in 17th for Williams, while Aston Martin stand-in Nico Hulkenberg took 18th as he continues to deputise for Sebastian Vettel, who has been ruled out of the opening two rounds of the season following a positive COVID-19 test. 

The red flag was brought out for a first time for a crash in Q1 for Williams’ Nicholas Latifi, who is set to line up in 19th, ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, who was unable to set a lap time after suffering a cooling system issue in his AlphaTauri. 

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