What the teams said – Qualifying in Saudi Arabia
After a strong opening day in Jeddah, Mercedes were pegged back in FP3 – leaving qualifying on a knife edge. Both cars made it through to Q3 on the medium tyres, although it took an extra flying lap for Hamilton to be assured of his place, so his starting race tyres are a touch older than Verstappen’s. But the real drama was in Q3 – Hamilton aborted his first flying run after an error, didn’t nail his second and left it all down to his third and final run. He grabbed provisional pole, Bottas grabbed second and then came the anxious wait to see what Verstappen could manage. The Dutchman’s late crash was a boon, as he was set to beat the times of both Silver Arrows before his brush with the wall.
Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1:27.511
"This place is one of the hardest tracks to get right, I was on the limit the whole way round and the car was on a knife-edge. Trying to pull out the maximum with the tyres was so tough. It's difficult to understand why - it's so warm here but we were having trouble getting temperature in the front and rears at the same time to have grip at the start of the lap. I'm very proud and thankful that we were able to put it on the front row for tomorrow, it's going to be an intense race. It's always important to have Valtteri beside me, particularly in this part of the year, he's been driving exceptionally well and hopefully tomorrow we can do a good job together."
Valtteri Bottas, 2nd, 1:27.622
"You get such an adrenaline rush from this track! Tomorrow's going to be hard, this place is so intense but at least we're starting in the best places. Given how tricky qualifying was today, it's a great result. Starting on the left side tomorrow is definitely going to be dusty but I'll be trying hard to keep position. This is one of the toughest tracks of the year, both mentally and physically, which is exciting because come tomorrow, anything can happen."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"What a crazy session! We expected to be stronger today, we have a quick car and it looked like those quick corners would suit us, but like so many times this season, you're constantly surprised. Austin should have been our track and wasn't, and then suddenly in Brazil we were performing really well, so you just never know. It was important today that we kept attacking and attacking, and we've ended up with a front row lockout which is a big advantage for tomorrow.
"There is a brutal energy running through the whole Team. We just look forward and keep pushing, and pushing, and when you go in the debrief room or in the garage, you don't need to talk because you can feel the energy and how buzzed everyone is."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"It's been a very busy day. The final practice session wasn't great for us, we were doing OK on the Hard tyre but not finding great grip on the Soft. We found an issue with Valtteri's power unit just before the end of the session so had to swap that out for another in his pool just before qualifying; it was a lot of work but everyone in the garage did a great job to get the car ready in time.
"Our struggles didn't disappear going into qualifying, we were able to do reasonable lap times but every time Max went out he'd beat the time we just set, and his final run showed clearly that they have the upper hand here on a single lap. Had he completed the lap, there's no way we could have matched it so whilst we're pleased to have the front row, it doesn't feel like we've earnt it. It's hard to know what to expect tomorrow; we were good on the long run on Friday but Red Bull seem to have found a chunk of pace overnight and if that translates into the long run, it's bound to be close."
A case of what might have been. Verstappen had looked quick all evening, and Perez had finally caught up with his team mate, as they set about exchanging fastest laps throughout Q1 and Q2. They both looked in the fight for pole, with the Dutchman P1 and Perez third on the initial runs. But drama was to follow, as Verstappen was scorching his way to pole on his final flying run, well over two-tenths up on the time he needed. But pushing to the limit, he tagged the wall in the final corner, breaking a wishbone and grinding to an agonising halt. The resultant yellow flags ended Perez’s last run.
Max Verstappen, 3rd, 1:27.653
“I was on a really good lap until I lost it on the final corner, I thought I had approached it in the same way I had been doing all session, but I lost the rear. I’m upset with myself and it is of course disappointing but there are two races to go and anything can happen. We had a good car in qualifying and everything was coming together which gives me hope going into the race tomorrow, also knowing that the pace was there today. I hope we can follow well tomorrow and if that’s the case, there should be some good opportunities and we should have a good shot.”
Sergio Perez, 5th, 1:28.123
“We were P1 in Q1 and Q2 and then in Q3 I don’t think the approach we took with the tyres was the right one. I suddenly picked up a lot of understeer and couldn’t match my Q2 time, which is a bit of a shame. These tyres are so picky that if you are not in the right temperature window then your balance is totally different and that is what happened to me today. It is a physically demanding track, it puts a lot of stress on your body and mentally it is challenging too to be up there session after session. Today wasn’t an ideal day for us as a Team but tomorrow there is still a lot to play for, it is going to be a long race and anything can happen still. I am looking forward to it, the pace was there today and I really hope we can improve on our starting position and get into the podium positions very early on. We will see if starting on the clean side of the grid tomorrow is an advantage, I think the start is a good chance to overtake, then we will go from there and try to be in the mix with the leaders straight away.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“It was looking like the lap of the year up until that moment. It’s a great shame as it was a mighty, mighty lap and he was pulling something very special out of the bag. Max will be frustrated I am sure as he knows what a good lap it was, but he just needs to put it behind him now. He’s still P3 on the grid and he just needs to have a good start, as anything could happen in this race. Unfortunately, we are on the back foot now, so we’ll get the car back and hope the damage isn’t too bad. Grid position on any street circuit is crucial and it’s going to be very hard to overtake here, so it’s all going to be about strategy and Checo could have a major part to play in the race.”
Leclerc repaid the team for their late night fixing his car with a great qualifying, as he cruised through to Q3 untroubled. Once there he was fortunate to be ahead of Verstappen on the final runs and thus able to set a representative last flying lap, which was good enough for fourth. But Sainz, who had looked strong all weekend, came a cropper in Q2. He lost control and spun, sliding into the barriers at Turn 11, and damaging his rear wing. The team did send him out again with a hasty repair job but he labelled the car “undriveable” and pulled back into the pits.
Charles Leclerc, 4th, 1:28.054
"I am very happy with my qualifying. Today was all about regaining confidence on this track and I worked on this from my first lap in FP3 to that last lap in qualifying. I really took it to the limit and P4 is a very good result, one that we did not expect. Tomorrow will be a tough but exciting race. Despite it being a street circuit, the three long straights make it possible to overtake more than we had anticipated. Our race pace has been strong all weekend, so we should have a good opportunity if we have a clean race. A big thank you to everyone on our team for the incredible job they did last night to put the car back together in perfect shape. I will give it my all to bring home a good result for them."
Carlos Sainz, 15th, 1:53.652
"Today’s qualifying is a tough one to digest. I’ve been fast and comfortable with the car all weekend and a single snap jeopardised the entire qualifying and tomorrow’s race. Q1 was very promising and I knew from previous sessions I was also fast with the Medium compound. However, a very aggressive snap of oversteer in turn 10 made me lose the car and, although I managed to avoid a big crash, I clipped the wall and damaged the rear wing. It was unexpected, because I hadn’t experienced that snap in any other run since Friday. There was no time to replace the damaged endplate and the guys did their best to fix it before going out again. I was quite fast in the first part of the lap but as soon as I put some load on the rear wing in a more difficult corner I realized the downforce was very compromised and I had to abort. The race tomorrow is uncertain and anything can happen. I have confidence in my pace and will give it my all to make up some positions and try to score some good points."
Laurent Mekies, Racing Director
"Mixed emotions after qualifying. We are pleased with Charles’ great fourth place. Today he progressively regained confidence in the car after yesterday’s crash and right on his last run, he once again demonstrated that he is one of the best drivers on the grid, with a fantastic lap. It’s a real shame that Carlos was unable to secure the result that he had shown he was clearly capable of throughout the weekend, including the first part of qualifying. That small mistake at turn 10 cost him dear and tomorrow he will be up against it. For the race, first and foremost, we will prepare as well as possible to try and extend still further our lead in the fight for third place in the Constructors’ classification, which is our main aim in this final part of the season. On such an unforgiving track, we can expect the unexpected and so it will be important to make the most of any opportunity that comes our way."
That AlphaTauri has looked quick all weekend, and Tsunoda showed signs in FP3 that he had got a handle on this track. As such it was no surprise when they were the only team bar the big two to get both cars into Q3. Gasly might have hoped for slightly more than P6, but with the end of Q3 disrupted, it is still a very solid result for the Frenchman, who has been on a superb run of form in qualifying all season.
Pierre Gasly, 6th, 1:28.125
“It’s been fantastic again today with another top six Qualifying position. This time it was a bit more difficult, I didn’t feel quite as confident in the car and I struggled with the balance throughout the session. I had to really work as we made our way through Quali, but I managed to put it altogether and I’m really pleased with my lap. I was only two-thousandths behind Sergio, which is nothing, so that’s a bit frustrating but at the end of the day it’s still a great starting position for tomorrow to score points.”
Yuki Tsunoda, 8th, 1:28.442
“I’ve got some mixed feelings about today. I think my performance in Q1 and Q2 was great and I’m really pleased with that, but unfortunately on my final lap in Q3 I had traffic and I lost a lot of time. I think I could’ve been starting further up the grid tomorrow, so it’s frustrating right now. There are lots of positives to take away today though, particularly the fact that I made it through Q2 on the Mediums, so I’ll be starting on the same tyre as everyone else around me tomorrow. It’s a really great track to drive, so I’m looking forward to the race and hopefully we can come away with points.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer
“The team and drivers have done a fantastic job today in Qualifying and I think it’s fair to say they managed to extract the most from the package under quite complicated circumstances, especially whilst trying to understand the tyres on this new circuit. From Friday we knew the car was quick, but we struggled to get the best lap early on in the run, so the focus during FP3 was to try to understand what was required to optimise the car for the first lap of the race. Although we made progress with our understanding in FP3, we still went into Quali with some unanswered questions. This meant that we effectively used Q1 as another practice session to learn more about the Soft tyre, to then help us in Q3, where it would be crucial to extract the most from it. It was a complicated Quali session, much like a wet session, as we made a number of changes to the plan based on the conditions we faced at the time, but the team reacted well and both drivers did a fantastic job throughout. We line up on our preferred side of the grid, with both cars inside the top 10 and starting on medium tyres. We made a number of changes to the car from Friday to improve the long run performance, so we will work hard tonight on the strategy and aim to bring home as many points as we can tomorrow.”
Not to be for Ricciardo, who aborted his final lap in Q2 after being asked to by the team, who noticed he’d picked up floor damage after running wide over the kerbs. The Aussie does at least have free tyre choice for the race in P11. Norris did make Q3 and wound up seventh, but he will start on the softs after needing the C4 rubber to progress out of Q2, and thus could find himself at a strategic disadvantage when compared to his rivals.
Daniel Ricciardo, 11th, 1:28.668
“We had a quick car, but I just picked up some damage on the last run and lost a lot of time. I damaged the floor on a kerb and it was dragging on the straight. I saw the lap-time dropping away. It’s a shame, because we were a lot quicker than P11 today. I’ve used that kerb a lot already, but that time I picked up a bit of damage. We made a good set-up change for quali so I was comfortable and had pace, we just got unlucky.”
Lando Norris, 7th, 1:28.180
"I'm disappointed with the end of qualifying really. Happy we’re still P7, because it could've been worse today. I got a bit unlucky throughout qualifying with yellow flags, but even so I could've been one or two positions higher as I didn't do the best lap when I needed to, so I'm a bit frustrated. I have a small advantage at the start with the soft tyre, so I need to make the most of that, but for the rest of the race it's going to make it a lot trickier. I’m still in a decent position to score some points tomorrow, so we’ll see what we can do."
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“P7 and P11 in today’s qualifying. We had a quick car today, but unfortunately couldn’t maximise the outcome of quali. Daniel took some heavy floor damage when running over a kerb in Q2, which didn’t allow him to progress to Q3. Lando was unlucky with yellow flags in Q2, which then made us switch to the Soft tyres for the second run in order to ensure we progressed to Q3. This unfortunately meant he only had one set of new Softs for Q3, which compromised the outcome for him. We should have a competitive car tomorrow in the race, let’s make up some positions.”
A mixed bag for Alpine, with Alonso only just scraping out of Q1. The Spaniard didn’t fare much better in Q2, aborting his first flying effort after encountering traffic and leaving it all to do in the dying moments of the session. He couldn’t find the time to make the top 10 but at least his team mate did – although Ocon wasn’t able to demonstrate his full potential, losing his last run to yellow flags.
Esteban Ocon, 9th, 1:28.647
“I’m pretty happy with today’s Qualifying in ninth place. I was pleased with my laps and, as a team, we’ve worked really well this weekend. I’ve got the confidence in the car, which is needed around here in order to really push on the low fuel laps. It’s a shame we couldn’t put both cars into Q3, but we had a quick car in FP2 and hopefully we can carry that into the race with both Fernando and I aiming to score. It’s going to be a long race tomorrow. It’s very hot, a very busy lap, maybe similar to Singapore in terms of physicality, but I’m looking forward to it. We’ll see what we can do from ninth on the grid and we’ll give it our best for another solid team result.”
Fernando Alonso, 13th, 1:28.920
“It was a tricky session for us tonight. Yesterday the car felt fast and had a good balance, but today from FP3 and into qualifying the car felt very different. On a street circuit and going close to the walls it’s quite difficult when you aren’t totally comfortable with the balance. We saw in Formula 2 there were more overtakes than expected, so while I think it will be more difficult for us to follow at such high speeds, we remain hopeful to make up ground tomorrow. I hope to have a clean race tomorrow and we need to make sure to score more points in our battle for fifth place.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“It’s a bit of a mixed result for us, and we were hoping for more after a very strong day yesterday. Fernando has not been happy with his car all day – he’s not had the planted rear end he had yesterday and wasn’t able to push as he wanted. Congratulations to Esteban; he got the most out of the car as ninth was unfortunately as much as we could achieve today. We know we typically go better on Sunday than in qualifying so we will be looking for a strong race tomorrow.”
Alfa capitalised on Aston Martin’s lack of pace to jump both cars into Q2 for just the sixth time this season. Raikkonen had to make do with P12, but Giovinazzi has taken to this track and managed to make it to Q3. Once there he didn’t quite have the pace to match the rest of the midfield runners, but it was an assured showing from the Italian, as he seeks to leave a lasting impression on the team and the sport.
Kimi Raikkonen, 12th, 1:28.885
“It was a good performance, we were really close to making it to Q3 but it didn’t work out in the end. The last corner wasn’t that good and it cost us a little bit of time, but in the end what made the difference was that probably we should have stayed on the mediums for an extra lap. I wanted to try the soft tyres and it didn’t work. Still, we are in a good place to start: it’s hard to tell how the race will go, it will surely be important to be in the thick of it and we’ll give everything to bring home a good result.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 10th, 1:28.754
“It was a great qualifying and I had a lot of fun, the car today was just brilliant. We knew the medium tyres would be better and we showed just how good they were in Q2. The soft in Q3 weren’t as good and we struggled a bit more, it took us longer to get them in the right window, but tomorrow we will start on medium which is a positive. I could have improved even more on my Q2 lap but I had a little kiss with the wall on my final flying lap: thankfully I could still make it through. Starting in P10 with our preferred tyres, on a track like this, will be good and I can’t wait for the race. We had a strong weekend straight from FP1 and now we just need to keep this pace, maybe with a bit of the luck that has eluded us all season, to bring home a good result.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“The team delivered a really good performance today, we achieved a good result and we were the closest we have been all year to having two cars in Q3. We capitalised on the strong start of our weekend, yesterday in practice, and went on to build on it. Both drivers were comfortable in their cars and delivered good laps, at the limit, when it mattered. Still, there are no points on offer today: we still have a long race ahead of us and we’ll need to make sure we maximise our chances tomorrow. Nobody knows how the race is going to shape up: it will be a very interesting evening, that’s for sure.”
Aston Martin were well off the pace in final practice, after sitting out much of the first half of the session. Their lack of pace persisted into Q1, with both cars exiting at the first time of asking. Stroll may well have done slightly better had he not been baulked by a Haas as he attempted to start a flying lap, while Vettel was left dismayed when told he was only P17. It could be a long, hard day for the team tomorrow if overtaking here is as tricky as predicted.
Sebastian Vettel, 17th, 1:29.198
“I was a little surprised that we were unable to make Q2 because I felt my last lap was good – even though I was held up at the end of the second sector, which cost me a few tenths and a chance to progress. There was a lot of traffic out there, especially at the end of laps, which complicated things further. I think it is clear that this track does not suit our car in qualifying trim, but the positive is that our race pace has traditionally been stronger this season, so we will see what we can do tomorrow. It hurts to qualify in P17 but, if we have an eventful race tomorrow, we can try to make our way up the field.”
Lance Stroll, 18th, 1:29.368
“I am really disappointed to have ended up in P18 because traffic at the end of the session ruined my qualifying. It was like a parking lot and there was nothing I could do. As a result, I was not able to put in a flying lap when the track and tyres were at their optimum and it proved very costly. I think we would have had enough to make it into Q2 otherwise. We will go away and review to see if there is anything we could have done differently. We have never raced here before, so we will have to see how the Grand Prix plays out tomorrow and try to make up some places.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“It is pretty obvious that the unusual characteristics of this very fast circuit did not suit our car in qualifying today. However, Sebastian and Lance did their best. This race will be a tough one for us, because overtaking is unlikely to be easy here, but we will crunch the data this evening in an effort to come up with an optimal race strategy all the same, and do our level best tomorrow.”
Russell did well to make the second part of qualifying in a car that didn’t quite look like having the potential for much more today. Latifi was two-tenths off joining his team mate in Q2, and had to settle for P16 and being ahead of both Aston Martin cars. Nonetheless on a tricky track, it might take some chaos for those two to add to their points tally in Jeddah.
George Russell, 14th, 1:29.054
"I was really happy with my lap in Q1 and was pleased to get through to Q2. We ran the medium tyre for the first time since FP1 in Q2 and again, I was pretty happy with my first lap but couldn’t improve on my second effort, running slightly wide in the middle sector. I am relatively satisfied with P14, but we are a bit further behind Alfa Romeo than we would want to be. It is tricky out there and getting the tyres in the right window is difficult, but I do believe that is about where our car is at the moment.
"I think overtaking is going to be difficult in the Grand Prix but we will have to see on Sunday. Nobody knows how the tyres are going to react and the grip levels are pretty high. You can push relatively hard which is quite fatiguing but what we want to see in F1. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow."
Nicholas Latifi, 16th, 1:29.177
"We were aiming for Q2 today and it looked possible, but unfortunately, I didn’t get my second lap on the first set of tyres in, and then ran wide in Turn four which set me back a lap. I know I could have done a better job and, with an extra lap we could have found that time, but I only have myself to blame for that, so it is a bit disappointing.
"Tomorrow will be quite challenging for everyone, both physically and mentally, with the high temperature and high-speed nature of the circuit. It has been a fun track to drive so far though, so I am looking forward to the challenge."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"Today was one of the busiest Saturdays we have seen for a while with most cars spending a large proportion of the time in each qualifying session on track. Throughout the session, the required tyre preparation varied and was difficult to predict. Furthermore, the soft and medium compounds offered viable alternatives for most drivers.
"Nicholas was again just short of qualifying for Q2, finishing only just behind Alonso having made a mistake on his final timed lap of the first run, which hurt his momentum through the session. George had a good session and qualified for Q2, close to both Alfa Romeos. We opted to complete a run on the soft compound at the beginning of Q2 to get a time on the board and to see how it compared to those who ran the medium. We then switched to the medium, aiming to complete a three timed lap run. Unfortunately, having not run the medium since FP1, we didn’t quite get the balance right and George was unable to complete his final timed lap, which was a shame as we may have been able to challenge the three cars ahead.
"The race tomorrow is going to be long with opportunities to make progress. Both drivers have showed good high fuel pace throughout the weekend and there is no reason to think that we can’t race the cars around us."
Mazepin showed some very quick reactions in FP3 as he came across a slow moving Hamilton on the racing line, the Haas driver forced to cut across the corner to avoid contact. Fortunately, both drivers found qualifying slightly less hairy, despite the traffic that did predictably materialise in the final sector. Schumacher was left disappointed when he mistimed his DRS deployment, as he pipped his team mate by a second.
Mick Schumacher, 19th, 1:29.464
“I delayed the deployment of my DRS, and it’s around a tenth so it’s quite frustrating but I was not anticipating being so close to the Aston Martin so that’s something I think really shows our build-up of performance over the weekend. The race is a different story – if we get the opportunity to fight we will but if we get ahead and have a good start, we might be even able to keep it.”
Nikita Mazepin, 20th, 1:30.473
“The track’s still good – it cleared up from yesterday which is a positive. I was happy with my rhythm, that was totally deliberate and ended up in a very good place in FP3 and if anything, I should’ve been better in qualifying. Unfortunately, qualifying is about a lot of others letting you do your lap. 6.1km on this track isn’t enough for even the best in our sport to get through. I was divebombed by four or five cars into the last corner when I was trying to make a gap and ended up racing Vettel on the start-finish line so didn’t get my lap in.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“It was a pretty good day with a lot of running and no damage. It was solid running for all of FP3 and solid running from both in qualifying to get close to the cars in front of us, which is very encouraging for us so late in the season. Unfortunately for Nikita, his last lap attempt wasn’t successful because there was a tangle in front of him and he had to lift and couldn’t get going, but otherwise a flawless effort from the whole team and the communication between driver and engineer was good.”
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"With this being the second-longest lap of the season, the teams and drivers had a relatively limited window of opportunity to get it right, in terms of preparing for a flying lap. The medium tyre was favoured by nearly everyone in Q2, with Lando Norris being the only driver to start on the soft in the top 10. It's going to be fascinating to see what he can do, surrounded by so many cars starting on mediums. The two fastest strategies on paper are medium to hard or soft to hard, but the latter needs a bit more careful management. So we expect the majority of drivers to target a one-stopper but there are many unknown elements that could influence the strategy." Despite the length of the lap the margins were incredibly close, with 10 drivers covered by just a few tenths of a second on this brand new circuit."