Verstappen predicts ‘very, very tight’ qualifying in Saudi Arabia


After finishing behind both an Aston Martin and a Mercedes in Thursday evening’s Free Practice 2 session for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, reigning champion Max Verstappen has predicted a hard-fought qualifying session to come at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

Verstappen topped FP1 in the Red Bull RB20 – which he used to take a comfortable victory in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix last week. But the Dutchman had to settle for P3 in FP2, held under the floodlights in conditions more akin to those he’ll face in qualifying and the race – with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso and Mercedes’ George Russell finishing ahead of him, Alonso by 0.331s.

FP2: Alonso fastest during second practice in Saudi Arabia ahead of Russell and Verstappen

“It will be again very, very tight,” said Verstappen, when asked for his prediction about where Red Bull sit in terms of qualifying pace this weekend. “I think that is probably where other people are probably a bit better than us, over one lap. Our car probably comes a bit more alive on the long run.

“I think overall we learned a lot,” he added. “Of course there’s always things you look at to do better over one-lap performance, but I think also some teams already, they used a little bit more power, like they did in Bahrain, so we’ll take that also into consideration. But when we went into the long runs, it looks again quite nice, so quite happy with that.”

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Verstappen was happy with his Thursday

On the other side of the garage, 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix pole-sitter and winner Sergio Perez wound up P5, declaring himself satisfied with a “very positive” day behind the wheel in Jeddah.

“I think we’re in a good spot, in a good place – it was a very positive [Thursday],” said Perez. “We have a very good idea which direction we need to take to make the car faster and if we’re able to do that, it’s going to benefit the long run, it’s going to benefit the qualifying. So, very pleased with the day.

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“I think it’s just, you know, a matter of putting everything together for tomorrow, that will be the main target and we’ll see what we’re able to do.”

Red Bull hold a 17-point advantage in the constructors’ standings heading into this weekend, having taken maximum points in Bahrain a week ago.


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