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Verstappen thrilled to take first pole in Jeddah after ‘failed’ 2021 effort as he prepares for possible ‘crazy race’

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JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 08: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and

Max Verstappen has credited improvements made to his Red Bull overnight with helping him to enter qualifying with confidence and secure his first ever pole position in Saudi Arabia.

After ending Thursday’s representative second practice session in third place on the timesheets – behind Fernando Alonso and George Russell – Verstappen had predicted that there could be a “very, very tight” battle ahead in qualifying on Friday.

READ MORE: Verstappen takes pole position for Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as he heads Leclerc and Perez

However, the world champion put in an assured performance throughout before sealing pole in Q3 with a lap of 1m 27.472s, giving him an advantage of three tenths over second-placed Charles Leclerc.

This means that Verstappen will start from P1 at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit for the first time in his career, having previously come close in 2021 where he famously looked to be on course for pole before making an error in the final corner.

Reflecting on claiming his debut pole in Saudi Arabia, Verstappen said: “It was a very good day so far. We improved the car a little bit overnight and that gave me a bit more confidence to attack the high-speed corners, and around here of course it all depends a lot on your confidence and how much you can go to the limit.

2024 Saudi Arabian GP Qualifying: Max Verstappen crosses the line to seal pole position in Jeddah

“I really think today I felt comfortable with the car. Throughout qualifying it’s pretty crazy how fast you go around here, especially I think on my first lap in Q3 I was very happy with, how I did the lap.

“It felt almost a bit like the failed 2021 lap! It was very good, I had a lot of fun and the car was behaving really well.”

FACTS AND STATS: Verstappen grabs the fastest pole outside of Monza for three decades

Since joining the F1 calendar three years ago, the Jeddah Corniche Circuit has provided some eventful races. Verstappen is cautious of this heading into Saturday’s Grand Prix, though continues to feel confident about how the RB20 can perform around the track.

“As we have seen in the past also there have been a lot of crazy races around here, a lot can happen,” the Dutchman acknowledged. “Normally obviously people say, ‘It’s a one-stop, it’s easy to the line’, but it’s not like that around here.

“A lot of straights as well, but I’m confident with the race we have that tomorrow the car will work really well.”

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 08: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing

Perez will start the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix from P3 on the grid

Verstappen’s team mate Sergio Perez – who took victory at last year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – will start the race from third on the grid. The Mexican was left slightly disappointed after feeling that a better slot had been possible.

“I didn’t get much of an improvement on the final lap, which is why I think we missed the front row,” Perez commented after qualifying. “Overall I think Max has done a tremendous lap.

HIGHLIGHTS: Catch the best of the action from qualifying in Saudi Arabia as Verstappen takes pole

“I think that was not possible for me today, but I think being on the front row was achievable, but anyway I think we are still in the fight tomorrow. Tomorrow it’s a long race and anything can really happen.”

With fine margins between several of the teams behind Red Bull, Perez is anticipating some battles come race day.

“It will be quite interesting,” he added. “I think it’s going to be a long, fun race, I think there will be plenty of action. The cars around us are already close so it will be a very interesting battle tomorrow.”

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