ed Bull’s Sergio Perez finally claimed the maiden pole position of his 215-race Formula 1 career on a dramatic night of qualifying at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Mexican ‘Checo’ produced a superb final lap at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit to pip the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, who had looked on course for a second straight pole after his flawless victory in Bahrain on opening weekend and clocking the fastest times in all three practice sessions here.
Leclerc’s team-mate Carlos Sainz qualified third, with reigning world champion Max Verstappen only able to secure fourth spot in the other Red Bull as he struggled with the grip on his tyres.
Lewis Hamilton will begin Sunday’s race way down in 16th on the grid after being eliminated in Q1 for the first time since the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2017, with Mercedes team-mate George Russell managing to split the Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso in sixth.
The top 10 was rounded off by Valtteri Bottas, Pierre Gasly and Kevin Magnussen, while McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo will begin 15th after being handed a three-place grid penalty for impeding Ocon.
Qualifying was delayed for almost an hour with five minutes left in Q2 after a terrifying high-speed crash involving Mick Schumacher, whose Haas was split in two after he lost control coming out of Turn 11 and slammed hard into the concrete barriers.
Schumacher’s car, travelling at around 170mph, slid down the track as debris flew everywhere.
The German remained in the cockpit after the sickening impact but was conscious and talking to doctors before being taken on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance, which transported him to the on-site medical centre.
Initial assessments revealed no injuries, but Schumacher was flown by helicopter to the King Fahad Armed Forces Hospital for precautionary scans.
He will not race on Sunday, with Haas only running Magnussen, who impressed again as he qualified in 10th place.
Schumacher has since been released from hospital and tweeted from his hotel: “Hi everyone, I just wanted to say that I’m ok. Thank you for the kind messages. The car felt great @haasf1team, we’ll come back stronger.”
Schumacher’s scary crash was the second time qualifying had to be red flagged, with Q1 stopped early on after Williams driver Nicholas Latifi lost the rear of his car under braking and hit the barriers at Turn 3.
Canadian Latifi was checked and given the all-clear at the nearby medical centre.
The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is going ahead as planned this weekend after extensive talks to allay widespread driver concerns following Friday’s attack on a nearby oil storage facility.