F1 – Saudi Arabian GP – Qualifying
Ahlan, MiniFans! After a very exciting first race in Bahrain, we’ve made our way to Saudi Arabia, host of the fastest street circuit of the season. It’s time to check whether what we saw two weeks ago was simply a one-off or if we should start considering Aston Martin as a regular podium contender. Ferrari also needs to prove itself after the debacle that kicked off the season, whereas Red Bull keeps attached to the top positions.
Q1 started the way we’re used to, with the slower teams being the ones leaving the pitlane as soon as the light turned green. Albon gave us the first timed lap to have as a reference, and everyone started trying to clock in a decent time. Only a few minutes later, Aston Martin was the only team left in the boxes, waiting for the track to improve as much as possible.
Being the last ones on track took a bit of a toll on Alonso, who had even less attempts than his teammate due to him spinning in turn 2, albeit at low speed and not really damaging his soft tyres. However, he soon climbed up to fourth, avoiding a yellow flag caused by Sargeant, who also had a lap time deleted due to track limits in turn 27… a turn whose limits are solid walls of concrete. Meanwhile, Norris, who had tapped the wall earlier, was having his front left rod worked on and wouldn’t be able to get another lap in, sealing his fate. Red Bull dominated from start to finish, while Aston Martin managed to slot both drivers in third and fourth, right in front of Ferrari. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Tsunoda (P16), Albon (P17), De Vries (P18), Norris (P19) and Sargeant (P20).
The tables turned in Q2 and Aston Martin went out since the very beginning, as did almost the whole grid. The first time set in the session was Alonso, which wasn’t beaten in this first round of tries. The surprise came courtesy of Red Bull, as Verstappen reported what he thought were engine problems on the radio. He managed to get to boxes, but had to get out of his car as the issue, which ended up being a driveshaft mechanical failure, couldn’t be fixed in a few minutes, leaving the pole position free for the taking. Pérez reclaimed the top spot for Red Bull, trying to foreshadow the final positions of the qualifying session, and Ferrari only managed to get both cars into the ten fastest right at the end, due to Sainz having trouble with traffic and tyres. The eliminated drivers in Q2 were Hulkenberg (P11), Zhou (P12), Magnussen (P13), Bottas (P14) and Verstappen (P15).
Without the clear favourite on track for Q3, the fight went down since the very beginning for pole position. Ferrari, who hadn’t been able to climb to the top in the two previous sessions, managed so with Leclerc, who beat Alonso by a tenth and a half. However, Pérez wasn’t about to allow this and kicked him off by half a second. The only fight for positions happened behind the Mexican driver, with Leclerc being the one getting the closest, but still not enough to make the nerves appear in the Red Bull garage. However, his grid penalty will promote Alonso to second on Sunday, offering the audience a Spanish speaking front row.
From the though of Red Bull copy pasting their result of Bahrain to the world champion needing to abandon, the Saturday qualifying session was far from ideal for the championship leaders. Pressure was on for Pérez, the 2022 poleman, but the Mexican driver didn’t flinch and pulled off a lap so fast that no one could even dream to touch him. Ferrari once again showed speed in in qualifying, but it remains to see whether it will translate to tomorrow, the same question we have to answer for Alonso’s front row.
And like always, here you have the animated version of the qualifying round. Enjoy it!
MiniDrivers – F1
2023 Saudi Arabian GP – Qualifying