Winners and losers from the 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix qualifying

Oliver Harden
A split image of Oliver Bearman and Lewis Hamilton for Saudi Arabian Grand Prix qualifying winners and losers

Oliver Bearman and Lewis Hamilton: two faces of Ferrari's future?

Oliver Bearman shone on debut for Ferrari in Saudi Arabian Grand Prix qualifying as Lewis Hamilton’s muted start to the F1 2024 season continued.

But nobody could come close to Max Verstappen once again as the Red Bull driver eased to a second consecutive pole position in 2024. Let’s run through the main winners and losers from Friday in Jeddah…

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix qualifying: Winners and losers


Max Verstappen

Most of us could have guessed three of the top four in Bahrain before qualifying even got underway: Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Fernando Alonso.

This place is their territory, the kind of circuit where their commitment on entry and bravery on exit – their preparedness to get as close as they dare to the walls, combined with the confidence that they won’t get sucked in – is rewarded with sweet, sweet lap time.

Leclerc and Alonso pushed to those limits as hard as ever, of course, yet still neither could get within touching distance of Verstappen, immaculate yet again in the RB20.

Verstappen’s pole position time even broke the lap record set by the previous extreme-downforce cars of almost three years ago, with Max likening his lap to his fabled – he preferred to call it “failed ” – 2021 attempt.

On a circuit that propels the drivers to ever-greater, viscerally impressive heights – more so than any other track on the calendar these days – Verstappen was the quickest of the great F1 daredevils.

Oliver Bearman

Many drivers – the only seven-time World Champion on the current grid for one – spend their whole lives dreaming of driving for Ferrari in F1 and most never make it.

Yet here, on his grand prix debut, was 18-year-old Oliver Bearman, called up to replace an unwell Carlos Sainz on Friday morning.

As F1 sub appearances go, it is difficult to think of a more daunting task than being called upon to drive for Ferrari, the most sacred team of all, at Jeddah, the closest thing F1 has to a superspeedway oval in the US, where peril lurks around every single corner. recommends

F1 2024: Head-to-head qualifying record between team-mates

F1 2024: Head-to-head race statistics between team-mates

Like so many of the boy racers – starting with Verstappen – to have entered F1 over the last decade, however, Bearman took to it as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

And just like the best of those boy racers to come before him, Bearman found the time to be self-critical along the way, expressing frustration at only qualifying 11th.

My my, how juicy it would have been if Bearman had managed to deny Lewis Hamilton – Ferrari’s marquee signing for 2025, who was clinging on to 10th place late in Q2 – a spot in Q3.

A star is born.

Fernando Alonso

The landscape at Aston Martin is different to how it was a year ago, when the sun seemed to be shining out of Alonso’s rear end on a weekly basis.

Right now there is a sense that the team are a little more reliant on Fernando than they would ideally like, the AMR24 lonelily bridging the gap between F1’s haves and have-nots after falling behind Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren over the winter.

It’s a good job, then, that Alonso is more than comfortable going back and again to the well for heroics.

Alonso described his own Q3 lap as “exceptional” back in Bahrain and more of it was required again in Jeddah.

Fourth on the grid papers nicely over the slight cracks to have developed at Aston Martin in early 2024.

Yuki Tsunoda

Much of Yuki Tsunoda’s frustration with the team orders controversy in Bahrain, you suspect, stemmed from the fact that for the vast majority of the weekend he was much the quicker RB driver.

Only a twist of strategic fate meant Daniel Ricciardo was faster than him in the closing laps of the race.

With the anger out of his system, it was as if Tsunoda was out to hammer home his point in Jeddah, outqualifying Ricciardo for the second weekend in succession – by a crushing half-a-second margin – to secure a place in Q3.

Yuki continues to have his weaknesses, most of which are related to his temperament, but a regular pace advantage over Daniel has become a pattern.


George Russell

There was one name missing from the collection of great F1 daredevils at the top of the Q3 classification.

That was George Russell, who looked well set to ease to a top-five grid slot.

Until he made a mistake on his final lap.

Even with the error he was still ahead of Hamilton – which probably tells us more about Lewis than George right now – but for Russell this was all very 2023.

The pace was very much there, the execution was sorely lacking.

Lewis Hamilton

So after all the changes Mercedes made over the winter and all the talk of the W15 being a solid platform to build on, what was Hamilton’s verdict after his second qualifying session with the new car?

“Similar to previous years, I would say,” he said after Q3, bemoaning the return of bouncing after all the work done to eradicate it over the winter of 2022/23.

That came after Hamilton was left perturbed in Thursday practice by a snappy rear end – the kind of “spiteful” rear end James Allison had made his mission to fix during the off season.

The big difference this year, of course?

Hamilton already knows he’s out of here at the end of this year.

And with the knowledge that Merc’s problems won’t be his problems for much longer, perhaps his muted performances at the start of this season is a reflection of his relationship with the team becoming slightly more transactional as they prepare to part ways.

Put simply, if Merc don’t deliver a car he can work with, Lewis isn’t prepared to drive it to the limit any more.

Daniel Ricciardo

The gloss is rapidly coming off Ricciardo, who as he approaches his 35th birthday this summer increasingly has the look of a plodding midfield journeyman of the ilk of Kevin Magnussen and Valtteri Bottas.

And you don’t see those two targeting a 2025 Red Bull seat, do you?

For as long as he continues to lag behind Tsunoda over a single lap, reclaiming his old seat alongside Verstappen is a rapidly dying dream.

Zhou Guanyu

Friday was an important day in the history of the Sauber team as Audi confirmed their intent to complete a 100 per cent takeover ahead of the German manufacturer’s 2026 entry.

The race to be part of the project starts now, but Zhou Guanyu is highly unlikely to be involved two years from now.

The closing minutes of final practice is arguably the worst time to stuff a car into the wall, with the Sauber mechanics left with an insurmountable task to repair Zhou’s car ahead of qualifying.

Nico Hulkenberg

The unluckiest driver ever?

An engine problem came at the worst possible time in Q2, when Haas had set up the tow with the aim of sneaking into Q3 for the second race in succession.

An honourable mention to Hulkenberg’s team-mate Kevin Magnussen, whose 13th place was a good improvement after a poor showing in Bahrain, but not quite enough to secure a place in the winners’ list this week.

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