Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was a shock casualty during qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, after a suspected driveshaft failure.
Verstappen was knocked out of qualifying in Q2 down in 15th place, having been unable to put in a flying lap due to a mechanical failure on his Red Bull RB19.
Attacking a fast lap, Verstappen was only through the first sector when the revs on his engine shot up and he slowed to a crawl as he radioed in to report a suspected engine problem.
Returning to the pits, Verstappen clambered out of his car and became a spectator to watch his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez claim pole position.
Speaking to Sky Sports F1 after his elimination, Verstappen cleared up that the issue was actually linked to the driveshaft – the Dutch driver had been fitted with a fresh gearbox and ancillaries after reporting long downshifts during Friday practice.
“It’s the first time I heard about it as well,” Verstappen told Sky, when asked about whether the problem was new having had no such problems during pre-season testing.
“It happened coming out of Turn 10, which is very annoying for it to happen. So far, we’ve had a really good weekend.
“Every session was working really well and, every time we were on the track, the car was working really well.”
F1 2023 qualifying results from the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Red Bull opt for caution by fitting new gearbox for Max Verstappen
Qualifying: Sergio Perez takes pole as Max Verstappen forced out in Q2 in Jeddah
However, Verstappen wasn’t as downbeat as one might have expected for such an issue – perhaps understandable given his massive pace advantage through practice that had set him up as pole favourite.
“Now it’s a little bit more tricky to get to the front,” he said.
“But it’s all about scoring points, it’s a very long season. Of course, I would have hoped to start a bit further up the road but we cannot change that now.
“Anything is possible at this track. We’ve seen a lot of crazy things, but we also need to stay a little bit realistic. I mean, it’s going to be tough. But we have good pace so, for sure, we’ll move forward.”
As for Perez, he was thankful that his opening Q3 effort proved to be a benchmark which the chasing pack could not reach, since he was not able to deliver an improved second attempt after a scruffy first few corners.
“Jeddah, I enjoy it a lot,” he told media personnel. “I think we all… When you have a good car that you can push around this place, you really feel the F1 cars coming alive. And getting a clean, good lap, you know when you nail it.
“And yeah, that Q3 run one was quite a good jump. I had a good jump from all my previous laps. And that meant that I was able to get the pole, because my second lap, I didn’t manage to get it. I just had a front lock going into Turn 1. That has been really tricky. Turn 1 and Turn 2, always starting the lap into 1 and 2, it was so easy just to lose two tenths straightaway there, especially with the low downforce that we’re running.
“And just nailing that combination of corners will require a lot of temperature on our tyres as well, so yeah, just in general, just getting that lap, nailing that lap, was really nice.”