Saudi Arabian GP: Max Verstappen claims emphatic pole as Oliver Bearman impresses

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen, Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen has taken pole position for the 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, with Charles Leclerc finishing as his closest challenger.

Verstappen clocked two laps in Q3 that were good enough for pole position, coming home 0.319 clear of the Ferrari driver, with Sergio Perez finishing in third. Ferrari debutant Oliver Bearman failed to make it into Q3, after a scrappy second session in qualifying.


Lewis Hamilton was the first driver to set a time on the board in Q3, with a 1:28.8, only for George Russell to immediately beat it by almost half a second as he crossed the line.

Sergio Perez then relegated Russell to second as he clocked a 1:27.807 to go half a second clear of everyone, but all eyes turned towards Max Verstappen as the Dutch driver went purple on his first flying lap.

Verstappen duly crossed the line to clock a 1:27.472 and go 0.335 clear of Perez, setting up a Red Bull 1-2, with Fernando Alonso going third quickest for Aston Martin ahead of Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.

Alonso showed his joy as he got on the radio to say “Ahhh that was a good lap, let’s go again!” while Leclerc couldn’t hide his disappointment as he radioed in to say he wasn’t enjoying the feeling of his Ferrari on new tyres.

Following the first runs, it was Verstappen ahead of Perez, Alonso, Leclerc, George Russell, Oscar Piastri, Lando Norris, Lance Stroll, Hamilton, and Yuki Tsunoda.

With five minutes remaining, the track fell quiet as the drivers withdrew to take on brand new tyres for the final runs – some having run with used sets during the first.

Hamilton, again, was first to start his final flying lap, followed by Russell, with neither putting in impressive first sectors, while the two McLaren drivers put in new personal bests.

With Hamilton only improving to seventh, Norris jumped up to fourth before Piastri immediately displaced him down to fifth, while Russell dived into the pits and aborted his run.

As the chequered flag dropped, Leclerc moved up to second place to ruin the Red Bull celebrations with Perez dropping down to third, while Alonso finished in fourth. The Spaniard had latched onto Hamilton for a tow to start his final flying lap, but a poor final sector prevented any chance of a higher grid slot.

Verstappen duly took pole position, having put in two laps good enough for pole position in Q3, with Leclerc taking the other front row position, ahead of Perez, Alonso, Piastri, Norris, Russell, Hamilton, Tsunoda, and Stroll.


The 15-minute Q2 session got underway with most of the cars heading out team-by-team in what looked to be an attempt to evaluate towing down the straights.

Haas tried it with Kevin Magnussen offering a slipstream to Nico Hulkenberg down the pit straight, which was executed perfectly, only for the German to suffer a mechanical issue that forced him to stop at the side of the track complaining about a loss of power.

After a lengthy yellow flag that allowed some drivers to cross the line and finish their first flying lap, including the two Mercedes drivers, the red flags were shown to allow the marshals to collect the stricken Haas – Hulkenberg the first confirmed driver to be knocked out of Q2.

On his first flying lap after the red flag, Bearman showed his first little bit of inexperience as he took too much speed into Turn 22 – forcing the English driver to back off and regroup for another flying lap.

Perez was the first driver to beat the early time by Russell prior to the red flag, but the Mexican’s time at the top was smashed by Verstappen as the Dutch driver put in a 1:28.078 – a time almost matched by Fernando Alonso as the leading duo used new soft tyres.

Just 0.044 separated the two top drivers, with Leclerc slotting into third a tenth behind, albeit having driven on a used soft tyre.

In the final minutes of Q2, Piastri moved up to fourth place, four-tenths down on Verstappen, before being usurped by Piastri by just 0.004 seconds.

With Bearman having fallen out of the top 10, he made a similar error again at Turn 22 as he appeared to gently strike the outside barrier on turn-in, costing him another lap that kept him in the elimination zone with time rapidly running out.

Russell improved to fifth as the chequered flag dropped, while Daniel Ricciardo failed to improve and remained in 14th as Yuki Tsunoda went four-tenths of a second quicker to finish in eighth.

Bearman did improve on his final run, but he failed to make it through as he finished 11th and just 0.036 seconds down on Hamilton in P10 – the British driver taking to the radio to apologise to his team for a messy end to his qualifying session.

Alex Albon was 12th for Williams, with Magnussen down in 13th in his Haas.

Eliminated: Bearman, Albon, Magnussen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg.


Verstappen clocked a 1:28.171 in the final minute of Q1, having had a back-and-forth with Leclerc for most of the session.

The Dutch driver had logged a 1:28.491 on the soft tyre, less than two-tenths of a second clear of Leclerc, before the Monegasque went quickest on the final run of the session.

With Verstappen responding with his fastest lap, it was Stroll who proved the biggest surprise as he went second-quickest and just 0.079 down on Verstappen’s time – dropping Leclerc down to third in the process.

Following on from his session-ending crash in FP3, Stake’s Zhou Guanyu sat out almost the entirety of Q1 as the team raced against time to get his car fixed and send their driver out on track.

Astonishingly, Zhou started rolling down the pitlane with 1:51 left in the session, facing a huge task to try escaping Q1 with no laps in the session up to that point.

Unsurprisingly, Zhou didn’t make it into Q2 as he failed to make it around in time to start a flying lap.

Joining Zhou on the sidelines was his Stake teammate Valtteri Bottas, who finished down in 16th, along with the two Alpine drivers.

Esteban Ocon was down in 17th, and apologised to his team for having failed to make it into Q2, with Pierre Gasly in 18th.

Logan Sargeant was 19th for Williams, having been up against it following missing most of FP3 after hitting the barriers when he turned in too early for the high-speed Turn 22.

Both Russell and Bearman ended Q1 having earned the attention of the stewards, with the Mercedes driver having crossed the white line at the pitlane entry early in Q1.

Bearman also failed to stick to the directions of the race director, exceeding the 1:50 maximum laptime between the two Safety Car lines outlined by Niels Wittich for all laps in qualifying.

Following the conclusion of qualifying, Bearman was cleared of any wrongdoing by the stewards.

Eliminated: Bottas, Ocon, Gasly, Sargeant, Zhou

Qualifying Results: 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:27.472
2 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.319
3 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.335
4 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.374
5 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +0.617
6 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.660
7 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.844
8 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.988
9 Yuki TSUNODA RB +1.075
10 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +1.100
11 Oliver BEARMAN Ferrari 1:28.642
12 Alexander ALBON Williams +0.338
13 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas +0.378
14 Daniel RICCIARDO RB +0.383
16 Valtteri BOTTAS Kick Sauber 1:29.179
17 Esteban OCON Alpine +0.296
18 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.300
19 Logan SARGEANT Williams +0.347
20 Guanyu ZHOU Kick Sauber NO TIME SET

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