JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia – Lewis Hamilton kept the pressure on Max Verstappen in the battle for the Formula 1 title by earning the pole for the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Saturday at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
Hamilton secured the 103rd pole of his career with a fast lap of 1:27.511, though it appeared Verstappen was set to beat him on his final run. However, bad luck struck the championship leader when he crashed in the final corner. That guaranteed Hamilton the pole, with his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas set to start alongside him in second.
“This place is one of the hardest tracks to get right, I was on the limit the whole way round and the car was on a knife-edge,” Hamilton said. “Trying to pull out the maximum with the tires was so tough. It’s difficult to understand why – it’s so warm here but we were having trouble getting temperature in the front and rears at the same time to have grip at the start of the lap. I’m very proud and thankful that we were able to put it on the front row for tomorrow, it’s going to be an intense race. It’s always important to have Valtteri beside me, particularly in this part of the year, he’s been driving exceptionally well and hopefully tomorrow we can do a good job together.”
Despite his crash on his final flying lap, Verstappen still set the third fastest time in Q3 and will start third in his Red Bull. He enters Sunday’s race with a slim eight-point edge on Hamilton with two races remaining.
“I was on a really good lap until I lost it on the final corner, I thought I had approached it in the same way I had been doing all session, but I lost the rear,” Verstappen said. “I’m upset with myself and it is of course disappointing but there are two races to go and anything can happen. We had a good car in qualifying and everything was coming together which gives me hope going into the race tomorrow, also knowing that the pace was there today. I hope we can follow well tomorrow and if that’s the case, there should be some good opportunities and we should have a good shot.”
Charles Leclerc qualified fourth for Ferrari, with the second Red Bull piloted by Sergio Perez taking fifth. AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly qualified sixth, followed by McLaren’s Lando Norris, AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Alfa Romeo’s