March 27, 2023

Contrasting day for Red Bull: the pole position won by the Mexican Sergio Pérez was tarnished by the transmission problem suffered by Max Verstappen, who will start only 15th on Sunday at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, the second round of the Formula World Championship 1.

The reigning double world champion, who had dominated the three free practice sessions and the first part of qualifying (Q1), suddenly lost his power during an acceleration during Q2 and declared in English on his radio ” engine problem”.

He then returned to the stand painfully and left his seat with a closed face but without seeming worried. His team said on Twitter that the car had a “transmission problem”.

The Dutchman, winner hands down of the first Grand Prix of the season in Bahrain two weeks ago ahead of Pérez, will have to make a big comeback to achieve the double on the street circuit of Jeddah, where he won a year ago. year.

This ultra-fast track is in any case very successful for his teammate. Indeed, Pérez had already obtained the only pole position of his career here last season. Sunday evening, he will try to do better than his fourth place obtained in 2022.

Despite Verstappen’s problem, the Red Bull team showed again in Saudi Arabia that their car was much faster than its competitors and that it would probably be very difficult to fight with it for the drivers’ and constructors’ titles.

– Ferrari limits damage –

The Mexican will however have to be wary of the Aston Martins, which confirmed the promises interviewed in Bahrain, where Fernando Alonso finished third. The Spanish veteran (41), who arrived in the British team this winter from Alpine, will also start on the front row, while his Canadian teammate will start in fifth position.

“The car is performing well. I don’t think we can compete with the Red Bulls, but that’s not our goal. The important thing for us is to score points for the constructors’ world championship”, however relativized the +Bull of Asturias”.

Already under pressure after a mediocre performance in Bahrain, Ferrari, which was nevertheless in difficulty during free practice, limited the damage in qualifying since the Spaniard Carlos Sainz will start on the second row after having won the fifth time in extremis.

His Monegasque teammate Charles Leclerc indeed set the second fastest time in Q3 at 155/1000ths from Pérez, but he suffered a ten-place penalty on the starting grid after an electronic component was replaced following the Grand Inaugural price at which he was forced to retire. He will therefore only start in 12th position on Sunday, three rows ahead of Verstappen, whose rise he could slow down.

– Alpine is smiling –

Briton George Russell (Mercedes) will be third on the grid, sandwiched between Alonso and Sainz. He again edged out his teammate and compatriot Lewis Hamilton. After qualifying, you could read the disappointment on the face of the seven-time British world champion, who will start in seventh position, behind the French Esteban Ocon.

“I struggled a bit today, we struggled to find speed. I don’t really feel connected with the car at the moment. We will work on that to improve our confidence during next races,” said Hamilton.

Alpine can on the other hand have a smile after having succeeded in qualifying its two single-seaters in Q3 since Pierre Gasly will start from ninth place on the grid. Sunday, the tricolor team will try to catch up after a rather disappointing Bahrain Grand Prix marked by the retirement of Ocon after a series of errors and the ninth place of Gasly, who had however had a good race after starting last. .

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