Lewis Hamilton led a Mercedes 1-2 in the penultimate qualifying session of the Formula 1 season at Jeddah, as a late Max Verstappen crash proved crucial to his title rival’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix pole.
Hamilton had faced two investigations after third practice earlier on Saturday, but was cleared of yellow-flag wrongdoing coming into the session and then only reprimanded for getting in the way of Nikita Mazepin – the latter decision announced shortly after the start of qualifying.
Despite this, it looked like Hamilton would be an underdog for pole yet Q3, which initially looked bleak for Mercedes, panned out ideally in the end.
Hamilton had to gather his Mercedes W12 after snap oversteer on his first push lap in the pole shoot-out, and had to back out, only to go top with his very next attempt.
But his laptime had come in before either of the Red Bulls completed a lap, and Verstappen’s effort immediately elevated him to nearly four tenths ahead of his title rival.
By the time Hamilton had wound up for a second lap, team-mate Valtteri Bottas had got ahead, too – but session-best second and third sectors allowed the reigning champion to jump back into first place, clearing Verstappen by a tenth and a half.
And with Bottas improving, too, it was now Verstappen needing to lift himself up from third – and an epic lap at the chequered flag looked set to do just that, with the Red Bull man a quarter of a second up after two sectors.
Yet he then tapped the outside wall coming through the final corner, and pulled over with damage to his Red Bull, cementing a Mercedes 1-2.
A dramatic ending to qualifying in Jeddah!
Max Verstappen hits the barriers on his final flying lap 💥
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 4, 2021
With Verstappen third – albeit risking lasting effects from his damage to the car, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc picked off the Dutchman’s team-mate Sergio Perez for fourth place.
Perez was just 0.002s ahead of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, too, albeit with Gasly under investigation for potentially impeding the other Ferrari of Carlos Sainz.
Lando Norris led the way for McLaren in seventh, but was the only driver to progress through Q2 with a laptime on the soft compound, with everyone else managing to get it done on the harder medium tyre and lock that in as their starting compound choice.
Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri), Esteban Ocon (Alpine) and Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) completed order in Q3.
Sainz was the big-name casualty in the second segment, failing to set a competitive time after finishing Q1 as high as fourth.
Trouble for Carlos Sainz as he takes a spin in Q2
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 4, 2021
The Ferrari man had a massive spin through Turn 11 on his first Q2 stint and just grazed the barrier with his rear wing, returning to the pits afterwards. He came back out for a last-gasp attempt but again got it wrong through Turn 11, effectively corner-cutting as a result and making the rest of the lap meaningless.
It means Sainz will start 15th, behind fellow Q3 absentees Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren), Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo), Fernando Alonso (Alpine) and George Russell (Williams).
Raikkonen, however, had had the preparation for his final lap disrupted by minor contact with Valtteri Bottas when the Alfa man tried to pass his compatriot on the right. Raikkonen radioed in that he “touched the Mercedes because it didn’t f***ing move” and was told he’d escaped damage – although his actual push lap then fell apart in the very first sector.
Nicholas Latifi was first among those to exit in the first segment, shipping two-and-a-half tenths to Williams team-mate Russell.
Sebastian Vettel jumped ahead of Aston Martin team-mate Lance Stroll at the death in Q1 as Stroll’s final lap was effectively ruined by running too close behind Alonso’s Alpine after a last-sector ‘car park’ – with lots of drivers preparing for a lap.
But it only meant 17th place for Vettel, who responded with a shocked “what?!” when informed of the position by Aston, as the team recorded its first double Q1 exit since the 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix, when it was still Racing Point.
Mick Schumacher nearly picked off Stroll, too, but settled for 19th, lamenting that he’d failed to turn on his DRS – although he still bested his Haas team-mate Nikita Mazepin by over a second
|3||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-Honda||1m28.285s||1m27.953s||1m27.653s|
|5||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull-Honda||1m28.021s||1m27.946s||1m28.123s|
|10||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||1m28.899s||1m28.616s||1m28.754s|
|12||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||1m28.856s||1m28.885s|
|15||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Ferrari||1m28.237s||1m53.652s|
|17||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin-Mercedes||1m29.198s|
|18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||1m29.368s|