Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after his title rival Max Verstappen looked set to beat him only to crash at the final corner…
There was very little to choose between the two title protagonists throughout qualifying with Verstappen appearing to have the slight edge as Hamilton complained of a lack of grip.
Both were leaving everything out there, Hamilton brilliantly catching a huge tankslapper on his first timed lap and then pumping in the quickest time on his next run.
But Verstappen was absolutely flying and put in a time that was four tenths quicker than anyone else, under the lights at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit that straddles the Red Sea.
Hamilton asked for a whole turn of front wing when he pitted, as he searched to find a solution to his understeer, and then promptly went quickest by 0.142s on his second soft run.
FORMULA 1 STC SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX 2021
|1 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes||1:27.511|
|2 Valtteri BOTTAS Mercedes||1:27.622|
|3 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing||1:27.653|
|4 Charles LECLERC Ferrari||1:28.054|
|5 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing||1:28.123|
Verstappen was still out there, though. It looked all lost when he got on the throttle too early at Turn 2 and ran wide, but he caught it impressively and was up by a tenth of a second at the first sector on his final run. He then put in a sensational second sector to put him a quarter of a second ahead of Hamilton.
But he locked up at the final corner, and as he got on the throttle, slid into the wall, causing so much damage it forced him to stop.
As a result, Hamilton took pole, with team mate Valtteri Bottas second for a Mercedes front row lock out, with Verstappen set to start third providing the damage he suffered will not require changes that trigger a grid penalty.
Charles Leclerc was a brilliant fourth for Ferrari, ahead of the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez, with Pierre Gasly continuing his fine qualifying form with sixth.
Lando Norris outperformed his McLaren to take seventh with Yuki Tsunoda making it two AlphaTauris in the top-eight, as Esteban Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi completed the top 10.