Even the best fail. And it is not for Verstappen, but for Red Bull and Honda: the power unit abandoned the champion in full qualifying and condemns him to 15th place on the grid this Sunday. When everything seemed written, when the walk of Mad Max It was taken for granted, the lack of reliability shook him and opened the door to an open, beautiful weekend, in which Checo Pérez defends the flag of the energy team. But Alonso smells the blood. The Asturian starts second, in the front row. And Aston Martin’s forte is Sunday. He has everything to lose against the red bull, but what does that matter now. There is a victory at stake and months ago everyone would have laughed at whoever made such a prediction. The hardships of the middle zone are over, the power of the AMR23 is real: Fernando’s third or fourth youth will be counted by trophies and this Sunday he can take one from Jeddah Corniche.
Q3 was exciting. Alonso struck first, but Pérez, Leclerc and Russell beat him. Before the second attempt, Fernando repeated to stay in the wake of the Mexican. Only Charles would surpass him, but the Monegasque’s Ferrari drags ten penalty places on the grid to change the control unit and will start 12th. Sooner rather than later Leclerc will find himself in the race with an unchained Red Bull. Ahead, Pérez saved the furniture because he was half a second behind Verstappen, but he grabbed pole position with force as he did on this same stage, in 2022. Then an unfortunate safety car robbed him of the opportunity to fight for victory. He now he has it in his hands again.
Russell and Sainz complete the second row. It was a complex Saturday for Carlos, always overcoming the cuts at the last minute and marking his good lap also with little margin. A good first sector did not come to fruition and that was choked throughout the classification. In the end, Leclerc escaped. But the good points of Ferrari have to be added by Sainz, who will run facing forward (Fernando, Mercedes) but also with the rear-view mirror at hand (Stroll, Ocon, Hamilton…). At least here they have more pace than in Bahrain and the tire degradation is not dramatic.
Forced comeback for the champion
And for Max… what a ballot. He is the quickest on the grid by far (half a second per lap on his team-mate, to be exact), but this Sunday he will start 15th because his Honda engine blanked out during Q2. And that is if he does not have to change elements. The Dutchman got out of the car with five minutes of the session to go and went straight to the weigh-in. In the garage, his father made a face like he wanted to break something. How beautiful this F1 becomes without such a clear dominator. Jeddah Corniche will allow him to come back and he has pace to spare, but in the noble zone of the peloton it is not enough just to open the DRS. In addition, the probability of a ‘safety car’ is 100% (eight in two races). You have to be fast, clean and clever. For what it could happen.