Hamilton snatches pole as Verstappen crashes in thrilling Saudi Arabian GP qualifying

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Hamilton snatches pole as Verstappen crashes in thrilling Saudi Arabian GP qualifying

Lewis Hamilton took pole position at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after his title rival Max Verstappen crashed into the barriers on the final corner of his final attempt in qualifying.

Verstappen’s lap was on target to beat the Hamilton by at least two tenths, but the mistake in Turn 27 of 27 on the brand new Jeddah street circuit could prove pivotal in this year’s title race.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, took second on the grid, with Verstappen relying on an earlier lap that was 0.142s off Hamilton and only good enough for third place. 

Verstappen had looked ragged throughout his final lap, using every last piece of tarmac around the six kilometre circuit in an attempt to beat Hamilton’s time, but coming into the final corner he locked a brake, ran wide and slid the rear of his car into the barriers on the corner exit.

The contact broke his rear suspension and potentially damaged his gearbox, which, if it needs replacing, could drop Verstappen a further five places on the grid to eighth. 

Once out of the car, Verstappen said: “I don’t really understand what happened. I locked up, tried to keep the car on the track and I ran wide and hit the barrier.” 

The qualifying result means Verstappen’s lead in the championship looks more precarious than ever, with Hamilton able to eliminate it and retake the top spot in the standings if he wins ahead of teammate Bottas on Sunday. That would mean the championship would go  down to the final race in Abu Dhabi next weekend.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc qualified fourth ahead of Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, who could only manage the fifth fastest time. AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly was sixth fastest ahead of Lando Norris, Yuki Tsunoda, Esteban Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi. 

Daniel Ricciardo missed out on a place in the top ten by just 0.052s and will line up 11th on the grid for McLaren ahead of world champions Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso. George Russell hauled his Williams up to 14th on the grid and will start ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who spun twice in Q2 and failed to set a competitive lap time. 

Nicholas Latifi will start 16th for Williams ahead of the two Aston Martins of Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll, who have struggled for performance all weekend. The two Haas drivers will start on the back row of the grid, with Mick Schumacher over one second faster than teammate Nikita Mazepin.