Formula 1 Commentary

Live: F1 Saudi Arabian GP commentary and updates - FP3 & Qualifying

Live commentary and updates for F1's Saudi Arabian GP Saturday sessions

Live: F1 Saudi Arabian GP commentary and updates - FP3 & Qualifying

By: Haydn Cobb, James Newbold

Summary

Summary
  • Hamilton takes pole at the Saudi Arabia GP after a late crash from Verstappen
  • Red Bull's world championship leader was on course for pole until a lock up into the final corner and a snap of oversteer caused him to tag the wall with his right-rear and right-front corner
  • Bottas qualifies second, but faces potential investigation for contact with Raikkonen in Q2, while Gasly is also set to be referred to the stewards for obstructing Sainz in Q1
  • Behind Verstappen, Leclerc recovers from FP2 shunt to outqualify Perez in the second Red Bull in fourth
  • Sainz has big spin in Q2 and suffered rear wing damage that causes him to drop out in P15, along with Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Alonso, and Russell
  • Latifi joined in Q1 drop zone by Aston Martin drivers Vettel and Stroll, plus the Haas pair Schumacher and Mazepin

Leaderboard

  1. Hamilton, Mercedes
  2. Bottas, Mercedes
  3. Verstappen, Red Bull
  4. Leclerc, Ferrari
  5. Perez, Red Bull
  6. Gasly, AlphaTauri
  7. Norris, McLaren
  8. Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
  9. Ocon, Alpine
  10. Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo
Status: Stopped
That'll be all from us this evening, but make sure you keep tabs on Autosport.com this evening for all the unfolding news and reaction from qualifying as it comes in. Thanks very much for joining us this evening, and we'll see you tomorrow for what promises to be a pivotal day in the title battle as Verstappen seeks to recover from losing pole in the final corner wall. Goodnight!
If you missed any of the action from that scintillating qualifying session, then look no further than the report summing everything up: https://www.autosport.com/f1/news/f1-saudi-arabian-gp-hamilton-takes-pole-as-verstappen-crashes-on-last-lap/6850523/
Seeing Leclerc's result will be all the more galling for Sainz after his lowly P15 qualifying, particularly with most opting to take Q2 on the medium anyway - eradicating the likely advantage he'd gain from free tyre choice.
Inevitably it will get somewhat lost amid the Verstappen drama, but Leclerc truly delivered on his promise to repay his mechanics after his FP2 shunt by splitting the Red Bulls in fourth. Excellent qualifying result once again from the Monegasque. 
 
Suffice to say, that was one of the more dramatic qualifying sessions of the year - but it's not all over yet for Verstappen, because Bottas could yet face sanction for making contact with Raikkonen in Q2.
Us too Marcus. Us too. 
 
Now here comes Verstappen, who says he doesn't understand what happened at the final corner. "P3 is a bit disappointing today of course, knowing what lap I was on."
Hamilton, speaking after qualifying, has labelled Bottas "the best team-mate there's ever been in the sport". Now there's a statement that could provoke our chief editor into a list...
Here's the question we're all asking. Could that be a season-defining moment from Verstappen? 
 
Gasly takes sixth, ahead of Norris, while Tsunoda, Ocon and Giovinazzi round out the top 10.
Verstappen is only third, while Leclerc beat Perez to fourth.
Verstappen was on the brink of taking pole, but instead it's a Mercedes front-row lockout with Bottas second behind Hamilton.
There was a lock-up with the left-front that took Verstappen ever-so-slightly wide, and as he tried to put the power down exiting the final hairpin the car just snapped loose and there was no space to recover it.
The yellow flags are out, bringing qualifying to an effective end as Verstappen climbs from his car.
He was purple in sectors one and two, but exiting the final corner he understeered wide and clipped the wall, giving Hamilton pole!
And Verstappen shunts in the final corner!
Verstappen goes purple in sector one. Can he carry on that form for the rest of the lap and snatch back pole for the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix?
Hamilton takes provisional pole with a 1m27.511s. Can Verstappen respond?
Hamilton is back out for his second run - remember, his first lap was compromised, so his current P3 time was set on his second lap.
Gasly though isn't content with P8 and turns in a strong 1m28.125s to put himself fourth, ahead of Perez.
Behind the top four, it's Norris fifth, then Tsunoda, Leclerc, Gasly, Ocon and Giovinazzi.
Even with that purple first sector, Perez is only fourth on a 1m28.128s. Meanwhile, Verstappen is complaining that he needs a tow to improve on his current benchmark.
Sure enough, Verstappen now takes charge at the top of the timesheets on a 1m27.653s - although curiously he's not fastest in any of the sectors, with Perez top in S1 and Hamilton quickest through sectors two and three.
Hamilton makes up for it on his second lap, going fastest on a 1m28.035s, but that's slower than the benchmark times set on the mediums in Q2 - so more time to come, surely.
Bottas is the provisional poleman on a 1m28.143s with his Lazarus-like misfiring engine, with Tsunoda second and Leclerc third.
Hamilton makes a mistake! He drops it over the Turn 10 kerb and has to abort his first lap.
The drivers have had a chance to get their eye in, now we'll see what they've really got up their sleeves. First to blink is Hamilton, Verstappen waiting in the garage for now.
Off we go then, Q3 is underway.
Leclerc and the two Mercedes are waiting at the end of the pitlane for the green light for Q3 to start. Eager beavers.
Sure enough, the contact between Bottas and Raikkonen has been noted by the stewards.
Without Sainz, it's just Leclerc representing Ferrari in Q3. He's joined there by the AlphaTauri pair, Giovinazzi, Norris, Ocon and the two Mercedes and Red Bulls.
Sainz meanwhile is told over the radio by his engineer that he damaged his rear-wing endplate with his spin, even though he didn't think he touched the wall. That won't have helped his cause on that final push lap when he almost had a carbon copy moment.
We missed Hamilton improving his time to top Q2 on a 1m27.712s. That was on the medium though, so it's all to play for still on the soft in Q3.
Giovinazzi did make it into Q3, but he also had a little moment of introduction to the wall exiting the final corner, just kissing it on the right-hand edge but with enough force to cause concern to his Alfa mechanics.
Now then. Bottas is slowly accelerating out of the bottom hairpin when he drifts over to the right-hand side of the road, seemingly unaware that Raikkonen is on a hot lap and powering around his outside. The two cars make contact - could that be subject to investigation from the stewards?
"It's impossible, the car is undrivable,"  says Sainz after another big wobble on the left-hand kerb at Turn 11 sends him into the run-off once again, aborting his final lap. It's a disappointing Q2 for the Ferrari man, who ends up P15.
It's not enough for Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Alonso, Russell and Sainz as the quintet is eliminated. Giovinazzi though does make it into Q3 in tenth spot.
The chequered flag is out - will we see any late improvements?
Raikkonen though is going for a time on the softs, and could be one to watch in the dying seconds...
Verstappen has put softs on, which we assume is with a view to testing out a few corners in preparation for Q3 rather than a serious effort to improve his laptime that would mean he'll have to start on the softs.