Formula One: Verstappen on pole for Saudi Arabian GP; Ferrari stand-in Bearman 11th

AP , Friday 8 Mar 2024

Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen qualified on pole position for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Friday, extending his strong start to the season amid turmoil at the Red Bull team.

Max Verstappen
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands poses with former soccer goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon after setting the pole position in the qualifying session ahead of the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Friday, March 8, 2024. Photo: AP


Verstappen was fastest by 0.319 seconds from Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, with the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez .016 further back.

That all puts Verstappen on course for another win on Saturday to follow up victory at the season-opening Bahrain GP last week. It would be his ninth consecutive win going back to last season.

“Max has done a tremendous lap. That was not possible for me today,” his teammate Sergio Perez admitted.

Fernando Alonso was fourth for Aston Martin, ahead of the two McLarens of Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris. Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were seventh and eighth respectively.

The 18-year-old British driver Oliver Bearman qualified 11th for Ferrari on his competitive F1 debut, just hours after the team announced he was the last-minute replacement for Carlos Sainz Jr. The Spanish driver was diagnosed with appendicitis, requiring an operation Friday.

Bearman missed out on the top 10 qualifying shootout only by .036 seconds from seven-time champion Hamilton.

“That was a messy session, sorry about that,” he told Ferrari over the radio.

Verstappen took pole amid continuing instability at the champion Red Bull team, a week after the team’s parent company dismissed a complaint of alleged misconduct by team principal Christian Horner toward a team employee.

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