What the teams said – Qualifying at the 2023 Saudi Arabia Grand Prix
After being streets ahead of the opposition in FP3 and making it a clean sweep of practice sessions, pole looked to be Verstappen’s for the taking, especially when he wound up nearly half a second clear of the field in Q1. But disaster struck at the start of Q2 when he suffered an issue with his transmission, ending his involvement much earlier than expected. That left Perez to fly the flag for the team, which he did with ease, grabbing his second ever pole. Both have come here in Jeddah, but he’ll be hoping for more luck than he had in this race last year.
READ MORE: Jeddah pole-sitter Perez hoping to keep ‘lion’ Alonso at bay as he predicts how much Verstappen can recover from P15
Max Verstappen, 15th, No time set in Q2
The driveshaft broke out of Turn 10 on the right rear so that was it for qualifying. It happened really out of the blue, we hadn’t had any issues before that. It was annoying because the car was good up until then, I was comfortable in every session and every time I was on the track, I was quick, so for sure we could have fought for pole. Instead, we now have a bit more work ahead of us tomorrow but it is what it is, it is a long Championship and we will stay positive. I think a win is tricky from that position but I will try to score as many points as possible. It will be hard to get to the front, but we won’t give up. Anything is possible at this track, we have seen some crazy things here, but we have to be realistic. It will be tough but we have good pace so, for sure, we will move forward.”
Sergio Perez, 1st, 1:28.265
“I certainly enjoy the track here in Jeddah. The car came alive at high speeds and I was able to push right to the limit to secure pole position. That said, it has been tricky today. You can lose two tenths through the early section of corners if you’re not careful, especially with the low downforce that we’re running, so I’m very happy to come away with pole. It will be very interesting to see what happens in the race tomorrow, especially with some of the other cars running high downforce. As we saw last year, anything can happen. We have a good race car and showed strong race pace on Friday, so let’s hope Max can also push up the grid and together, we can aim for maximum points for the Team.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“A tale of two qualifying sessions out there today. Firstly, a brilliant performance from Checo. He drove incredibly well and put down a fantastic lap which sees him on pole; his second pole here in Jeddah, back to back. On the other hand, its hugely frustrating for Max, a drive shaft failure knocked him out of qualifying when we were really just getting started in Q2. His lap in Q1 would have put him in P4 for the race tomorrow. It is a real shame, but we are already in the process of understanding the issue. Max has a mountain to climb from 15th, but knowing Max, he will rise to the challenge and it will certainly be interesting to see what he achieves. For Checo, its about sticking with the strategy, staying out of trouble and surviving those early lap. Plenty of action to come and plenty to look forward to.”
Ferrari struggled for pace in final practice, and looked a little lost heading into qualifying. It wasn’t a smooth session for the team either, with Sainz encountering traffic and Leclerc struggling with tyre warm up. But both drivers scraped into Q3 and from there, the Monegasque showed why he is regarded as one of the best qualifiers in the field by grabbing a brilliant second. He won’t start there though thanks to a 10-place grid penalty, which will bump his team mate up the order.
Charles Leclerc, 2nd, 1:28.420
“I’m happy with my lap, it was on the limit and we finished further up the order than we expected to in this session. However, our competitors are strong and we still have a lot of work to do. Our race pace looks solid this weekend. It’s not easy to overtake on this track, so I will do my best to fight my way back to the front tomorrow.”
Carlos Sainz, 5th, 1:28.931
“Not the best of qualifyings from my side to be honest. I struggled with the tyres into the first few corners and lost the time there. The rest of the lap felt good, but it wasn’t enough to make up for sector 1. My bad. However, the weekend is not over and we have the pace to fight for a step on the podium, so we’ll reset tonight and come back at it tomorrow in the race.”
Fred Vasseur, Team Principal
“It was a decent quali for the team today with Charles P2, one tenth off Perez – which will become P12 with the penalty – and Carlos fifth fastest. Our pace was not too bad but we need a step forward. It’s a pity for Carlos because he had to put on a second set of Softs in Q2 and at the end, in Q3 he only had one set and made a small mistake, which probably cost him the front row. However, Carlos had good pace and he’ll start P4, which gives him a good opportunity. Looking at tomorrow, our race pace was good yesterday and on the long stints we had low degradation, also thanks to the fact this track is very grippy, very different to Bahrain. It could be a strange race because it’s quite easy on paper to overtake but actually, we could see a DRS train which could be a game changer. We need to find good track position and the right slot for the pit stops.”
Alonso had pushed Red Bull the closest all weekend, so it was no surprise to see him up there throughout qualifying. As Verstappen unexpectedly fell by the wayside, it even looked like the Spaniard might grab pole, but in the end Perez and Leclerc had a little too much pace. But starting second with a car that is better in race trim still leaves him likely to be in the reckoning for the win. Stroll, still battling with his injuries, isn’t too far back either.
READ MORE: Battling Perez for victory ‘not the target’ says Alonso despite qualifying on the front row at Jeddah
Fernando Alonso, 3rd, 1:28.730
“All in all we have to be very happy with starting on the first row of the grid tomorrow. It is a very different circuit compared to Bahrain and to see us fighting in Q3 again is a positive sign. The track did evolve during the session, but maybe not as much as we anticipated, especially from Q2 to Q3. Our strength in this package has been on the long runs, so hopefully we can optimise this as much as possible tomorrow. It is very tight between a number of teams so tomorrow will be an interesting battle for sure. But with both cars starting inside the top five positions, our main goal is to come away from this race with as many points as possible.”
Lance Stroll, 6th, 1:28.945
“The team delivered a really strong qualifying performance today and we have put ourselves in a great position to fight for a good haul of points in the race tomorrow. We were not sure whether the pace we saw in Bahrain would translate to such a different circuit here in Jeddah, but the car felt good and we were able to keep pushing the limits throughout qualifying. My final lap was going well, and I went purple in the first sector, but I made a small mistake at Turn 22 and lost two or three tenths. Still, starting fifth is a good result; we have a competitive race car, and there is all to play for tomorrow.”
Mike Krack, Team Principal
“A strong performance by the entire team this week gives us a great opportunity and confidence for tomorrow. We will start from the front row with Fernando and fifth with Lance, and we will continue pushing hard to convert today’s speed into results tomorrow. The lead up to qualifying was pretty smooth: we did our homework on Friday and in final practice, and both drivers were happy with the car balance heading into qualifying. We expect a very close race tomorrow with the teams around us. It is usually an intense race here; it can be unpredictable, and you always have to be reactive and avoid mistakes. But we are ready to fight and we know we have a good race car.”
Russell had looked to have the edge over his team mate all weekend, and managed to out-qualify Hamilton will relative ease. Fourth becomes third for Russell thanks to Leclerc’s grid penalty which isn’t a shabby starting berth. Their car has looked more stable here so they could well be in the fight tomorrow, if they can get on top of their tyre degradation that Hamilton was complaining about in practice.
READ MORE: ‘I don’t feel connected to this car’ – Hamilton left to rue ‘miserable’ Jeddah qualifying
Lewis Hamilton, 8th, 1:29.223
“I struggled a little bit today, but we just need to keep trying. No matter what changes we’ve been making, we’ve been struggling to extract the speed, and I just don’t feel properly connected to the car at the moment. That is something we will work on to improve the confidence in the next races. George did a great job today though and he wasn’t that far off some of the cars at the front, so we just need to keep pushing. It wasn’t the greatest of days but there are improvements for the Team. Tomorrow is a new day, and we will keep working at it.”
George Russell, 4th, 1:28.857
“We have exceeded the potential and our own expectations to be ahead of an Aston Martin and a Ferrari. It is a solid job; we put in a lot of work overnight. The team back at Brackley were working hard in the simulator and we did a lot of work trackside this morning to try and get more out of the package. We know we are not in the fight for pole just yet, but you have to maximise what you’ve got, and we certainly did that today. We have a fight on our hands tomorrow, most likely with the Aston Martins and the Ferraris. We will be pushing hard to get on the podium and seeing what we can do. This Team has higher standards and expectations for themselves than just finishing in the top three, but we will be giving everything we’ve got to be standing there on Sunday.”
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
“I think today is about where we expected to be. We know the deficits that we have and two tenths faster or slower can move us up or down a few positions; we know we need to make bigger steps forward than this, though, in the races to come. I think pace-wise tomorrow we are with the Aston Martins and the Ferraris; at least that is per the long runs yesterday, so we should be able to play around in the race. Lewis’s lap looked a bit sticky in sector one, so we need to look into that. The time never came together for him, but he was as fast or faster than George in the rest of the lap, and we need to evaluate what effect the differences in set-up had.”
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
“It’s been a difficult weekend to get the car in the right place and I don’t think George could have got any more out of it with his laps in the final session. We’ve benefited from Max’s issues and Charles’ penalty to end up third on the grid, but George still had to get ahead of a number of key cars that were all pretty quick. Lewis had a tough time through the sessions, struggling with the balance and grip in the first sector. He had a very solid morning so it’s a bit of a surprise but hopefully we’ll see strong pace tomorrow. The race here normally has a few incidents so how well you do is often a function of whether they fall at the right times. Only a few places separate our cars so it gives us an opportunity to split them on strategies so we can cover the bases. Hopefully we’ll be a bit kinder on the tyres than we were in Bahrain; we’ve tried to work on the setup to achieve that and we’ll find out tomorrow if we’ve made progress.”
Alpine had looked good in qualifying trim on Friday, and proved it was no fluke by getting both cars into Q3. Once there Gasly struggled with his tyres as he felt the cooler track was going away from him and had to settle for P10, but Ocon managed to out-qualify a Mercedes on his way to seventh. Starting sixth, he is in a great place to atone for that raft of time penalties last time out.
READ MORE: ‘I thought it was over’ admits Ocon as he describes ‘pedal to metal’ Q3 lap at Jeddah
Esteban Ocon, 7th, 1:29.078
“That was an intense qualifying session and a strong performance all around, so a good job by the entire team. Overall, I’m happy with seventh today. We’re starting in sixth with Charles’ [Leclerc] penalty and it’s all to play for from the third row tomorrow. During Qualifying, the car was the strongest it’s felt all weekend and it’s good to see that we’ve improved day by day, session by session, so credit to the team for that. Tomorrow we’ll aim to have a clean race and bring both cars home in the points. It’s a long race where strategy will be important and we’re all fully focused on a strong result.”
Pierre Gasly, 10th, 1:29.357
“I have mixed feelings after today’s Qualifying. While I’m pleased to reach Q3, I still feel we came up a little bit short on our expectations today and there’s some finer details we need to work on to make sure we extract the maximum from our package. It’s great that we have both cars inside the top ten – credit to Esteban on a good job – and it means we’re in a strong position for the race where the aim is to score solid points. Our race pace has been good, we showed that in Bahrain, and in Practice yesterday, and I’m feeling confident that double points are achievable.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“Today’s Qualifying is a significant improvement from the first race of the season and it’s certainly satisfying to have both cars reach Q3 and starting in a competitive place on the grid for tomorrow’s race. Esteban did a great job with a well-executed session, which he built up lap by lap, and delivered when he needed to in an extremely tight field, split by small margins. It was important for Pierre to have a smooth session, especially after Bahrain Qualifying. He’s now put himself in contention for strong points tomorrow and we’re certainly feeling good with how our long run pace has looked so far this season. A decent job today, some small details to fix, and we’re looking forward to seeing what we can achieve tomorrow with both cars.”
Norris clipped the wall in Q1, and headed back to the pits with damage. The team couldn’t quite fix his car in time to get him back out, leaving the Briton with a mountain to climb tomorrow. As for Piastri, after the disappointment of a Q1 exit in Bahrain, he made it all the way to the top 10 in Jeddah. Showing why he is so highly regarded, he managed to out-qualify Gasly to boot and starts right in the mix in eighth.
READ MORE: Piastri says maiden Q3 in Jeddah ‘wasn’t expected’ as Norris shoulders blame for Q1 barrier strike
Lando Norris, 19th, 1:30.447
“I made a silly mistake, it’s disappointing because it cost me a chance to go into Q3 today. The car was good and I was feeling comfortable out there. On the bright side it’s a long race tomorrow, with plenty of opportunities, so I look forward to that. Hopefully, I can make up for the mistake and we can try to fight our way forwards.”
Oscar Piastri, 9th, 1:29.243
“P8 on the grid! It was nice to get into Q3. I’m super happy to be in the top ten and it was a good experience to do all three quali sessions. Now we’ll work hard to make the most of this position and bring home a positive result in the race tomorrow.”
Andrea Stella, Team Principal
“It has been a bittersweet qualifying today in Jeddah. On one side, it’s a shame that Lando clipped the wall in Q1 and the steering arm broke, because otherwise he would certainly have been a contender for Q3.
“On the other hand, Oscar did excellent work to get into the final part of qualifying. He kept improving session-by-session through practice and run-by-run in qualifying where he put together clean laps and extracted the maximum from the car.
“Lando will have his chance tomorrow in the race, as the car looks competitive, and races here can often be eventful.
“I would like to thank very much all the team at the factory and trackside, for their hard work to deliver some upgrades at this race. Our aims this year are for more than simply being satisfied by making it into Q3, but this is an improvement that we welcome.”
Hulkenberg will be disappointed after a strong showing failed to result in a Q3 slot. He had looked exceptionally quick all evening, often in amongst the front runners but lost his first lap time in Q2 to track limits. On the back foot, traffic didn’t help his cause and he just missed out on the top 10. As for Magnussen, he hasn’t quite been on his team mate’s pace here but a good start will see him not too far away from the points come tomorrow.
Nico Hulkenberg, 11th, 1:29.451
“It’s always so tight, there are very fine margins. My first lap time got deleted and that obviously took the banker away, so Q3 might’ve been possible, but small things make a difference. Moving up to P10 isn’t bad and we can definitely race from there, so we’ll give it our all tomorrow. I’m confident we have decent pace in the midfield pack.”
Kevin Magnussen, 13th, 1:29.634
“It was less than two tenths, and we had some issues on the car so it’s a shame when it’s so tight. I think it was a fast car today and Q3 was there but better luck next time. Our problem was brakes related and the car also wouldn’t downshift properly. We’re not in a horrible position for tomorrow so let’s give it a good one.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“We’re pretty happy with our qualifying result even if it could be a little bit better. It’s all theoretical but we could get two cars into Q3 – I think we have the performance – but Q2 wasn’t flawless. Kevin had problems with his gear shifting and the gearbox, and brake issues. Nico also had a bit of a brake issue, and we were a little bit on the backfoot with timings because of the weighbridge and in the end, we didn’t make it. The field is so tight but it shows that the car is there and tomorrow we will start P10 and P13, which is a good position to score points from – I can see the progress we’re making.”
Alfa Romeo looked to be in the mix but in the end didn’t have enough pace for Q3 in what is an incredibly tight midfield. Zhou managed to pip his team mate though to turn the tables from Bahrain, with those two looking increasingly evenly matched on one-lap pace.
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Valtteri Bottas, 14th, 1:29.668
“The team did a good job, making improvements step by step throughout the weekend, and I think qualifying was the most positive session I have had so far: overall, pretty smooth. We were close to making it into Q3, and the car felt good, which gives me confidence ahead of the race. On the whole, our weekend had been a bit challenging until now, with some pace lacking in qualifying conditions: today was an improvement, and if we can have good race pace, we can be hopeful to put up a good fight tomorrow. Points are always the target and I am confident it’s a realistic one.”
Zhou Guanyu, 12th, 1:29.461
“I am quite happy with our performance today, and overall, satisfied about the step up in qualifying I made from Bahrain. There were no mistakes, and I was able to maximise everything I had. Unfortunately, we fell a bit short of Q3, and it is obviously frustrating to miss out on our target for just half a tenth. Nevertheless, I think we made a step forward as a team from where we were at the start of the weekend. The aim, like in every race, is to get in the mix for the top ten and bring home points – I think we can achieve that tomorrow.”
Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Team Representative
“We have made a step forward from yesterday and made up most of the gap we had from our rivals, which is testament to the good work done by our team here and in Hinwil overnight. We knew qualifying would be decided by the smallest margins, and indeed we missed out on a spot in Q3 with Zhou, who did an excellent job in the cockpit, by half a tenth – next to nothing on such a long track. Our qualifying performance was not dissimilar from what we did in Bahrain, and our aim is to have another strong race to put our cars in the points once again. Our race pace looks solid and we know we can execute a good race with both Zhou and Valtteri, so we are confident to be in the mix to retain our fifth place in the rankings tomorrow.”
De Vries had a tricky day from word go. At a track that he hadn’t previously raced at when he desperately needed lap time, the Dutchman was forced to sit out of FP3 entirely thanks to a late, unscheduled PU change. He then spun at the start of qualifying and wrecked a set of tyres, and from there was always playing catch up. But the car wasn’t competitive, with even Tsunoda’s experience not counting for much as he also exited in Q1.
Yuki Tsunoda, 16th, 1:29.939
“We ended up P16, one-hundredth of a second from P15. It is definitely a shame, but I’m happy with the lap I put together and how we progressed throughout qualifying. As for the car itself, we have to find some more grip and performance to consistently get into Q2 and Q3. Overall, I think we could benefit from what we learnt over the last couple of days, so the team did a good job there. Tomorrow is a new day and I hope the race pace will be good. My main target will be to focus on myself, give one hundred per cent, and score some points!”
Nyck de Vries, 18th, 1:30.244
“Jumping into qualifying without driving any laps in FP3 made it a tricky day. Given the unique layout of the circuit, getting the tyres into the right window for a flying lap is difficult, so I heavily locked up the rears going into Turn 1. My last run was pretty decent though, but we lost a lot in the last sector. It’s a shame we missed that, and I am disappointed because the potential to make it into Q2 was there. We want to be further ahead, and the team is working together closely to extract the most out of the car.”
Jody Egginton, Technical Director
“Today has not been as straightforward as it should have been. We identified an issue with Nyck’s car during the fire-up today and, being time-limited, we elected to change the PU meaning he missed out on FP3 running, which is far from ideal as it’s his first time here. However, all credit to his mechanics for getting the car turned around efficiently. Yuki completed his programme but struggled a bit more than yesterday with grip and balance in FP3, meaning both sides of the garage went into qualifying on the back foot for one reason or another. Nyck pushed hard in Q1 from the very beginning and came unstuck with a spin on his first run, but the car was undamaged and he recovered very well on his second run. Unfortunately, he only lost out on Q2 due to hitting the energy limit a bit early, so we need to look into this. Yuki ran the planned qualifying programme without too much fuss and was also super close to making the cut, missing out by only 0.01 seconds to Bottas. In the end, no matter how close we may have been, we haven’t made it into Q2 in what is a very tight midfield. As such, the aero updates for R03 are eagerly anticipated to start moving the car’s performance forwards. Our thoughts now shift to the race where we will focus on getting both cars moving forward to take advantage of any opportunities which might present themselves.”
Albon had looked quick and this track was expected to suit their car, so it was disappointing to see him fail to make Q2. As for Sargeant, he set a time good enough for Q2 only to see it wiped from the timing sheets thanks to track limits. Frustrated, the American then half spun to leave himself really up against it. On his final push lap, he bounced over the kerbs and only just avoided clipping the wall, but did enough damage to the car to have to stop out on track.
Logan Sargeant, 20th, No time set in Q1
“I put in a very fast lap but it was deleted as I crossed the pitlane entry by a margin. There was no performance gain so it’s frustrating, but I still had two more laps to deliver and I didn’t, so my apologies go to the team as they deserved more today. We need to take the positives from today, put this behind us and bounce back. The car is quick, we have a lot of straight-line speed and fortunately it can be a crazy race here in Jeddah and there can be a lot of positions to pick up. Although I’ve given myself a lot more work than I needed to, I’m quite optimistic about tomorrow and I’ll make it up to the team.”
Alex Albon, 17th, 1:29.994
“We struggled with the rear tyres in qualifying, so we’ll have a look and understand why. We’ve been quick all weekend so it’s just frustrating. Looking to tomorrow, we have a decent car in the race so I think we can do a good job. Today is obviously disappointing but hopefully we can turn something around for tomorrow.”
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
“Q1 was incredibly tight and today we were just on the wrong side of the cut-off. Although Logan’s first lap was deleted, his pace was legitimate and showed what the car was capable of. Alex struggled a bit more to get the tyres into a state where he was comfortable to attack the start of the lap and was therefore unable to get everything out of the car over a single lap.
“Logan will have learned a lot from today and although he is frustrated at the result, this experience will be invaluable going forwards. It is disappointing not to have progressed further into qualifying, but the car had good pace at high fuel yesterday and both drivers can have strong races tomorrow.”
Mario Isola, Motorsport Director
“We saw an interesting qualifying with plenty of memorable moments. The C4 also showed itself to be a very versatile tyre in the final session that determined the grid, both on a flying lap as well as over longer runs. Q1 demonstrated how it was possible to have a good level of grip also on the second and third attempts with the same set of tyres, using cool-down laps in between.
“The opportunity to have a tyre with these characteristics already presented itself on certain circuits last year, and we’ve seen that once more here today. On an unusual track like Jeddah, the method of preparing the tyres varied from team to team: another element that underlined the particular characteristics of the C4 combined with those of the different teams using them.
“From a strategy point of view, all the data collected so far this weekend confirms a one-stopper as being the quickest option, with only small differences between the three possible combinations. This is also bearing in mind the high likelihood of neutralisations and possible stoppages, from what we have seen at the two previous grands prix held here to date.”
HIGHLIGHTS: Relive the action from a dramatic qualifying session in Jeddah as Perez seals his second career pole