The two-time champion improved on his last lap to run to a 1m23.824s effort, pipping Perez by 0.22s. Meanwhile, Charles Leclerc is set to lead a Ferrari second row on Sunday over the Mercedes contenders.
Purportedly, Q1 pacesetter Verstappen’s RB18 suffered a start-up problem to delay his entry into the final session. Perez did query his partner’s initial absence – a faulty steering wheel switch was said to be the cause.
The Mexican – fastest in Q2 – responded with a personal best first sector, then ran purple in the middle part of the lap. Although he struggled for traction and slid out of the final corner, Perez snared a 1m24.281s.
But Verstappen’s peerless run through the last part of the lap on his first Q3 go moved him to a 1m23.988s. That put him 0.328s ahead of Perez as Sainz split the Red Bull duo.
For the climax, Leclerc ran early and turned up the wick as he improved on his personal best first and second sectors and then flashed purple in the final part of the lap. That guided him to second place but he was still down by 0.14s compared to Verstappen’s pacesetting first lap from the top-10 shootout.
Carlos Sainz ran slower in sector one so, despite lowering his time eventually, he was only fourth to tee-up the Red Bull duel for the final pole.
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari F1-75
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
Verstappen improved in all three sectors to be the only driver to break into the 1m23s, with his .824s effort pulling 0.228s over Perez – who was best of all in the middle sector.
Sebastian Vettel had his complaints over the Red Bulls blocking him in the final corner in Q1 and Q2 to cost a tenth, but he nevertheless snared ninth ahead of his last grand prix. Daniel Ricciardo, meanwhile, completed the top 10.
Fernando Alonso was the notable casualty in Q2, with the Spaniard eventually shuffled back to 11th and he duly missed the shootout for pole to Ricciardo by only three hundredths.
The two-time left himself at risk when he climbed to only ninth after his last flying attempt.
Lance Stroll was came…