Formula 1 Racing

Perez clinches pole, Verstappen out with driveshaft issue

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

The Dutchman had reeled off the fastest laptimes in all three practice sessions, and had headed Q1 by half a second over team-mate Sergio Perez as the result of qualifying appeared to be a foregone conclusion.

Verstappen suffered a slide on his first bid to set a competitive lap in Q2 and backed out of it to prepare for another effort but, as he spooled up, lost drive during the middle sector and reported that he could no longer accelerate.

He limped back to the garage, but his egress from the cockpit was immediate when it became clear he would not be able to continue with the session. The team later reported that a mechanical failure of his driveshaft was the culprit.

Given his terrifying advantage, Verstappen’s ignominious end ensured that the battle for pole would largely be open season – although Perez had the whip hand thanks to Red Bull’s overall pace.

It proved to be thus in the opening runs, and Perez galloped to a 1m28.265s to go nearly half a second faster than Charles Leclerc’s best effort as the Monegasque had moved to the top after his first run.

This laid down the gauntlet for the other drivers to pick up, and Alonso was first to challenge – but lost around three tenths in the final sector to slot in behind Perez in the order.

Lance Stroll then set the best first sector of anyone, keeping tabs on Perez through the next part of the circuit, but shed half a second in the final part of the lap to throw away any chances of claiming a surprise pole.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Leclerc was the last serious contender to try and overhaul the Mexican, but was just 0.155s shy by the close of the lap – but it proved to be enough for the Ferrari driver to claim second over Alonso on the timesheets.

However, Leclerc will stare down the barrel of a 10-place grid penalty for the grand prix, having taken new control electronics for the second race of the season outside of his permissible allowance.

Perez’s effort amid the opening runs of the session proved to be more than ample to earn his second ever pole position in F1 – his first having come at last year’s race in Jeddah.

Alonso’s best time was 0.465s shy of Perez and the Spaniard was thus third fastest, ahead of George Russell as the Briton was able to coax a competitive first sector time out of his Mercedes.

Carlos Sainz overcame a Q2 scare, in which he had to try another lap to break into the top 10, to claim the fifth fastest time…

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