The Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team had luck on their side in qualifying for Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after Lewis Hamilton took pole position despite Max Verstappen being extremely quick for Red Bull, the Dutch driver was on course to grab pole however, he crashed coming out of the final corner of the Jeddah circuit meaning that he will start the race from third place.
Hamilton set a fastest time of 01:27.511s and speaking following the action he said:
This place is one of the hardest tracks to get right, I was on the limit the whole way round and the car was on a knife-edge. Trying to pull out the maximum with the tyres was so tough. It’s difficult to understand why – it’s so warm here but we were having trouble getting temperature in the front and rears at the same time to have grip at the start of the lap. I’m very proud and thankful that we were able to put it on the front row for tomorrow, it’s going to be an intense race. It’s always important to have Valtteri beside me, particularly in this part of the year, he’s been driving exceptionally well and hopefully tomorrow we can do a good job together.
Valtteri Bottas who starts the race from second place commented saying:
You get such an adrenaline rush from this track! Tomorrow’s going to be hard, this place is so intense but at least we’re starting in the best places. Given how tricky qualifying was today, it’s a great result. Starting on the left side tomorrow is definitely going to be dusty but I’ll be trying hard to keep position. This is one of the toughest tracks of the year, both mentally and physically, which is exciting because come tomorrow, anything can happen.
Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team Principal, CEO and team co-owner Toto Wolff commented saying:
What a crazy session! We expected to be stronger today, we have a quick car and it looked like those quick corners would suit us, but like so many times this season, you’re constantly surprised. Austin should have been our track and wasn’t, and then suddenly in Brazil we were performing really well, so you just never know. It was important today that we kept attacking and attacking, and we’ve ended up with a front row lockout which is a big advantage for tomorrow.
There is a brutal energy running through the whole Team. We just look forward and keep pushing, and pushing, and when you go in the debrief room or in the garage, you don’t need to talk because you can feel the energy and how buzzed everyone is.
Chief engineer, Andrew Shovlin commented saying:
It’s been a very busy day. The final practice session wasn’t great for us, we were doing OK on the Hard tyre but not finding great grip on the Soft. We found an issue with Valtteri’s power unit just before the end of the session so had to swap that out for another in his pool just before qualifying; it was a lot of work but everyone in the garage did a great job to get the car ready in time.
Our struggles didn’t disappear going into qualifying, we were able to do reasonable lap times but every time Max went out he’d beat the time we just set, and his final run showed clearly that they have the upper hand here on a single lap. Had he completed the lap, there’s no way we could have matched it so whilst we’re pleased to have the front row, it doesn’t feel like we’ve earnt it. It’s hard to know what to expect tomorrow; we were good on the long run on Friday but Red Bull seem to have found a chunk of pace overnight and if that translates into the long run, it’s bound to be close