Max Verstappen continues perfect start as he cruises to pole in Saudi Arabia

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Max Verstappen continues perfect start as he cruises to pole in Saudi Arabia

Updated
Verstappen looks on course for yet another win
Verstappen looks on course for yet another winReuters
Red Bull's triple world champion Max Verstappen (26) continued his perfect start to the Formula One season with pole position at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Friday and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc (26) again qualified alongside on the front row.

Red Bull's Sergio Perez, last year's winner in Jeddah in one of only three races that Verstappen did not claim, qualified third for Saturday's race which has been brought forward a day to accommodate Ramadan.

The pole was another first for Verstappen, winner in Jeddah in 2022, who has never previously started from the top slot at the Corniche circuit.

"That was a very lovely qualifying. The car was on rails," the Dutchman, who won from pole in Bahrain with the fastest lap and leading from start to finish, said over the team radio.

"Today I felt very comfortable in the car. Throughout qualifying, it was pretty crazy how fast you go around here," he said later.

Saturday will be the fourth successive race that Verstappen and Leclerc have lined up alongside on the front row.

"Overall, Max had a tremendous lap and that wasn't possible for me today but being on the front row was achievable," said Perez. "Anyway, we are still in the fight for tomorrow. It's a long race and anything can really happen."

BEARMAN TO DEBUT IN 11TH

Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso qualified fourth with Oscar Piastri fifth for McLaren and teammate Lando Norris sixth.

George Russell and Lewis Hamilton will start seventh and eighth for Mercedes with Yuki Tsunoda ninth for RB and Lance Stroll completing the top 10 for Aston Martin.

British 18-year-old Oliver Bearman will make his race debut in 11th place for Ferrari after being drafted in as a late replacement for Carlos Sainz, who developed appendicitis and had surgery on Friday.

Bearman, with his father David watching from the Ferrari garage, brushed the wall but came close to knocking Hamilton out in the second phase with the seven-time world champion squeaking through in 10th place.

"The racer in me knows that the car was quick enough to be in Q3, so a little bit disappointed with that," the reserve driver, who heard he was driving with only a couple of hours notice, told Sky Sports.

"But I know that when I look back in a couple of days I'll be quite proud of what I've managed to do today."

Leclerc hailed the performance, with Bearman the youngest ever Ferrari rookie and also the youngest British Formula One driver since the championship started in 1950.

"He has done an incredible job," said the Monegasque, who went from fourth to second with his final effort.

"Not having done FP1 (first practice), FP2, is quite a big disadvantage. He got into a car that he didn't know, on such a challenging track like it is in Jeddah, and straight away in FP3 he was on it.

"It was good to see and I'm sure that it's a very, very special weekend for him. I remember my first race in Formula One and I wasn't in Ferrari and I had some months to prepare so I cannot imagine how special it is for him."

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