F1: Saudi Arabian GP – live updates

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Key events

On Verstappen’s chance of winninglast year at Spa he went from 14th on the grid to winning, and the Belgian GP is the only track longer than Jeddah, so file under: it’s possible, bordering on the inevitable.

It’s also worth mentioning that F1 traveling to Saudi Arabia, just as with the kingdom’s interests in soccer, carries with it all the asterisks of sportswashing, human rights and geopolitical soft power.

Mustafa al-Khayyat was one of the 81 men. On Thursday his brother Yasser al-Khayyat wrote to the F1 chief executive, Stefano Domenicali, asserting that he had been executed for nothing more than taking part in pro-democracy protests and argued that F1’s presence in the Kingdom had emboldened the authorities to act brutally and without compunction.

“They use the spectacle of this sporting championship to distract from the murder of my brother and hundreds of others,” he wrote. “The grand prix carrying on as normal, without even mentioning the atrocities that have just been committed on that same soil, legitimizes these heinous crimes.

“Silence is complicity. It is how the regime gets away with its atrocities and suppresses calls for democratic reforms. If you truly want Formula One to be an agent for change, rather than a tool to ‘sportswash’ Saudi abuses, please end Formula One’s silence.”

Alonso, second on the grid, is another plotline to follow. The man just lives to race.

If a Verstappen title is a fait accomplithen Lewis Hamilton’s search for an eighth world title and where that may take him will be a leading timeline of this season.

“If Lewis wants to win another championship he needs to make sure he has the car,” said Wolff. “And if we cannot demonstrate that we are able to give him a car in the next couple of years, then he will need to look everywhere. I don’t think he is doing it at this stage, but I will have no complaints if that happens in a year or two.”

Red Bull could have a vacancy at the end of the year with Sergio Pérez operating on a 12-month deal, but it seems improbable that Hamilton would be paired alongside Verstappen. Ferrari is a possible avenue to explore if Charles Leclerc elects to engineer a move away.

Hamilton at Ferrari has to happen, doesn’t it?

Here’s a recap of Saturday’s rather chaotic qualifying.

Pérez’s time of 1min 28.265sec proved enough to claim only the second pole of his career, having taken the top spot here in 2022. Leclerc did improve to take second and was only a tenth and a half back, showing some of the form Ferrari had hoped to demonstrate in Jeddah. However Leclerc has a 10-place grid penalty for taking his third electronic control unit of the season with only one race under his belt. Alonso continued a very successful opening to the season with third, only four tenths in arrears. Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz was fifth.

For Mercedes’s George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, in fourth and eighth respectively, this was very much what the team had been expecting. Mercedes admitted after Bahrain that they had pursued the wrong design concept and set about taking a new direction. Qualifying at Jeddah, certainly for Russell, was perhaps better than they had anticipated but he was still six-tenths off pole with Hamilton almost a second back, a stark confirmation of how far they have to go.


You wanted excitement from this F1 season, and now you got it, with the news that Sergio Perez is on pole and Max Verstappen is way back in 15th. Fire up the Yello, “The Race” is on. Meanwhile, Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso will line up second because Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc has a 10-place grid penalty for engine usage. So, two of the main protagonists will be in midfield for much of the race. George Russell, in the Merc in third, while Lewis Hamilton grumps back in seventh. Jeddah has been a long, unforgiving track on the cars in its two previous editions, although turns 22 and 23 have been tightened and the walls moved back at several corners, due to safety concerns relating to fast, blind corners. This one is being run at night-time, as well.

Grid positions

  • 1) Sergio Perez (Red Bull)

  • 2) Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)

  • 3) George Russell (Mercedes)

  • 4) Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)

  • 5) Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)

  • 6) Esteban Ocon (Alpine)

  • 7) Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

  • 8) Oscar Piastri (McLaren)

  • 9) Pierre Gasly (Alpine)

  • 10) Nico Hulkenberg (Haas)

  • 11) Zhou Guanyu (Alpha)

  • 12) Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

  • 13) Kevin Magnussen (Haas)

  • 14) Valtteri Bottas (Alfa)

  • 15) Max Verstappen (Red Bull

  • 16) Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha-Tauri)

  • 17) Alex Albon (Williams)

  • 18) Nyck de Vries (Alpha-Tauri)

  • 19) Lando Norris (McLaren)

  • 20) Logan Sargeant (Williams)

Lights out at 5pm GMT. Join me.

F1: Saudi Arabian GP – live updates

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