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F1 starting grid: Sergio Pérez claims first pole at Saudi Arabian Grand Prix heading into Sunday’s race

After 215 races Sergio Pérez earns his first career pole.

F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia - Qualifying Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Round 1 of the 2022 Formula 1 season saw Ferrari take the checkered flag and the headlines from the Bahrain International Circuit. Late engine issues for both of the Red Bull cars left a huge gap in the standings as the attention now turns to Jeddah. F1 traveled just under 900 miles southwest across the desert to the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as we get our second look at these next-generation cars. Dubbed the “fastest street circuit in the world”, the track features tight walls and limited visibility around several turns.

There were fireworks throughout qualifying on Saturday as Lewis Hamilton was eliminated in Q1, marking the first time that has happened to him since Brazil in 2017. Soon after there was a massive wreck by Mick Schumacher, son of the 7-time World Champ Michael Schumacher, which brought out a nearly one-hour delay as he was flown to the hospital and the track repaired. Q3 brought another Ferrari vs. Red Bull showdown with Sergio Pérez grabbing his first career pole in the closing seconds of qualifying.

Qualifying Results

Saturday PM update: Mick Schumacher will not race on Sunday following his Saturday accident, and Daniel Ricciardo received a three-spot penalty impeding another driver. Ricciardo drops to P14 while Guanyu Zhou and Lance Stroll move up to P12 and P13, respectively. Here is the complete starting grid.

2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix starting grid

Pos Driver Car #
Pos Driver Car #
1 Sergio Pérez 11
2 Charles Leclerc 16
3 Carlos Sainz Jr. 55
4 Max Verstappen 33
5 Esteban Ocon 31
6 George Russell 63
7 Fernando Alonso 14
8 Valtteri Bottas 77
9 Pierre Gasly 10
10 Kevin Magnussen 20
11 Lando Norris 4
12 Guanyu Zhou 24
13 Lance Stroll 18
14 Daniel Ricciardo 3
15 Lewis Hamilton 44
16 Alexander Albon 23
17 Nico Hulkenberg 27
18 Nicholas Latifi 6
19 Yuki Tsunoda 22

Q1 was quickly brought to a halt when Nicolas Latifi spun out, bringing out a red flag. Latifi, who will start at the back of the grid for the second week in a row. But the biggest news of Q1 was the stunning elimination of seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton by less than a tenth of a second. Despite his teammate George Russell putting up a comfortable time to advance, Hamilton could not find the speed to make it out of the five slowest drivers in Q1. Eliminated - Lewis Hamilton, Alex Albon, Nico Hulkenberg, Nicholas Latifi (crash) & Yuki Tsunoda (issue, no time set).

Q2 saw a massive wreck by Mick Schumacher that brought a lengthy red-flag stoppage as he was airlifted to the local hospital and repairs were made to the barriers. Before resuming Haas confirmed that Schumacher was awake and talking. Given the damage to his car and precaution for Mick, it is unlikely Haas will field two cars in the Grand Prix Sunday. Back on the track, both McLarens failed to progress, including Daniel Ricciardo who may be subject to a post-qualifying penalty as a result of obstructing the racing line of Esteban Ocon. Eliminated - Lando Norris, Daniel Ricciardo, Guanyu Zhou, Mick Schumacher (crash), & Lance Stroll.

Q3 was incident-free as the drivers tried to quickly get their tires warmed up to get in two flying laps during the session. After the first pass, Carlos Sainz topped the charts as he looked for the first pole of his career. Charles Leclerc put in a massive lap clearly Sainz by nearly .2 and appeared set for a second straight pole until Sergio Pérez stole the show. By just 0.025 of a second Pérez grabbed his first pole position and out-qualified his teammate Max Verstappen. Pérez set a new F1 record in becoming the driver who had to wait for the longest to earn his first pole, 215 races. Ferrari and Red Bull locked out the first two rows, with George Russell coming in 6th between the two Alpine cars.

Round 1 Recap & Key Questions for Round 2

The Bahrain Grand Prix kicked off the season with Ferrari perfection. It was the team’s first 1-2 finish since Singapore in 2019 and puts both the drivers and the team in pole position for the championships. Taking a step up the team running order was Ferrari’s sister team Alfa Romeo with both drivers finishing in the top ten (Valterri Bottas & Guanyu Zhou), as well as the American F1 team Haas Racing with Kevin Magnussen in P5.

On the other end of the spectrum, Red Bull Racing saw both of their drivers retire early due to engine issues giving a sizable lead in both the Drivers and Constructors’ Championships. Their primary foe last year, Mercedes, was clearly lacking the pace and aero package to compete with Ferrari at the start of the year.

Here are a few questions to consider heading into Sunday’s race:

  1. Will the McLarens find answers to their multitude of issues from Round 1?
  2. How will the modifications to the track impact the site lines and passing?
  3. Can Haas and Alfa Romeo repeat their round one successes?
  4. Has Red Bull resolved their engine issues?

Last Season’s Debut Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

2021 saw the introduction of the Jeddah circuit as it served as the penultimate race last season. The 3.8-mile circuit featured 27 turns, many with obstructed views. Being a city circuit the walls produced a tight track that left little room for error. Throughout the debut weekend, there were high-speed crashes and drivers losing control, bringing out multiple red flag stoppages.

The Hamilton v. Verstappen rivalry reached its boiling point in Saudi Arabia last season. Max was set to put together an all-time qualifying lap before he struck the wall coming out of the final turn, putting Hamilton on the pole. An early red-flag incident for Mick Schumacher’s crash, saw Verstappen take the lead and a set of fresh tires.

Later in the race, Max overtook Lewis outside of the track limits and was instructed to give the lead back to Hamilton. Whether there was a delay in communication between the teams and the FIA or if Verstappen was ‘brake-testing’ Hamilton, the two collided. Sparks flew on and off the great and left us with this all-time great scene from Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.

That battle would quickly be followed by a big crash involving Charles Leclerc, George Russell, Sergio Pérez & Nikita Mazepin. After that incident was sorted, Hamilton would go on to pull away from the win in Jeddah, tying the Drivers Championship with one race to go. Verstappen finished second, with Valterri Bottas grabbing third place from Alpine’s Esteban Ocon as they crossed the line.

How to Watch the Grand Prix

Pre-race coverage begins Sunday (3/27) at 11:30 am ET on ESPN and ESPN Deportes. A live stream will be available at WatchESPN. The lights go out and the race gets underway at approximately 12:55 pm ET.