After struggling during his debut Formula 1 outing in Bahrain, Oscar Piastri will start the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix from well inside the top 10.
Piastri put on a sensational performance to make his first Q3 appearance, where he qualified his McLaren ninth.
The 10-place grid penalty to the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc will mean Piastri starts Monday morning’s (AEDT) race from eighth. Sergio Perez will start from pole.
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Jeddah is a circuit Piastri has performed well at in the past – he took pole and won there in 2021 in his championship-winning F2 campaign.
That aside, he said it was a surprise to find himself at the pointy end of the grid after the Bahrain struggles.
“I think also I’m just getting more confidence with the car as well and just getting back up to speed around Jeddah, so all felt good, put in some good laps,” he said.
“I think this result probably wasn’t that expected to be completely honest, but we’ll try our best, our race pace we thought was actually better than our quali pace yesterday, we’ll see if that’s true tomorrow, but yeah, we’ll try our best.
“Obviously our straight-line speed is not exactly our strength, so we’ll see how that goes, but confident to try and fight for the points.”
On the other side of the garage though, Lando Norris failed to make it out of Q1 after clipping the inside wall at the final corner on a hot lap.
The impact was enough to damage the front-left suspension, and the team didn’t have enough time to repair the damage for a second push lap at the end of the session.
It’s the first time in 15 races Norris has been out-qualified by a teammate.
Former world champion Damon Hill said Piastri did a “brilliant” job.
Mechanical problems in Q2 stopped Max Verstappen from setting a time, meaning he will start 15th.
Asked if he would fight the reigning champion as he inevitably makes his way though the field, Piastri said he would be focusing on his own race.
“I don’t think there’s much point trying to take them on when they’re that much quicker,” he said.
“So you know for us, just try and minimise the time loss and run our own race.
“We’re not going to be fighting for the win tomorrow, we will be fighting to get a couple of points I think if we can, so yeah, just try to do our own race and minimise our time loss for when he inevitably comes through.”
Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez will start from pole. Leclerc was second, but will line up 12th once he serves his grid penalty. The Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso was elevated to the front row.
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