Verstappen knocked out of Saudi Arabia qualifying with mechanical issue

By Sports Desk March 18, 2023

Max Verstappen's early dominance of the Formula One season was interrupted as he was knocked out of qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix with a mechanical issue.

The reigning world champion was the class of the field two weeks ago in Bahrain, with Red Bull enjoying a significant advantage in pace over their rivals.

But Verstappen will need to work his way through the field at the tight street circuit in Jeddah if he is to prevail at this race for the second successive year.

The Dutchman limped to the pits in the second qualifying session with what appeared to be a driveshaft issue.

His mechanics did not have the requisite time to fix the problem and get him back out for a flying lap, meaning Verstappen will start 15th, unless Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who has a 10-place grid penalty, qualifies no higher than fifth.

There had been no prior indication of a problem in that area of the car, according to Verstappen, who accepts it will now be difficult for him to replicate his 2022 victory.

"No, it's the first time I heard about it [the problem] as well," he said. "Coming out of turn 10 it happened. It will be a bit more tricky to get to the front. Anything is possible at this track, it's going to be tough."

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    Speaking after Sunday's victory, he said: "No words can explain that. It's such a difficult race. I think the fact twice I've been starting on pole position, and we couldn't quite make it makes it even better in a way.

    "It means a lot, obviously. It's the race which made me dream of becoming a Formula 1 driver one day.

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    "My dad has given everything for me to be here, and it was a dream of ours for me to race here and win here, so it's unbelievable.

    "A huge thank you, the parade laps were special and seeing so many of my friends and people I know in the balcony, it was just very special. This one means a lot."

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    His Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz was third, though he faces an investigation for impeding Williams' Alex Albon in the first session, ahead of Lando Norris and George Russell.

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