2022 Saudi Arabia Grand Prix - Saturday
THE ROAD TO POLE
- Red Bull’s Sergio Perez claimed the first pole of his Formula 1 career on the ultra-rapid Jeddah street circuit, using the P Zero Red soft C4 tyres from start to finish of qualifying, along with most of the rest of the field. He used four sets of softs to go through qualifying, which was interrupted by red flags in both Q1 and Q2, with the second incident (involving Haas driver Mick Schumacher) causing a lengthy stoppage of around an hour.
- The qualifying session got away under the lights at 8pm local time and eventually finished two hours later, with ambient temperatures of 25 degrees centigrade and 30 degrees on track at the start, dropping by few degrees at the finish. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc went quickest in the FP3 session that took place three hours earlier in track temperatures that were around 12 degrees warmer, with all the drivers focussing on the soft in preparation for qualifying, and to save some medium and hard sets for the race.
- The track evolution seen yesterday continued throughout the day, and the gusting winds also persisted. The Q1 session, during which only Mercedes used the P Zero Yellow medium tyres (for their first runs) was interrupted by a red flag, with the softs used from then on by all the drivers – with the exception again being George Russell and Mercedes on the medium in Q2 before the second red flag.
- The track evolution seen yesterday continued throughout the day, and the gusting winds also persisted. Mercedes was the only team to use the medium during qualifying, with both cars running it at the start of Q1 and George Russell running it also at the start of Q2.
- Perez received his first ever Pole Position Award from celebrated chef Gordon Ramsay, a well-known Formula 1 and car fan, who has fronted several shows on cooking and restaurants. Ramsay was one of the first celebrity chefs to open restaurants in the Middle East, mainly in hotels, but has his roots in Scotland, where he trained to be a professional footballer before being injured. Perez now becomes the very first Mexican driver to claim a pole position in Formula 1.
On paper a one-stop strategy should be fastest for the 50-lap race tomorrow, focussing on the hard and the medium compounds, with the top 10 qualifiers no longer tied to their fastest Q2 tyres to start on. But a lot will depend on degradation levels. If they are high, then a two-stopper is also a good option, being almost as quick as a one-stopper.
In this case the medium looks like the preferred tyre to begin the grand prix, followed by a central stint on the hard and a final run on the medium. But there is also the possibility to use all three compounds, maybe keeping the soft for the final stint.
As seen in qualifying and the Formula 2 sessions, there’s a high probability of red flags, safety cars and other delays, which can completely disrupt the strategy. So while there is a theoretically optimal strategy calculation to work from, in reality the teams will have to just think on their feet and adapt to the race circumstances, which can change very quickly.
“Pole was just seven-tenths off last year’s best time here in Jeddah, which is a great achievement in only the second race for these brand new cars. The teams focused on the soft compound from free practice this morning in preparation for using it in qualifying this evening. This also means that the majority of drivers have kept two sets of medium and one set of hard, which probably indicates that they will prefer to use these two compounds. But all the runs today, both in free practice and qualifying, were relatively short, so it's hard to know exactly how the levels of graining have evolved. As a result, the strategy is open tomorrow between a one-stopper and a two-stopper, depending on the actual levels of degradation experienced during the race, which of course depends on a number of different factors. Our best wishes to Mick Schumacher for a speedy recovery after the accident he sustained during qualifying: it’s good to see that the new generation of cars are fast as well as safe.”
Carlin's Liam Lawson won the Formula 2 Sprint Race which was held in the heat of the afternoon with 46 degrees centigrade of asphalt temperature and 27 degrees ambient. He used the P Zero Yellow medium tyre like nearly all the drivers, apart from four who opted for the P Zero Red soft tyre: ART Grand Prix team mates Frederik Vesti and Theo Pourchaire, Campos Racing’s Oli Caldwell, and Jake Hughes (Van Amersfoort Racing), who started the race from second on the grid. After the second of two early safety car periods, Hughes used the extra grip of the soft to recover from a poor start and take the lead. But Lawson capitalised on the longevity of the medium to overtake Hughes on lap 17 of 20 while Juri Vips, also on medium tyres for Hitech GP, was then able to snatch second from Hughes at the finish. The safety cars affected the race, reducing it to a five-lap final sprint that was not so representative to properly understand tyre performance.