Hamilton takes dramatic pole in Saudi Arabia as Verstappen crashes on final corner

Lewis Hamilton took a dramatic and perhaps decisive pole position for the inaugural Saudi Arabia Grand Prix after title rival Max Verstappen lost control of his Red Bull in trying to better his time on the final corner.

With only eight points separating the warring duo in one of the most intense of F1 championship battles for many a year, Hamilton was on the pace from the outset in an effort to claw back the momentum.

It looked as if the Englishman had the job done, a 1m27.511s putting him on pole position on his final flying lap. Yet still Verstappen wasn’t done, a seemingly outlandish effort on the very ragged edge being very close to perfection.

But in his attempt to snatch an unlikely pole against his Mercedes rival, the Red Bull driver pushed the envelope too far, a snap oversteer sending him onto the barrier on the final corner and a resultant third on the grid.

“What a tough track this is, incredibly technical and it’s amazing what they’ve built here track wise, the speed and the pace around here is phenomenal,” commented Hamilton after securing an incredible 103rd pole position of his career.

“For us to get a 1-2, really proud of the guys. The men and women in our team have been working so hard, so this is a great result. We have worked so hard through simulation, through set-up, collaboration has been just epic with Valtteri. He’s been the best teammate there’s ever been in the sport for sure.”

Should Hamilton win on Sunday and again in the season ending race in Abu Dhabi, the championship is his yet again. Yet it’s still Verstappen who is in the box seat with his eight point margin, and the title is still his to lose.

“I didn’t really understand what happened, but I locked up and I still tried to keep the car on the track, try to finish the lap but clipped the rear,” explained Verstappen. “P3 is a bit disappointing knowing the lap I was on but nevertheless it shows that the car is quick, and let’s see what we can do in the race.”

Lining up behind Verstappen on the grid is the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, but the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez could still have a key role to play if he makes inroads off the lights. The Mexican lines up ahead of Pierre Gasly, Lando Norris and Yuki Tsunoda as Esteban Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi round out the top ten.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.