Max Verstappen hits qualifying issue, finishes 15th

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — Max Verstappen will start from 15th on the grid at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after his Red Bull’s driveshaft broke in the second part of qualifying.

The reigning champion was the clear favorite for pole position, having finished 0.6s ahead of his nearest rival in final practice and doubling that lead in the first qualifying session.

However, the problem encountered on his first attempt in Q2 meant he was unable to set a flying lap in the second session and was classified 15th.

“The car isn’t accelerating,” Verstappen said over the team radio shortly after the problem arose.

Verstappen returned the car to the pits, but it was immediately apparent that he could not continue.

Verstappen and Red Bull later confirmed it was a driveshaft problem.

“The driveshaft just broke in turn 10, that’s a real shame,” said Verstappen after qualifying. “And also something I don’t really understand because we’ve never had any problems with it this year so far. But it happened and we will analyze everything and try to understand how it happened.”

The disappointment follows a dominant win by Verstappen in the season opener in Bahrain that set him up as the man to beat en route to Saudi Arabia.

Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez capitalized on Red Bull’s potential by qualifying on pole.

Fernando Alonso continued the Aston Martin feel-good story by securing a front row spot alongside Perez. Alonso finished on the podium behind the Red Bulls at the Bahrain Grand Prix and will be confident of another strong result on Sunday night.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc had beaten Alonso to second in qualifying but will drop 10 places as punishment for the team taking on additional engine components earlier this week, meaning he will join Verstappen in the second half of the grid .

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton will start seventh. Max Verstappen hits qualifying issue, finishes 15th

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