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JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 08: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing is presented with the Pirelli Pole Position Award by Gianluigi Buffon in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 08, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Verstappen: I didn’t crash in the final corner this time

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 08: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing is presented with the Pirelli Pole Position Award by Gianluigi Buffon in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 08, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Max Verstappen claimed yet another pole position after a commanding Qualifying performance in Jeddah on Friday, his first at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and his 34th P1 start in Formula 1.

The defending and triple F1 World Champion eased to the top of the timing screens in the final Qualifying session under the lights of the high-speed Jeddah Corniche Circuit, beating Charles Leclerc’s P2 time by over three tenths of a second.

Verstappen has got off to a flying start in the 2024 Formula 1 World Championship, winning from pole at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix in his bid to win a fourth consecutive Drivers’ crown.

Luckily for the Dutchman, Red Bull Racing have provided him with a very quick RB20 which is beginning to prove to be as dominant as last year’s record-breaking RB19.

Despite all the distractions and controversies surrounding his team, Verstappen appears to be solely focussed on continuing his fine form and staying one step ahead of his rivals.

A very good day

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 08: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 on track during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 08, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Reflecting on his exemplary performance, the 26-year-old was full of praise for his team and the faultless car they had built for him. He said: “I enjoyed the day a lot. The car was really nice to drive and it was a good improvement from yesterday.

“We improved the car a little bit overnight and came out with a great set up which allowed me to attack the high speed corners and improve the one lap performance.

“Around this track, it really depends on your confidence level and how much you can go to your limit and today I felt very comfortable with the car.”

Speaking to Sky Sports F1, the Dutch driver cheekily alluded to a potential pole lap back in 2021, which ended in tragedy when he crashed at the final corner. This time he held it together to end up top of the pile.

He added: “In my first lap in Q3, I felt pretty happy with the lap. It felt almost a bit like the failed 2021 lap, except I made the last corner!”

Red Bull not only have the fastest car over a single lap, but also appear to have the quickest race pace out of the ten teams. Verstappen thus expects to retain P1 and win the 50-lap race on Saturday.

He stated: “I am proud of today and am looking forward to the race tomorrow.

“As a Team we are happy with our car and the race pace and we really found our stride today. It has been a great job from the whole Team.”

Perez: Max had a tremendous lap

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 08: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 08, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Perez, secured third position in Qualifying. He was frustrated at not meeting his own objectives of locking out the front row for Red Bull.

The Mexican driver said: “It would have been nice to have locked out the front row but I think we are in a good position to fight tomorrow.

“I felt like we took a back from practice, we had a positive Thursday but qualifying was not the same case unfortunately.

“The whole day hasn’t been as good as yesterday, I didn’t get the best out of the tyre preparation, in combination with the balance. So, we have to understand and review why that was but what we did to the car should hopefully mean we are stronger in the race.”

But Perez is optimistic about his chances for the race. With its long straights and challenging layout tending to catch drivers out, the 34-year-old is hoping to compete more closely with teammate Verstappen during the Grand Prix.

He continued: “It’s important to get past Charles as soon as possible and be in the mix, especially with the DRS zones I think it is going to be important to make progress early.

“I believe we have stronger race pace than Ferrari but degradation can kick in and change things very quickly. It is always a challenge here but you can overtake and race and there is a long way ahead of us.”

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will take place under the lights at 20:00 local time (17:00 GMT) on Saturday March 9th.