This was a dramatic qualifying session between the championship contenders as Lewis Hamilton scored a vital pole position while Max Verstappen was on an epic, flying lap but made a mistake and crashed in the final corner.
Valtteri Bottas was second and this result gives Mercedes a front row lock-out ahead of their rival.
Red Bull sent Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez out several minutes later into Q3 and the former slotted in ahead of the Mercedes drivers with a one minute, 27.653 seconds on his first flying attempt in the final segment, after which he decried he needed “a tow” despite being 0.382 seconds ahead of Hamilton, who’s second attempt had looked ragged.
After a trip to the pits to alter his front wing settings, Hamilton put in a third and final flier that put him back to first place on a one minute, 27.511 seconds, albeit without the fastest time in the first sector.
Bottas followed his teammate in completing a third run, having taken his second attempt later than Hamilton’s, with Verstappen therefore the last of the three to complete a final lap – his second flier of Q3.
Verstappen appeared to be right on the limit all the way around the lap, nearly clipping the wall as he exited Turn 2 and rocketing to purple sectors in the opening tour thirds of the lap.
That put him 0.244 seconds in front of Hamilton’s time at that stage, but as he braked for the left-hand hairpin at the final corner his braking went wrong.
He locked up and when he picked up the throttle early in an attempt to recover the time he slid way and crashed into the wall on the outside, stopping near the inside wall on the approach to the pitlane.
This ended his qualifying challenge and it was a disappointment as without this mistake, this would have been the lap of the season as Verstappen was pushing way over the limit. Despite this, the championship leader is still third on the grid.
Charles Leclerc took fourth after his heavy crash in FP2, finishing ahead of Perez and Pierre Gasly.
Lando Norris finished seventh with Yuki Tsunoda, Esteban Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi rounding out the top ten.
All the top ten runners bar Norris will start Sunday’s race on the medium compound after getting through the middle segment on that rubber.
Hamilton topped Q2, where Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen were the highest place fallers – the latter also clipping Bottas as he went around the Mercedes driver out of the final corner as they returned to the pits in an incident the stewards decided did not need investigating.
Fernando Alonso’s late personal best lap could not save the Alpine driver from elimination in P14 ahead of George Russell and Carlos Sainz.
Sainz had a wild opening two segments to qualifying, appearing to get impeded by Gasly at Turn 3 in Q1 – an incident that is being investigated now the session has ended – and then half-spinning at the exit of the fast Turn 10 90-degree right late in the first sector mid-way through Q2.
Sainz said he “saved” the incident, but his right-side rear wing endplate brushed the wall as he shot sideways and was sitting at an odd angle for the rest of the session, where the Ferrari driver had a hard time controlling his Ferrari and ended up P15.
In Q1, which was topped by Perez, Nicholas Latifi and Sebastian Vettel set personal bests right at the end but were eliminated in P16 and P17, with Lance Stroll abandoning his final flier as he was not set to improve.
Stroll therefore took P18 ahead of Mick Schumacher, who did complete a personal best right at the end of the segment but could climb no higher than P19, with Nikita Mazepin finishing last.
So a thrilling qualifying session and the speed around this Jeddah street circuit was insane. Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton in scoring an important pole position as the championship is reaching its climax. As for Max Verstappen, his final Q3 lap was looking special but pushed too hard and P3 is the end result. Can he fight back in the race? Bring on Sunday.
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:27.511
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:27.622
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:27.653
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:28.054
5 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:28.123
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:28.125
7 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:28.180
8 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:28.442
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:28.647
10 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:28.754
11 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:28.668
12 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:28.885
13 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:28.920
14 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:29.054
15 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:53.652
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:29.177
17 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:29.198
18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:29.368
19 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:29.464
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:30.473