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Perez takes shock pole as Schumacher crashes

NEWS STORY
26/03/2022

A night race... in the desert... seven days apart...

Is it any wonder that there's a certain feeling of déjà vu about the way this weekend is going.

Heading into qualifying it appears to be Ferrari versus Red Bull, with Valtteri Bottas and Kevin Magnussen looking to get in on the action, while AlphaTauri and Alpine are threatening.

Mercedes is around a second off the pace, while McLaren, Aston Martin and Williams are struggling.

Four Ferrari powered cars in the Top 8 along with three Honda/Red Bull powered cars, while not a single Mercedes power unit makes it into the Top Ten.

Having set the pace in all three practice sessions, Leclerc must be favourite for pole, whereas the Red Bull appears to have the long run advantage.

We know from last year's blockbuster that this is a race where it is almost guaranteed that there will be incidents and stoppages, a race where you want to be as clear of the pack as possible... all of which down not augur well for Mercedes unless Hamilton and Russell can really up the ante over the next hour.

We've seen a number of drivers 'touch' the walls this weekend, not least the Ferrari pair, such a mistake this afternoon would be costly.

Ahead of Q1, the air temperature is 24 degrees C, while the track temperature is 26 degrees.

The lights go green and Schumacher leads the way, followed by Magnussen, Zhou, Latifi, Norris and Ricciardo. In no time at all there are 13 drivers on duty, all on softs bar the Mercedes pair.

On-board with Norris reveals the sheer amount of buffering he is suffering as his McLaren porpoises.

Magnussen sets a benchmark 30.425. Norris goes second, ahead of Ricciardo, Russell, Zhou, Stroll and Albon.

As Hamilton goes tenth (32.708), the Ferraris and Bulls head out.

Schumacher makes it a Haas 1-2 as he stops the clock at 30.525.

There's a yellow, a double yellow and then a red as the cameras cut to Latifi who has crashed at Turn 13..

"****, I crashed," he confirms. "The rear just let go there," he adds, clearly winded by the impact.

Replay shows him losing the rear end of the car at the very fast corner that bookends the Jeddah track with Turn 27.

All of which has spoiled it for those drivers on hot lap, most noticeably the Ferrari pair.

Told he is seven-tenths off his teammate's pace in the first sector, Hamilton is clearly shocked.

The session resumes with 11:00 remaining. Bottas leads the way, followed by Zhou, Verstappen and Stroll.

"We need to box, for an issue," Tsunoda is warned. He has yet to post a time.

Verstappen goes quickest in S1, but Leclerc goes quicker. The Dutchman crosses the line at 29.330, ahead of Bottas (30.131).

Perez goes second (30.111), but is demoted when Leclerc posts 29.039 and Sainz 28.855.

Hamilton drops to thirteenth as his teammate improves to fourth (29.680), albeit 0.825s off the pace.

"There is something fuel related, we need to check the car," Tsunoda is told. Isn't that what caused that double-DNF for Red Bull in Bahrain.

Along with Tsunoda and Latifi, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg and Albon comprise the drop zone, with Gasly, Norris and Hamilton - yes, Hamilton hovering.

Norris goes fifth (30.004) but is demoted when Bottas posts a 29.935.

Verstappen splits the Ferraris with a 28.928 as Gasly goes fifth (29.891).

Hamilton fails to improve and remains 16th. His teammate is fourth.

Schumacher improves to 11th with a 30.167.

"Can't seem to improve, man," says Hamilton. "We'll taken another single cool, then try again," he is told.

"Are we at risk," he asks. "Yes, we are at risk," he is told.

On the straights alone he is losing a second to Verstappen.

Bottas consolidates fifth with a 29.683.

As Norris goes 8th, Hamilton posts a PB in S1. Ocon goes 11th, but is demoted by Ricciardo.

It's like St Patrick's Day as the timing screen goes green.

Hamilton goes 15th with a 30.343, but moments later he is demoted when Stroll posts a 30.256.

That is a shock!

"I'm sorry guys," says the seven-time champion.

Quickest is Sainz, ahead of Verstappen, Leclerc, Russell, Bottas, Perez, Magnussen, Gasly, Norris and Zhou.

We lose Hamilton, Albon, Hulkenberg, Latifi and Tsunoda.

Q2 gets underway, and Schumacher is first out, followed by Magnussen, Ocon, Ricciardo, Leclerc and Gasly.

As more drivers head out, all appear to be on softs bar Russell who is on mediums.

It's now thought that Tsunoda suffered a "cooling issue".

Schumacher posts a 29.920, while his teammate can only manage 30.206.

However, a 28.883 sees Leclerc go top.

Norris goes second (29.825), but is demoted when Russell stops the clock at 29.618.

Perez goes second (28.924), while a 2:00.421 sees teammate Verstappen go 12th.

Alonso goes third (29.428) but drops to fourth when Sainz posts a 29.039.

A 28.945 sees Verstappen go third, 0.062s down on Leclerc.

The stewards have noted that Ricciardo appeared to impede Ocon at Turn 7. The Australian is already under investigation for an unsafe release.

Bottas goes sixth with a 29.523.

Red flag! A big, big crash for Schumacher at Turn 12.

As the German remains in his car, the medical car is deployed.

With the clock stopped at 04:58. Zhou, Ricciardo, Magnussen, Stroll and Ocon are in the drop zone.

Due to the severity of the crash there are no replays. In the Haas garage there are understandably worried faces.

Schumacher is talking to the doctor but remains in his car.

With Schumacher removed from the car and taken to the medical centre, as the Haas is lifted on to the back of a flat-bed truck it breaks in half.

The reason for the long delay is due to the amount of oil deposited on the track. It is now 21:17 local time, under normal circumstances the session would be over by now.

Haas has confirmed that Schumacher "appears physically fine", and has spoken to his Mother. He will now go to hospital for precautionary scans.

"He has no injuries that you can see," says Guenther Steiner, "but they want to do some scans to make sure there was no impact from the forces.

"The impact broke up the digital so we heard nothing but we got word he was conscious.

"The car is completely broken," he adds. "We need to see the scans, see how he is doing and then see what we do tomorrow. We need to see what position we are in with spare parts, you need to build a completely new car. It shows how safe the cars are, with the increased chassis stiffness for this year."

At which point the camera cuts to Schumacher who is on a stretcher and about to be flown to hospital. He looks bright as a button, smiling, talking and gesticulating.

Replays suggest driver error - indeed Steiner agrees - the youngster taking too much kerb and subsequently losing the rear and then hitting the wall at high-speed.

The session will resume at 21:40, the stoppage having lasted almost an hour.

The drivers are warned that the section where the crash occurred is slippery, the surface having been blasted in order to remove the oil.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Jeddah, here.

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