Max Verstappen rued qualifying in Saudi Arabia
Max Verstappen rued qualifying in Saudi Arabia

Max Verstappen felt "terrible" after hitting the wall on his final flying lap in qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, handing title rival Lewis Hamilton pole position. 

Championship leader Verstappen went fastest in the first two sectors but hit the barriers on the last corner and had to stop, meaning he will start Sunday's race from third behind Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas. 

The Dutchman will hope the crash did not result in any damage to his gearbox, having taken a new one ahead of the grand prix in Jeddah. A replacement would result in a five-place grid penalty that could have huge ramifications on his title challenge. 

Asked about his crash, Verstappen said: "It's of course terrible. It was a good qualifying. I knew the pace was there and it showed in the last lap. 

"I don't really understand what happened but I locked up and I still tried to keep the car and finish the lap but clipped the rear and had to stop. 

"P3 today is a bit disappointing knowing what lap I was on, but it shows the car is quick and let's see what we can do in the race. 

"I don't know [if the gearbox was damaged]. I immediately stopped so let's see." 

Hamilton has won the past two races to close the gap to Verstappen in the drivers' standings to eight points and evaded a serious punishment for impeding Nikita Mazepin and failing to comply with yellow flags during FP3 earlier on Saturday. 

The seven-time defending champion paid tribute to the efforts of Bottas in the build-up to qualifying and expects Verstappen's Red Bull to be a significant factor on Sunday. 

"We were quick through practice but particularly FP3 and qualifying were just lacking pace, struggling with the tyres, so for us to get a one-two I'm really proud of Valtteri and the men and women in our team who have been working so hard. It's a great result," said Hamilton. 

"This was the goal. We worked so hard through simulation, set-up. Collaboration has been epic with Valtteri, he's the best team-mate there has even been in this sport, for sure. We've worked together to get the car where it needs to be. 

"Those guys [Red Bull] were just so fast. That Bull round this track is just something else, but given where we are and what we've managed to pull out I'm happy. 

"We always get closer in race pace. I anticipate there'll be a close battle on Sunday, but Valtteri and I will be on it." 

Bottas will have getting the win in the back of his mind but his priority will be helping Mercedes clinch the constructors' championship and Hamilton maximise his title chances. 

"Of course I want to get a race win, but first things first we need to concentrate on the team championship and Lewis is still fighting for the title, I'm not," said Bottas.

"I'll do my best with whatever I can and at the same time try to enjoy it." 

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