F1 LIVE: Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen eye pole in qualifying at Saudi Arabian GP

Max Verstappen will be eyeing another dominant weekend as the F1 paddock rolls into Jeddah for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver led home a comfortable one-two for the world champions at the first race of the season in Bahrain, with Sergio Perez in second.

Fernando Alonso came home third for Aston Martin, who were the surprise package, while the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished fifth and seventh respectively.

Charles Leclerc - who was involved in a thrilling battle with Verstappen in Saudi last year - had to retire in Bahrain, with Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz coming home fourth. This year’s race is the third grand prix held at the lightning quick street circuit in Jeddah. Verstappen was quickest in both practice sessions yesterday, a day when Hamilton parted ways with his long-term performance coach.

Follow qualifying at the Saudi Arabian GP with The Independent - FP3 started at 1:30pm (GMT) before qualifying at 5pm.



14:33 , Kieran Jackson

Wow! So impressive from Red Bull once again!

Max Verstappen quickest in every single practice session this weekend - and he’s six-tenths up on team-mate Sergio Perez in second with a 1:28:485.

Aston Martin are their closest competitors though, with Fernando Alonso third and Lance Stroll in fourth.

5-10: Hamilton, Leclerc, Norris, Piastri, Gasly, Sainz

Hamilton - in fifth - a second down on Verstappen!

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

F1 LIVE: 10:00 left in FP3!

14:21 , Kieran Jackson

It’s the Max Verstappen show once again - he’s nearly five-tenths quicker than team-mate Sergio Perez in second!

Lance Stroll is third for Aston Martin while Lewis Hamilton is fourth; nine-tenths behind the leading Red Bull.

Verstappen forced to apologise to Lando Norris, by the way, for blocking the McLaren on a hot lap. Not the first issue with traffic this weekend... could be problematic come Q1!

As for the Ferraris? Both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz yet to set a time on softs for some reason or another...

F1 LIVE: 30:00 left in FP3!

14:02 , Kieran Jackson

Normal order resumed. Sergio Perez goes fastest on softs with a 1:29:417, while Max Verstappen is a tenth down... but on a HARD tyre! Absolutely rapid from the Dutchman!

It’s an Alpine three-four, with Pierre Gasly in third and Esteban Ocon fourth.

5-10: Russell, Albon, Hamilton, Norris, Leclerc, Sainz

Qualifying simulation laps coming right up though!

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

F1 LIVE: 45:00 left in FP3!

13:48 , Kieran Jackson

It’s a Mercedes one-two early on, with George Russell quickest on softs with 1:30:476, with Lewis Hamilon 0.016 seconds down.

Third is the Alpine of Pierre Gasly, while Max Verstappen is fourth but on HARD tyres - only 0.248 seconds down on Russell!

6-10: Ocon, Magnussen, Bottas, Zhou, Hulkenberg

F1 LIVE: FP3 coming up!

13:28 , Kieran Jackson

We’ve got third practice coming up live from the Jeddah Corniche Circuit!

Can anyone topple Max Verstappen and claim top spot under the beating sun in Saudi?

F1 LIVE: Toto Wolff speaks to the press...

13:22 , Kieran Jackson

Toto Wolff is honest about how Mercedes approached last year’s change in regulations... and persevering with the same philosophy this year.

F1 LIVE: Lewis Hamilton ranks Mercedes’ prospects of win in Saudi Arabia

13:15 , Kieran Jackson

Lewis Hamilton believes three teams – Red Bull, Ferrari and Aston Martin – will have to retire in order for Mercedes to win at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix this weekend.

Mercedes, so dominant in Formula 1 from 2014-2021 with eight Constructors’ Championships, had a season to forget in 2022 as new regulations caught them out and they finished third in the standings.

The Silver Arrows endured a disastrous start in the opening race of 2023 in Bahrain, with Toto Wolff insisting they will have to ditch their unique “zero-pod” philosophy in order to be competitive again. Hamilton finished fifth, while team-mate George Russell came home a lowly seventh.

And Hamilton – who last won an F1 race at the Jeddah track in December 2021, 24 grand prix ago – admitted it was a “shock” when he first drove the W14 car last month, acknowledging that three teams are currently ahead of them.

“Once I drove the car for the first time, you start to do that [re-assess goals] with the challenges you’re facing,” the 38-year-old said.

“It’s a similar situation to last year - it’s a shock when the car isn’t where you want it to be but you have 100% faith in the people you work with. We’re not where we want to be and we need to keep working on it.

“We need the Red Bulls and Ferraris not to finish the race, maybe the Astons too, to be winning [ourselves]. It doesn’t mean we can’t catch them up...”

Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes can only win in Saudi Arabia if top six cars retire

F1 LIVE: What is the race schedule this weekend?

13:09 , Kieran Jackson

(All times GMT)

Saturday 18 March

  • Free Practice 3: 1:30pm

  • Qualifying: 5pm

Sunday 19 March

  • Race: 5pm

How can I watch it online and on TV?

The entire race schedule will be broadcast live on Sky Sports F1 in the UK, with the race on Sunday live on Sky Sports Main Event too. It will be broadcasted on ESPN in the United States.

Highlights will be aired on Channel 4; for qualifying at at 8:50pm (GMT) on Saturday and for the race at 10:15pm on Sunday.

If you’re not a Sky customer you can grab a NOWTV Day Pass here to watch without a subscription.

F1 LIVE: Martin Brundle evaluates Mercedes’ tough start to the F1 season

12:57 , Kieran Jackson

Martin Brundle believes the situation at Mercedes is visibly tense after a disappointing start to the new Formula 1 season in Bahrain.

Having produced a car similar in design to 2022’s troubled challenger – with a unique “zero-pod” approach – Toto Wolff admitted that he is set to ditch this breed of car after seeing the roughly second-a-lap deficit to Red Bull in Sunday’s grand prix.

Lewis Hamilton finished fifth in Bahrain, overtaken late on by Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, and the seven-time world champion later stated that the team “did not listen” to his concerns after he recommended changes following last year’s winless season.

“It seems to me that Mercedes went the wrong way in 2022 and refuse to turn around,” Brundle said in his Sky Sports column.

“Even Lewis and Toto were openly expressing their disappointment at certain points of the weekend, and normally they only sing the praises of the teams at Brackley and Brixworth. It must be tense at the team right now, the quality is there, it just needs direction and oxygen to calm heads.”

‘It must be tense right now’: Brundle evaluates Mercedes’ tough start to the season

F1 LIVE: Verstappen vs Alonso

12:42 , Kieran Jackson

Here’s a fascinating side-by-side of the two fastest laps in FP2 last night!

Who’s your money on this afternoon?

F1 LIVE: Sky add ex-McLaren and Aston Martin strategy guru Bernie Collins to their F1 team

12:31 , Kieran Jackson

Sky Sports have added former McLaren and Aston Martin strategy chief Bernie Collins to their Formula 1 punditry line-up for the 2023 season.

Collins, who was a performance engineer at McLaren and head of race strategy at Aston Martin, will first feature on Sky in the paddock at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix this weekend.

Sky say she will feature at other races throughout the year, as well as at Sky Studios, and is the first addition to the Sky F1 team since Johnny Herbert and Paul di Resta left in the off-season.

“I am really excited to begin this new chapter with the Sky Sports F1 team and want to thank them for the opportunity,” Collins said in a Sky press release. “After many years on the pit wall I’m keen to embrace this new role within F1 from a viewer’s perspective and enhance their experience of racing.”

Collins’ role will “help explain and demystify all things team strategy and engineering for Sky Sports F1 viewers old and new.”

Sky add ex-McLaren and Aston Martin strategy guru Bernie Collins to their F1 team

F1 LIVE: Verstappen arrives in paddock!

12:22 , Kieran Jackson

Double world champion has arrived in Jeddah!

F1 LIVE: Ted Talk! F1 cult hero Kravitz on pit lane secrets and... cheese

12:15 , Kieran Jackson

Exclusive interview by Kieran Jackson

Ted is talking about cheese. For a Formula 1 pit lane reporter functioning in a world of tyre compounds and floor specifications, Ted often finds himself talking about cheese. Usually at pre-season testing. A bizarre synonymity, some might say, and readers not drooling in the daily churn of digital F1 content may be a little lost already. Don’t worry, you’re forgiven.

Sky Sports’ ever-present pit lane reporter Ted Kravitz – of BBC and ITV before that – has a style of presenting so inimitable that the man himself has formed a devoted following of his own, hate it as he might. Ahead of his 22nd year of pit lane reporting and 27th working in the sport he loves, Ted’s methodology of fan interaction is constantly evolving. This year, forget TikTok: it’s all about TedTok. So, back to the cheese.

“TedTok was just too good for somebody to steal,” the 48-year-old tells The Independent, in the unusually formal setting for him of an office at Sky Studios. “So I’m just going to put nonsense about doing stuff with cheese on there.

“I put up a video of me and Anthony [Davidson] choosing the perfect cheese in Bahrain to carve away the venturi tunnels of the car to the floor edge… it’s harder than you think.

“You could have got a block of cheddar, but then it would’ve just crumbled away and the whole shoot would’ve been a disaster. This was 20 minutes and Anthony was quite right in choosing the right type of cheese… gouda!”

Ted Talk! F1 cult hero Kravitz on pit lane secrets and... cheese

F1 LIVE: Can Mercedes even build a ‘Plan B’ car in time to salvage season?

12:04 , Kieran Jackson

Comment by Kieran Jackson

Never mind waiting for the first race of the Formula 1 season. A weekend of testing, three practice sessions and qualifying in Bahrain has told Toto Wolff everything he needed to know.

No sandbagging. No magic fix. No hiding. Mere hours into the 2023 campaign the Mercedes boss – once the unflappable executive titan of the sport – cut a despondent figure speaking to the press in the late hours on Saturday. Acknowledging that his team’s persistence, bordering on stubbornness, had been a mistake, he revealed a change of tack is already in the pipeline.

Speaking after George Russell and Lewis Hamilton qualified sixth and seventh respectively, the Austrian stated: “I don’t think that this package is going to be competitive eventually.

“We gave it our best go over the winter and now we all just need to regroup, sit down with the engineers, be totally non-dogmatic and ask what is the development direction we want to pursue in order to be able to win races.”

As sporting U-turns go, this is pretty seismic. Race weekend No 1 of 23: rip it up and start over.

Can Mercedes even build a ‘Plan B’ car in time to salvage season?

F1 LIVE: Formula 1 accused of ‘enabling violence and bloodshed’ by racing in Saudi Arabia

11:59 , Kieran Jackson

Formula 1 is once again coming under increased scrutiny for staging races in countries with poor human rights records after the brother of a man executed in Saudi Arabia last year insisted the sport’s silence “enables violence and bloodshed.”

A fortnight after staging the opening race of the 2023 season in Bahrain, F1 returns to Jeddah for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – a country where there have been 13 executions in the last two weeks.

Last year, 81 men were executed in one day shortly before the grand prix, with 41 from the Shia minority who had taken part in protests calling for greater political participation, according to the United Nations.

One of those men was Mustafa al-Kjayyat and his brother, Yasser al-Khayyat, insists that F1 is being used as a “tool to sportswash Saudi abuses”, in a letter seen by The Guardian addressed to F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali.

“They use the spectacle of this sporting championship to distract from the murder of my brother and hundreds of others,” he wrote. “The grand prix carrying on as normal, without even mentioning the atrocities that have just been committed on that same soil, legitimises these heinous crimes.

“Silence is complicity. It is how the regime gets away with its atrocities and suppresses calls for democratic reforms. If you truly want Formula One to be an agent for change, rather than a tool to ‘sportswash’ Saudi abuses, please end Formula One’s silence.”

Formula 1 accused of ‘enabling violence and bloodshed’ by racing in Saudi Arabia

F1 LIVE: Lewis Hamilton announces shock split with performance coach

11:57 , Kieran Jackson

ICYMI yesterday, some shock news from the seven-time world champion...

Lewis Hamilton has announced that his time working with performance coach Angela Cullen has come to an end.

The seven-time world champion has worked with physiotherapist Cullen for the last seven years, with the New Zealander by the Mercedes star’s side around the world as an integral part of his support team.

Cullen, 48, joined Hamilton’s team in 2016 and has been by his side for four of his seven world championships.

Yet suspicions were raised on Friday morning as Hamilton did not arrive in the paddock in Saudi Arabia with Cullen by his side, before the 38-year-old himself confirmed the news on Instagram.

In an emotional post, he said: “For the last seven years Angela Cullen has been by my side, pushing me to be the best version of myself. I am a stronger athlete and a better person because of her.

“So today I hope you’ll join me in wishing her the very best as she takes her next steps to pursue her dreams. Thank you for everything Ang, I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for you.”

Lewis Hamilton announces shock change to team in emotional farewell

F1 LIVE: Good morning!

11:54 , Kieran Jackson

Welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of third practice and qualifying at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah!

Max Verstappen continued his dominance on Friday, topping the timesheets in both sessions, while his closest challenger remained Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

It was another day of struggle, however, for Mercedes and Ferrari. Can they improve on Saturday?

FP3 starts at 1:30pm (GMT) before qualifying at 5pm - stay right here for all the latest updates and news!