Max Verstappen watched the pole position slip away when a critical mistake on the final turn in qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix sent him flying into the wall.
The Dutchman was set to swipe the prized position away from Lewis Hamilton, who trails Verstappen by eight points for the championship title, but that final moment landed Verstappen in P3, leaving the front row all to Mercedes.
The 24-year-old was flying through his final qualifying lap, a full 2/10 of a second ahead of Hamilton. That is until Verstappen locked his car's front-left brake into the final turn, and his right rear roughly tagged the barrier.
"It's of course terrible. In general, it was a good qualifying... I knew the pace was there and it showed at the end," Verstappen told Sky Sports F1. "I don't really understand what happened but I locked up. I still tried to keep the car on track and try to finish the lap but clipped the rear and had to stop."
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner described the crash to Sky F1 as "pretty brutal."
"It's a great shame," he told Sky F1. "It was a mighty, mighty lap. We're on the back foot here and he was pulling something very special out the bag."
While the mistake cost him the pole position, there's also concern about whether the gearbox is damaged, which could grid penalty and replacement.
Verstappen leads the World Championship, but Hamilton has drastically cut the differential over the last two races. Just eight points and two races lay between the two and the title.
This penultimate race marks the first in Saudi Arabia for Formula One, which will be held at the Red Sea port city of Jeddah. Leading up to the race, a few drivers have been outspoke about the location of this race, Hamilton going as far as to say he does not feel comfortable competing in the country and condemned its LGBTQ+ laws.
The country has been widely criticized for its human-rights record, and per The Guardian, multiple groups wrote to the league, criticizing their decision to compete there.
Similarly to the Qatar Grand Prix, Hamilton will again wear a helmet with the Pride Progress Flag with the words "We Stand Together" during the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix.
"A lot of change needs to take place and our sport needs to do more," Hamilton said.
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