By Robert Haile
Two races are left of the 2021 Formula One season and both championships are up for grabs as Mercedes and Red Bull resume battle in Saudi Arabia.
The Jeddah street circuit is the second fastest behind Monza with sections reminiscent of Monaco.
Lewis Hamilton drew first blood taking pole position.
After qualifying Hamilton said:“This place is one of the hardest tracks to get right, I was on the limit the whole way round and the car was on a knife-edge.
“Trying to pull out the maximum with the tyres was so tough.
“It’s difficult to understand why – it’s so warm here but we were having trouble getting temperature in the front and rears at the same time to have grip at the start of the lap.
“I’m very proud and thankful that we were able to put it on the front row for tomorrow, it’s going to be an intense race.
“It’s always important to have Valtteri beside me, particularly in this part of the year, he’s been driving exceptionally well and hopefully tomorrow we can do a good job together.”
In the first qualifying session both Haas drivers and Aston Martin drivers went out with Williams Nicholas Latifi.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso were three surprise eliminations in the second qualifying session with Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen and Williams George Russell also going out.
In the penultimate top ten shoot out Hamilton continued his good qualifying form taking pole position with teammate Valtteri Bottas in second.
Max Verstappen was set to take pole with his last lap but heading into the final section he clipped the wall.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc will start fourth with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez fifth and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in sixth.
Lando Norris will start in seventh for McLaren with AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda eighth ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi.
Q1 – Nicholas Latifi (Williams), Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin), Lance Stroll (Aston Martin), Mick Schumacher (Haas), Nikita Mazepin (Haas)
Q2 – Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren), Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo), Fernando Alonso (Alpine), George Russell (Williams), Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
Q3 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), Max Verstappen (Red Bull), Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), Sergio Perez (Red Bull), Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri), Lando Norris (McLaren), Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri), Esteban Ocon (Alpine) Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)
This race weekend is tinged with sadness as founder and former owner of Williams, Sir Frank Williams passed away.
Sir Frank Williams pushed boundaries with Williams, the second most successful constructor in Formula One, as a family owned team and also before selling the team bringing his daughter into help run the team.