Formula 1 – Saudi Arabia Qualifying – Follow all the build-up and live updates as embattled Christian Horner leads Red Bull team looking to recreate their Bahrain form with Ferrari’s Ollie Bearman, 18, becoming Britain’s youngest driver in history

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Written By Maya Cantina

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Follow all the action with lap times and updates from qualifying in Saudi Arabia as embattled Christian Horner leads Red Bull team ahead of second race of the season.

Breaking: Zhou Guanyou hits the barriers!

He loses his rear in Turn 7, potentially impeded by the wind, and skids hard into the wall.

It’s one heck of a crash, and that Kick Sauber takes a pounding. Lots of work to do before qualifying.

The medical car has been deployed, as has the red flag. Zhou is out of the car, and seems okay.

Also returning to the pits…

The fastest driver out there – as things stand – Max Verstappen.

He tells his engineer:

I hit something on turn 10

I hit something with my right wheel.

One of those pesky plastic bags? Or another bit of loose shrapnel?

Logan Sargeant heads back to the garage

He’s clipped a wall in his Williams and is forced to return to box after finding himself unable to turn right.

The American is yet to record a time, but it was a faint knock, so he’ll hope he can get back out there before the end of the session.

Verstappen tops the table after 30 minutes

He registers a lap-time of 1:28.893 to shunt his opponents down the standings as the track begins to warm up.

Leclerc wishes his fallen team-mate well

Williams’ Alex Albon was the last driver to suffer appendicitis on a race weekend – he missed the Italian Grand Prix after falling ill in Monza, but was back in his car a remarkable three weeks later to contest in Singapore.

With Verstappen and Perez next to set times, a word from Hamilton on the former’s speculated move away from the embattled constructor.

The pull of the Adrian Newey-designed RB20 is a strong one – every driver on the grid would give their right arm for it, I’d say.

We’re nearly halfway through FP3

But the rookie isn’t doing too shabbily so far as he sits second-fastest – behind Hamilton – of the six drivers that have posted times.

A cheeky graphic from Sky Sports

… as they flash to the Aston Martin garage while telling their viewers that the team’s star driver finished second in the Spanish Grand Prix… the day that Bearman was born.

Bearman sets his first time in FP3

He posts 1:33.114 on his opening lap. He’s got just shy of an hour to get to grips with the SF-24.

Great British numbers?

Driving under Sainz’s No 38, Bearman will look to history and hope fate can deal him the same 70 years later – world champion Mike Hawthorn won the Spanish Grand Prix under the same number in 1954.

The Spanish Grand Prix; Pedralbes (Barcelona), October 26, 1954. Before practice the Ferrari mechanics work on the Ferrari 553 �Squalo' which will be driven by Mike Hawthorn. Hawthorn would win, defeating the Mercedes team. (Photo by Klemantaski Collection/Getty Images)
Mike Hawthorn, Ferrari 625, Grand Prix of Germany, Nurburgring, 01 August 1954. (Photo by Bernard Cahier/Getty Images)

Karun Chandhok shares his thoughts on Horner’s press conference

After the team principal said that he was keen to ‘draw a line’ under the investigation – after being cleared following the independent findings – the Sky Sports pundit and former driver wasn’t convinced.

He can’t decide when this moves on.

It’s very difficult for anyone to draw too many conclusions, because we don’t know so many of the facts.

We don’t know the name of the KC (leading the investigation), even details like that, we don’t know under what grounds she’s been suspended…

Until that level of transparency comes out, we’re not going to be able to move on.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 7: Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing chats with Karun Chandhok during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 7, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Kym Illman/Getty Images)

‘Just keep your head on the ground’

Words to remember, with just 10 minutes to go until the teenager gets out on the track behind the wheel of the SF-24.

Sky Sports’ Naomi Schiff on Bearman

I can feel for him a little bit. he would have been able to jump in yesterday in FP1 or FP2, but instead (he’ll have to start today).

But we’ve got to see the positive opportunities for him.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 08: Oliver Bearman of Great Britain and Ferrari has a seat fitting in the garage. He will replace Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari for the weekend due to illness prior to final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 08, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 08: Oliver Bearman of Great Britain and Ferrari has a seat fitting in the garage. He will replace Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari for the weekend due to illness prior to final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 08, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Bearman to make history

He’s also joining an illustrious list of Britons to drive for the legendary constructor, including mid-century greats like Peter Collins, Mike Hawthorn, and John Surtees… and next season, one Sir Lewis Hamilton.

Horner rarely shies from a definitive statement, even in the face of an episode galloping through updates as fast as this one at Red Bull.

You can read about what he hopes will be the final word on Verstappen’s future at the constructor below.

Well wishes for Bearman from his other team on the grid

The 18-year-old does double duty in reserve, but it’s the team from Maranello’s car he gets to test out first.

A sobering fact for one Spaniard contesting for pole against Bearman

The 18-year-old is younger than Fernando Alonso’s second world championship.

… And just eight months older than his first, in 2005.

Drive to Survive’s own Will Buxton has a note of caution for the plucky young Briton

Let’s just say today’s ride will be a little bit of an upgrade on yesterday’s in F2.

Another tricky weekend for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes?

Hamilton certainly thought so after yesterday’s practice sessions, describing his day as a ‘difficult’ one.

Just lacking confidence in the rear of the car and the set-up.

We did some work from session to session, changed the car quite a bit, but the underlying issue (is) with the rear end I was struggling with.

So I had a couple of really big moments out there. In these high-speed areas you need to have full faith in the rear of the car, and I’ve just not got that yet.

We’re going to have to go through the data and stuff, but George (Russell) is obviously a lot happier with his car.

Formula One F1 - Saudi Arabian Grand Prix - Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - March 8, 2024 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton before practice REUTERS/Rula Rouhana

It might have been easier for Christian Horner to play the ‘leave my family alone’ card if he had not paraded through the Bahrain paddock last week hand-in-hand with his wife, Geri, for all the world and its photographers to witness, writes JONATHAN MCEVOY.

This whole grubby affair has been an unedifying spectacle for all those close to it to observe, just as it has been riveting for those who have absorbed it vicariously through newsprint, with story after staggering revelation for weeks on end.

The latest twist came on Thursday when the woman in the eye of the storm, an unnamed female colleague of Horner at Red Bull, was suspended from her job in the Milton Keynes factory, albeit on full pay…

Ready Player Leclerc

The Ferrari was sent slaloming by unwelcome floating plastic bags on the track yesterday. Here’s hoping the drivers aren’t sent more obstacles, with higher points for avoidance, at the Corniche this afternoon.

Horner on potential reputational damage to Red Bull

Horner has taken up his fast-becoming-habitual spot behind a plant pot in the paddock ahead of the final practice session, after last night sharing his thoughts on the possibility of his team suffering reputational damage in the wake of the alleged texts being leaked post-investigation.

The team principal made those comments before Honda’s statement, but here’s what he had to say:

Obviously there’s been an awful lot of coverage surrounding this. But one has to go back to the basics of a grievance was raised. It was fully investigated and it was dismissed. And from there, we move onwards.

I think an awful lot has been made out of this. Obviously, it has been of great interest in different elements of the media for different reasons. I think the time now is to look forward and to draw a line under it. We’re here to go racing.

We’re here as a Formula 1 team and the time now is to focus on what is going on on track and the performance of the cars and the drivers and where the spotlight should be during the course of a grand prix weekend.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 08: Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner looks on in the Paddock prior to final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 08, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 08: Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner looks on in the Paddock prior to final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 08, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

A reminder of today’s timings

Friday is the new Saturday for Saudi Arabia’s adjusted schedule, with the race moving a day earlier due to Sunday marking the start of Ramadan.

That means that the final practice session and qualifying ahead of the Grand Prix will take place today – with the former coming at 1.30pm GMT.

Qualifying will kick off hours later at 5pm and we’ll know our starting grid – barring any penalty complications – by 6pm.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 8: Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Scuderia Ferrari walks in the paddock during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 8, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Kym Illman/Getty Images)
JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 08: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes walks in the Paddock prior to final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 08, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

The Japanese engine manufacturer will supply Red Bull Racing’s two teams with power units until their deal expires at the end of the season – and they want answers.

You can read more about Red Bull’s partners’ thoughts on the turbulence at the constructor below.

Alonso ended Thursday the fastest in the pack

The former world champion posted a lap time of 1:28.827 in the second free practice session, 0.23seconds faster than his closest rival, George Russell of Mercedes.

Verstappen, who went fastest in the day’s first session had to settle for third-fastest as close of play. But what can last week’s race-winner pull off today?

… and who exactly is Oliver Bearman?

Good question. The Ferrari reserve driver joined the Scuderia’s Driver Academy in 2021, and first hopped behind the wheel of one of their Formula One cars in October 2023 during a private test.

Currently driving with Prema Racing in Formula Two, Bearman has previously featured for in an F1 car during free practice sessions at the 2023 Mexico Grand Prix, and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Last weekend, Bearman finished 15th in standings at Sakhir – today he’ll challenge for a shot at the front row.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 07: Oliver Bearman of Great Britain and PREMA Racing (3) prepares to drive in the garage prior to practice ahead of Round 2 Jeddah of the Formula 2 Championship at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 07, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images)

There’s no shortage of surprises in the Formula One circus and this morning’s is news that Sainz has been taken ill – and his shoes are set to be filled by an 18-year-old British up-and-comer.

Mail Sport’s JONATHAN MCEVOY has the full report below.

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