Max Verstappen was on course to take pole position ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix but crashed into a wall during qualifying. Verstappen is now due to start in third but could be hit with a ‘brutal’ penalty depending on how badly his Red Bull car is damaged.
Verstappen set two purple sectors in qualifying and was on course to start from the front of the grid on his final lap but locked his tyres on the last corner before smashing into the wall.
The Red Bull driver eventually came to a halt on the track and stepped out of his car as team principal Christian Horner shook his head in disbelief.
The crash could well have damaged the car’s gearbox and Verstappen would be forced to surrender five grid places if his team have to replace it.
And Horner admits that level of repair would be a major blow for Red Bull.
“That was looking like the lap of the year to be honest with you,” said the Red Bull boss.
JUST IN: Saudi GP qualifying results: Hamilton on pole after Verstappen crashes
“He’s still P3 – he needs to have a good start. He knows what can still happen in the race.
“He didn’t say too much. He said he touched the wall and that was that. It’s a great shame because it was a mighty, mighty lap.
“We’re on the back foot here and he was pulling something very special out the bag. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be.
“We’ll get the car back and hopefully it’s not a gearbox penalty because that would be especially brutal. Until we get it back, we don’t know.”
Verstappen is vying to win his maiden F1 title and has led the championship standings for much of the season after winning nine races.
But Hamilton has tasted success at the last two Grands Prix as he finished first in Brazil and Qatar last month.
And the Briton will be hoping he can build on his recent momentum to leapfrog his nemesis at the top of the leaderboard.
If Hamilton does win the championship, he will become the most successful ever F1 driver, with eight titles to his name. He is currently level on seven with Michael Schumacher.