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What are Verstappen's chances of winning Saudi GP from 15th?

The Jeddah Corniche Circuit is tough to overtake on, but a tyre strategy advantage could enable Max Verstappen to surge through the pack and pull off another comeback win.

A stomach bug might have been just about the only thing to stop Max Verstappen, but even that did not prevent him setting the quickest time in all three practice sessions by a healthy margin. Red Bull have been more assured of their pace this weekend compared to Bahrain, where they were left chasing car setup for most of the weekend. The team elected to make a split in tyre choices between Soft and Medium for their race runs in FP2 to see which tyre would suit them for the race, and they did likewise in FP3 with the Hard and Soft in the Saturday morning session. This allowed Verstappen to learn some crucial information, as his shock driveshaft failure in qualifying now puts him P15 on the grid. Unlike the Medium and Soft, the Hard tyres can be pushed without needing to be managed as much under the temperatures during the race - when the track is expected to reach 30°C - a factor Verstappen expects will be critical . The Hard tyre could form part of a one-stop strategy, and drivers coming through the field from the rear of the grid need a tyre that can be pushed without the risk of degradation.

Perez in the dark with Hard tyre

Teammate Sergio Perez has not run the Hard tyre all weekend, which leaves him in the dark and open to a potential threat from Verstappen if he does not build up a gap from a charging Alonso behind. The Aston Martin driver expects the tyre management to be one of the "small details" that will define the race tomorrow, alongside the critical timing needed to take advantage of a Safety Car period. "I expect a very tight race and that will be defined by small details," he told media, including RacingNews365.com . "One will be the start, one will be the tyre management, the other one will be the strategy. And probably the final one will be the luck, because we saw even last year with Checo how luck and the Safety Car can play a big factor here." Verstappen has already won from a similar position last year at the Belgium Grand Prix, when he charged through from 14th having put a fresh power unit in his car. Although he does not have that luxury this weekend, he has so far shown enough blistering pace to work his way through the field according to his fellow drivers .

Leclerc fears 'DRS train'

Ferrari are convinced the Medium tyre is the best way to go, having once again chosen to run it on both cars during FP3. The team have been cryptic over their performance this weekend, electing to focus mainly on race pace rather than single-lap pace. Considering they left Bahrain having exhibited superior straight-line speed, this should be a strength at the high-speed Jeddah Corniche Circuit. Leclerc expects Ferrari's pace to be stronger in the race after struggling with poor tyre degradation in Bahrain, but fears a "DRS train" could make things difficult. "We ran the Medium this morning, we did few laps on them just to have a bit more information – but it's not like we sacrificed a lot of our quali pace for our race pace tomorrow," he explained. "Our race pace looks better than Bahrain, so I think we'll be a bit better on that. But yeah, for me, we are still too far in qualifying compared to what I would like to be, especially compared to the Red Bull. "I don't know how easy it is going to be to overtake on this track because the midfield seems to be all extremely close in terms of race pace. And if you have a DRS train, then it makes things very difficult." Both Verstappen and Perez have been maxing out at roughly 311kph in the speed traps, whereas Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have struggled to get past 308kph. Given that Leclerc starts just three places ahead of Verstappen, it appears this could make the difference to their progress through the field in the opening stages.

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