Verstappen had dominated all three practice sessions and was fastest in Q1 when his drive shaft gave way, forcing him to crawl back to pit lane without a time in Q2.
The car couldn’t be repaired in time to rejoin the session, leaving him a lowly 15th on the grid.
But his loss was teammate Perez’s gain, and the Mexican wielded the formidable pace of his RB19 to put himself in top spot.
“It was tricky, that Q3, especially not getting the second lap,” he said, referencing the fact he couldn’t improve with his second pole attempt.
“Max has been really strong the whole weekend. Hopefully tomorrow we can have all cars up there.”
Charles Leclerc was second quickest, his Q3 time putting him within 0.155 seconds of top spot in Ferrari’s most convincing lap of the weekend.
But the Monegasque will drop to 12th on the grid with a penalty for changing his car’s electronics control unit this weekend, limiting the optimism of his time.
“Happy, yes and no,” he said. “On one hand I think it’s been a very difficult weekend in terms of pace for us, but I’m very happy about our lap.
“On the other hand Red Bull are in another planet and we are struggling a little bit.”
His penalty promotes Alonso from third to second for Aston Martin, the green car working every bit as well as it was in Bahrain two weeks ago despite a markedly different track layout.
“It has been a very good weekend for us,” he said. “Qualifying was our weak point in Bahrain but today the car seemed to perform very well on one lap.
“Let’s see tomorrow what we can do from here.”
George Russell was fourth fastest for Mercedes, taking advantage of a scrappy last lap from Carlos Sainz, which put the Ferrari fifth.
Lance Stroll was sixth in the second Aston Martin ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Lewis Hamilton, who said he wasn’t able to feel the same level of confidence in his Mercedes as Russell.
Australian rookie Oscar Piastri was an excellent ninth on the time sheet in his struggling McLaren car, which was more than 17 kilometres per hour down in the speed trap thanks to its draggy aerodynamics.
Pierre Gasly completed the top 10 on qualifying night for Alpine.
Nico Hülkenberg flew the flag for Haas in 11th ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu, but both will be promoted a place to make space for the penalised Leclerc.
Kevin Magnussen and Valtteri Bottas will start 13th and 14th respectively ahead of Verstappen in 15th with a new drive shaft.
Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda will line up 16th ahead of Thailand’s Alex Albon, who complained of poor grip.
Nyck de Vries in the second AlphaTauri couldn’t string together a clean lap, spinning around at the first corner on his first attempt and making a mistake in the final sector of his final lap.
Lando Norris will start 19th after a minor crash at the final corner broke his front-left wheel without enough time for repairs.
Rookie Logan Sargeant had his quickest lap deleted for crossing the pit entry line, but his second and third attempts were undone by mistakes at the turn 22-23 chicane, leaving him last on the grid.
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