Verstappen takes Australian Grand Prix pole

Three-time world champion Max Verstappen beat Carlos Sainz to take pole position for the Australian Grand Prix with a lap time of one minute, 15.915 seconds on his final run of Q3.

The Red Bull driver had not headlined a single session across the Alvert Park weekend so far, but dialled in his pace throughout the qualifying segments and found a quarter-second advantage at the very end to deny Ferrari a chance at pole.

Sainz had been fastest in both Q1 and Q2 and looked set to challenge for pole on his return to Formula 1 after missing the Saudi Arabia event with appendicitis, but it was a challenge from Verstappen in the top ten shootout.

In the initial Q3 runs, Verstappen set a time of one minute, 16.048 seconds which neither of the Ferrari drivers could get near, and followed that up with an impressive one minute, 15.915 seconds to set a high benchmark.

Although Sainz found pace over Verstappen in the opening sector, he was unable to use Ferrari’s pace in the final sector and had to be settle with second on the grid.

Sergio Perez collected third position, less than half a tenth clear of Lando Norris as the McLaren driver sought to demonstrate his dominance over teammate Oscar Piastri, as the crowd favourite had been impressive thus far during the sessions at his home race.

However, post qualifying the race stewards have applied a three-place grid penalty for Perez due to the Red Bull driver impending Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas. This promotes Lando Norris to P3 for McLaren.

The McLarens were split by Charles Leclerc, who had a slide out of Turn 12 and abandoned his final lap of the session to take fifth on the grid – ending his streak of front-row starts.

George Russell was the remaining Mercedes in Q3 and collected seventh on the grid, ahead of Yuki Tsunoda. Lance Stroll had just one run and finished ninth-fastest, despite a snap of oversteer at Turn 10, ahead of Aston Martin teammate Fernando Alonso.

Alonso aborted his first run of the session after skipping across the gravel at Turn 6, and couldn’t find much in the way of pace in his final run.

Stroll had relegated Lewis Hamilton to a shocking Q2 exit as the Mercedes driver failed to find any improvements on his final flying lap of qualifying. This was a disappointing qualifying result for the seven-time champion.

Tsunoda had been able to shuffle Stroll below the line with a strong final Q2 lap under pressure, but Stroll responded on his final effort to reclaim a top ten position at the expense of Hamilton.

Alex Albon, who was controversially given Logan Sargeant’s car for the rest of the Melbourne weekend after crashing his own in FP1, was P12 after failing to break out of the bottom five after his final run of the session.

Despite that, the Williams driver still finished ahead of Valtteri Bottas, who was P13 from Kevin Magnussen.

Esteban Ocon survived an early Q1 wall-bang at Turn 14 to progress into the intermediate phase of qualifying, but could go no faster than P15 having been almost 0.3 seconds shy of Magnussen’s time ahead.

Daniel Ricciardo was elimated in Q1 after losing his best lap in the session to a track limits violation in Turn 5, which promoted Magnussen into a Q2 appearance.

The honey badger had put himself up to P12 with his last effort of the opening phase of qualifying, but the deletion of his time resigned him to an early exit having dropped to P18.

Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg had both dropped into the bottom four – the elimination zone consisting of only a quartet of cars as Sargeant is not participating – but the Haas driver was spared through Ricciardo’s drop.

Hulkenberg dropped into the elimination zone in a fraught session, as he was held up by Sergio Perez in his earlier runs, and could only manage P16 ahead of Pierre Gasly. The Alpine driver is under investigation for crossing the pit exit line too early, as is Perez for impeding Hulkenberg.

Zhou Guanyu will start last on the grid after his front wing appeared to shed its elements, which left him unable to progress from the first part of qualifying.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen in taking pole position at Albert Park. The championship leader is looking to continue his impressive winning form in the early stages of this season with another race victory. Can Carlos Sainz do anything in the Ferrari? Let’s find out on race day.

Australian Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:15.915
2 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:16.185
3 Lando Norris McLaren 1:16.315
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:16.435
5 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:16.572
6 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:16.274*
7 George Russell Mercedes 1:16.724
8 Yuki Tsunoda RB 1:16.788
9 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:17.072
10 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:17.552
11 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:16.960
12 Alexander Albon Williams 1:17.167
13 Valtteri Bottas Sauber 1:17.340
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:17.427
15 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:17.697
16 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:17.976
17 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:17.982
18 Daniel Ricciardo RB 1:18.085
19 Zhou Guanyu Sauber 1:18.188

*Three-place grid penalty for impending Nico Hulkenberg

4 thoughts to “Verstappen takes Australian Grand Prix pole”

  1. Max Verstappen claimed an assured pole position in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, with the Dutchman setting the pace ahead of Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez.

    After setting a time of 1m 16.048s in the first runs of Q3, Verstappen improved on his effort in the final laps with a 1m 15.915s. This put him 0.270s clear of Sainz, who had looked impressive in his first qualifying since returning following surgery for appendicitis two weeks ago.

    Perez will share the second row with the lead McLaren of Lando Norris, while Charles Leclerc wound up fifth after abandoning his final flying lap.

    Home favourite Oscar Piastri will start from sixth, ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell in seventh and RB’s Yuki Tsunoda in eighth after a strong performance.

    The Aston Martin duo of Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso completed the top 10, with each having a moment during their laps in Q3.

  2. Charles Leclerc says he is aiming to beat Sergio Perez in the Australian GP after conceding Max Verstappen will be too strong in the Melbourne Formula 1 race.

    Having looked good in Friday’s practice, Leclerc was less happy in Saturday’s FP3 session, and in qualifying he struggled with his front tyres.

    He was fourth in Q1 and second in Q2, but tried a front wing change for his final run in Q3 in an attempt to find more performance.

    Leclerc was left a frustrated fifth after the “very aggressive” wing adjustment failed to pay off.

    “To be honest, I think it’s starting from much earlier in the weekend,” he said when asked by about his Q3 struggles.

    “In FP3 already, I felt like it was going away a little bit from me, but I was confident that it will come back the feeling in qualifying, as is normally the case.

    “Whenever we have a strange feeling in FP3, then you put the new tyres in quali, low fuel, and everything comes alive again.

    “Today wasn’t the case. I struggled quite a lot with the front tyres, until the last run in Q3 where I went very aggressive with the front wing to try something, and I went the other way.

    “But all-in-all, it hasn’t been a clean day for me, I haven’t been driving as well as yesterday. But tomorrow the race is long, and I’ll try to maximise everything.”

  3. Red Bull driver Sergio Perez has been handed a three-place grid drop for impeding Nico Hulkenberg in qualifying for Formula 1’s Australian Grand Prix.

    Perez was on a warm-up lap for his first Q1 run when a hotlapping Hulkenberg encountered him in the middle of the racing line on Turn 13, Albert Park’s slow penultimate left-hander.

    The Mexican was only told very late by his race engineer that the Haas driver was behind him, with the focus instead being on preparing his flying lap.

    The stewards handed him a three-place grid drop, instead demoting him to sixth on Sunday’s starting grid.

  4. Lewis Hamilton says the 2024 Mercedes Formula 1 car keeps showing “spikes” of promise that then “disappear”, much like its troubled predecessors, as he attempts 2022-style set-up experiments.

    The seven-time F1 world champion was eliminated in Q2 ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, having previously scored eight pole positions in Melbourne. He missed out on the top 10 shootout to team-mate George Russell by 0.05 seconds.

    Hamilton speculated the “spike” of promise shown in final practice earlier on Saturday had been undone by increased winds for qualifying that put the W15 challenger on a “knife edge”.

    “Every outing you learn something new,” said Hamilton. “FP3 felt really good for us, and I felt really optimistic going into qualifying but then, I don’t know if it’s the wind picking up, the wind picked up quite a bit, same as yesterday, and then the car is just so much more on a knife edge.

    “It’s three years in a row a similar feeling,” he added. “But then there’s these spikes of ‘Oh, it could be good’ like this morning. And then it kind of disappears.

    “If we can work a way of finding that goodness in the car and making it more consistent and holding onto that, maybe we can be more competitive. But there’s a lot of work we need to do but everyone’s working as hard as they can.”

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