Verstappen wins Chinese Grand Prix sprint race

Triple champion Max Verstappen came through from P4 on the starting grid to win the Chinese Grand Prix sprint race after passing old title rival Lewis Hamilton on lap nine.

The Red Bull driver appeared out of sorts in the opening series of laps as he struggled to charge his battery with the selected hybrid settings, but a series of adjustments on his steering wheel appeared to solve the issue.

With greater forward momentum, Verstappen pulled himself out of third with a simple DRS overtake on the second-placed Fernando Alonso, and then attack on a Turn 14 lock-up from Hamilton to close in for victory.

Polesitter Lando Norris had suffered a poorer start in comparison to Hamilton and, once the first corner began to approach, the Mercedes driver was level alongside the McLaren.

Norris attempted to hang his car around the outside, but Hamilton kept his car in the middle of the track at the switching point to the left-handed Turn 3. This left Norris out of road, where he ultimately dropped to seventh position.

After emerging with the lead, Hamilton started to gap Alonso and built a healthy 1.4-second buffer by the time the Aston Martin came under attack from a Verstappen.

Verstappen got by the Aston Martin driver who did not fight following a simple DRS pass, and a lap later Hamilton snatched at his left-front tyre at Turn 14 to lose time.

This gave Verstappen a great opportunity to pass for the lead on the ninth lap, which he took and disappeared off into the distance by gapping Hamilton at the rate of more than a second per lap. At the flag, Verstappen claimed the sprint victory by 13 seconds.

Hamilton remained unchallenged for second, while Sergio Perez snatched third after winning out in a thrilling scrap between himself, Alonso, and the Ferraris. This battle was the only highlight in the sprint as most of the time, it was a DRS train of cars remained in position.

Alonso had started to drop back after initially clinging on to Hamilton, slowly looming larger in Carlos Sainz’s vision as the Ferrari driver had the edge on pace over the second half. The pressure started to move up between the two and Sainz started to attack Alonso, but the Aston Martin remained in front.

Perez and Charles Leclerc also joined in and, when Alonso and Sainz went wheel to wheel through Turns 7 and 8 with contact, Perez took full advantage of the situation and went past at the following corner.

Third place was sealed when the Ferraris fought with each other rather than attempt to re-pass Perez, with Leclerc taking the position from his teammate. In the meantime, Alonso had dropped out of the race with a puncture after his contact with Sainz.

Norris, after his first-lap wide moment, was in touching distance with the pack in contention for third but could not work his way into the thick of that battle, but at least was well ahead of teammate Oscar Piastri in seventh place. George Russell completed the top eight with a gamble on soft tyres, finishing 6.2 seconds clear of home hero Zhou Guanyu to collect the final point on offer.

So not the most exciting sprint and yet it was a disappointing that Lando Norris was unable to take victory after starting from pole. Lewis Hamilton leading some laps was a highlight and yet the speed of Max Verstappen was unstoppable. Qualifying for the race comes next.

Chinese Grand Prix, sprint results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 32:04.660
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +13.043s
3 Serio Perez McLaren +15.258s
4 Chalres Leclerc Ferrari +17.486s
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +20.696s
6 Lando Norris McLaren +22.088s
7 Oscar Piastri McLaren +24.713s
8 George Russell Mercedes +25.696s
9 Guanyu Zhou Sauber +31.951s
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas +37.398s
11 Daniel Ricciardo RB +37.840s
12 Valtteri Bottas Sauber +38.295s
13 Esteban Ocon Alpine +39.841s
14 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +40.299s
15 Pierre Gasly Alpine +40.838s
16 Yuki Tsunoda RB +41.870s
17 Alex Albon Williams +42.998s
18 Logan Sargeant Williams +46.352s
19 Nico Hulkenberg Haas +49.630s
Fernando Alonso Aston Martin DNF

Norris takes sprint pole after crazy end to Shanghai sprint qualifying

McLaren’s Lando Norris came through the mayhem to take pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix sprint race. His initial time was deleted but got reinstated to beat Lewis Hamilton.

Rain emerged at the end of the SQ2 segment and continued meaning the use of intermediate tyres for the final stage of qualifying to decide pole.

Track conditions were evidently very slippery, as a number of drivers over-extended beyond the circuit’s limits and had to recover from the run-off. Charles Leclerc hit the wall after spinning on the exit of Turn 8, but was able to continue in his Ferrari and stopped for a new front wing and warmer, fresher intermediates.

Oscar Piastri got the session off with a lap above the two-minute mark, which was beaten by Sergio Perez, as the Red Bull driver led the line to begin with.

Fernando Alonso then beat the Red Bull driver, to ensure he could factor in the fight for pole, but this was subsequently beaten by the first sub-120 second lap from Lewis Hamilton, who claimed a one minute, 59.321 seconds.

Norris had gone off on the lap prior to a mighty one minute, 57.940 seconds, which had put the McLaren driver into provisional pole, but this was then subject to an unexplained deletion.

Hamilton thus looked in line for pole with a time of one minute, 59.201 seconds follow-up appeared to confirm that, but Lando’s time was reinstated and ensured an all-British front row for Saturday’s sprint race.

Alonso was third quickest over Max Verstappen, who suffered a number of moments before finally stitching a clean lap together with his final effort of the session.

Carlos Sainz and Perez locked out the third row ahead of Leclerc, who recovered enough to set a time, while Piastri could only manage eighth. The Saubers of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu completed the top ten.

The start of SQ2 faced a minor delay as, like FP1, the grass lining the circuit bust into flames and needed to be extinguished. With rain due, the drivers all rushed to the pit exit and fighting for track position, although neither Red Bull fancied joining in.

George Russell dropped to P11 when the times had shaken out and, despite opting to go for another lap, the rain finally emerged and affected his time in the opening sector.

He was six tenths adrift of Zhou’s cut-off benchmark and had to abandon his effort as the Chinese driver make it through – sending the home crowd into fever.

Kevin Magnussen outqualified teammate Nico Hulkenberg as the Haas drivers took P12 and P13 on the sprint race grid, as Daniel Ricciardo and free practice leader Lance Stroll also fell short on their single flying laps.

Russell staged a late escape from the elimination zone in SQ1 having dropped to the bottom of the order, finding three tenths in the final sector over the cut-off time from Pierre Gasly to make it through into the next round.

This pushed Gasly into the bottom five, ensuring that he joined Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon in being eliminated in the opening stage of the session.

Alex Albon dropped out in P18, as the two Williams drivers split by Yuki Tsunoda as Logan Sargeant was last at the chequered flag.

Tsunoda had not been able to set a somewhat representative time until his final run, but could not find enough to join RB teammate Ricciardo into SQ2 as he struggled with a lap of grip.

So a crazy end to sprint qualifying with the wet conditions and yet Lando Norris came through to take pole position for McLaren. With Lewis Hamilton on the front row with Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen next up, the sprint race is going to be exciting.

Chinese Grand Prix, sprint qualifying:
1 Lando Norris McLaren 1:57.940
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:59.201
3 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:59.915
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 2:00.028
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 2:00.214
6 Sergio Perez Red Bull 2:00.375
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 2:00.566
8 Oscar Piastri McLaren 2:00.990
9 Valtteri Bottas Sauber 2:01.044
10 Zhou Guanyu Sauber 2:03.537
11 George Russell Mercedes 1:36.345
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:36.473
13 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:36.478
14 Daniel Ricciardo RB 1:36.553
15 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:36.677
16 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:37.632
17 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:37.720
18 Alexander Albon Williams 1:37.812
19 Yuki Tsunoda RB 1:37.892
20 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:37.923

Verstappen leads a Red Bull 1-2 in Japan

Triple world champion Max Verstappen dominated the Japanese Grand Prix, leading a Red Bull Racing 1-2 with Sergio Perez finishing a solid podium.

Melbourne winner Carlos Sainz completed the podium ahead of his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc, who popped up in Perez’s race and gained several positions from his mid-pack grid spot by completing a rare Suzuka one-stop strategy.

At the first start, polesitter Verstappen easily led Perez away from the line, with the action occurring far back in the pack as the medium-starting RB cars got overtaken by soft-running rivals.

When they raced into Turn 3, Daniel Ricciardo moved over on Alex Albon – unsighted that the Williams was on his right-hand side – and the pair making contact and straight into the barriers at the start of the Esses.

The race was immediately stopped and a near 30-minute delay took place as the tyre wall was repaired.

In the second standing start, Verstappen again maintained his lead away from pole, this time moving aggressively across his teammate on the approach to the opening corners.

Perez managed to stay within a second for when DRS was activated on lap four of 57, but slipped back slightly until on lap six he ran wide out of Degner two and lost nearly a second.

The gap between the leaders continued extending until Perez stopped first for more mediums – the Red Bull duo having stayed on the mediums they had used at the initial start for the second attempt – on lap 15, where he trailed by nearly five seconds.

Verstappen was called in the next time around, but when he emerged he had a new chaser – Lando Norris, who had been the first of the frontrunners to pit on lap 11, where he took hards.

At this stage Leclerc led for Ferrari, as he stayed out longest from the leading pack – except the Mercedes cars that moved from mediums to hards during the red flag – having started down in eighth.

But by the end of lap 21 Verstappen was back to the front – after he had used DRS to easily move ahead of Leclerc on the outside line into Turn 1, and he had a 4.3 seconds lead over Norris in third, with Perez a further 1.2 seconds back.

But on the next lap, Perez dived by Norris at the chicane and so he started lap 23 with a 6.5 seconds gap to his teammate.

Over the rest of the second stint, Verstappen moved clear to an 11 seconds lead over Perez, who took several laps to catch and pass Leclerc, getting by when one-stopping Ferrari slipped off the road at Degner two on lap 26.

Checo again stopped first of the two leaders for the final pitstops, where both Red Bulls took the hards, on lap 33, with Verstappen coming in the next time by.

In the final stint, the leading duo were again initially separated by Leclerc, who had pitted for the first time at the end of the lap he slid off in front of Perez, with McLaren bringing Norris in at the same time to prevent Russell’s undercut threat in the pack behind.

Leclerc was able to run clear of Norris and cycled back to becoming a factor for Red Bull given he was not set to stop again, but the second time around, Perez was quickly by the Ferrari with a DRS run to Turn 1’s inside.

The final 15 laps kicked off with Verstappen’s lead reduced to eight seconds due to the undercuts powerful effect, but Max brought this back up to 12.5 seconds by the flag.

In the fight for the final podium position, Leclerc maintained his lead over Norris for the duration of his second stint and the McLaren’s third, but both were passed by Sainz in the closing stages after the Ferrari driver built a notable tyre offset life advantage in the middle stint of his two-stopper.

Norris finished three seconds behind Leclerc in fourth, ahead of Fernando Alonso, who appeared to be adapting his pace late on to give the chasing Oscar Piastri DRS in his own last-gasp fight with Russell.

The pair clashed at the chicane with four laps to go, the same place where Piastri locked up on the penultimate lap and Russell was able to charge down the pit straight and gain seventh at Turn 1 at the start of the final lap.

Lewis Hamilton ended up in ninth position – his race notable for offering to allow Russell by during the initial phase after the restart – which Mercedes then enacted as it tried to replicate Leclerc’s one-stop tactic before switching its cars back to a two-stopper.

To the delight of the Japanese fans, Yuki Tsunoda secured the final point in P10, including two thrilling overtakes through the Esses complex.

The race’s other retirement was Zhou Guanyu, who stopped with a gearbox issue aboard his Sauber on lap 13.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen in winning the Japanese Grand Prix. Just like last year’s Suzuka race, Carlos Sainz won the previous race and immediately the Red Bull driver strike back to be triumph. The next event is the Chinese Grand Prix and it has been four years since we last raced in Shanghai. Hopefully we get another exciting racing action.

Japanese Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:54:23.566
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull +12.535s
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +20.866s
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +26.522s
5 Lando Norris McLaren +29.700s
6 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +44.272s
7 George Russell Mercedes +45.951s
8 Oscar Piastri McLaren +47.525s
9 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +48.626s
10 Yuki Tsunoda RB +1 lap
11 Nico Hulkenberg Haas +1 lap
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +1 lap
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas +1 lap
14 Valtteri Bottas Sauber +1 lap
15 Esteban Ocon Alpine +1 lap
16 Pierre Gasly Alpine +1 lap
17 Logan Sargeant Williams +1 lap
Zhou Guanyu Sauber DNF
Daniel Ricciardo RB DNF
Alexander Albon Williams DNF

Verstappen leads a Red Bull front row at Suzuka

Triple world champion Max Verstappen leads his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez by just a tiny margin of 0.066 seconds to top qualifying at the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix, with Lando Norris taking a solid third for McLaren.

The Red Bull drivers were amongst just a handful of drivers to gain lap time on the second runs in Q3, where Ferrari’s challenge was unable to materialise and the Mercedes drivers ended up behind Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

Verstappen led the way with a time of one minute, 28.240 seconds on the first Q3 run, where Norris was his closest rival after producing a then session-best opening sector.

But he could not replicate that on the second attempt, where Perez – leading Verstappen on the track – just got ahead of the McLaren, while the world champion in the other RB20 flew to a pole-securing one minute, 28.197 seconds – largely thanks to a fast first sector.

Behind the top trio came Carlos Sainz for Ferrari, ahead of Alonso and Oscar Piastri.

Lewis Hamilton looked to be getting close to Red Bull with his pace late in Q2 but faded to just seventh for Mercedes, with Charles Leclerc was eighth.

The Ferrari driver had a unique Q3 in producing just a single flying lap ahead of the rest going for a second attempt, as he had to use a second set of tyres to escape Q1 earlier in qualifying.

Leclerc ended up over half a second down on Verstappen’s time, but did edge out George Russell and home fan hero Yuki Tsunoda.

In Q2, Tsunoda’s improvement on his second go in the middle segment knocked out his RB teammate Daniel Ricciardo, to the delight of the Japanese crowd.

Nico Hulkenberg ended up in P12 for Haas having lost his first Q2 run to going too wide between the two parts of Spoon Curve, with Valtteri Bottas out in P13 after sitting tenth following the first attempts.

Alex Albon only completed one run in Q2 for Williams at the end of the segment and took P14 ahead of Alpine driver Esteban Ocon, who escaped Q1 for the second race in a row.

In the opening segment, running offset ahead of the rest for the final runs boosted Albon to progressing in P15, while Bottas’s last-minute improvement knocked Lance Stroll out of Q1 in P16 when Alonso was second at that stage.

Behind came Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, who matched Leclerc in the first sector on their last laps in Q1 – the Ferrari driver having to use an extra set of new softs here after initially ending up in the congested mid-pack after a poor opening sector on his Q1 first run – Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, Logan Sargeant’s Williams and Sauber’s Zhou Guanyu.

Albon, Russell and Piastri face post-qualifying investigations – Albon for possibly going too slowly at one stage late in Q1, with the latter pair for an incident when Russell’s car was released into Piastri’s path when they exited the pits at the start of the session.

So a close session between the Red Bull drivers and yet Max Verstappen came out on top. Sergio Perez produced a fine effort to get a front row spot while Lando Norris takes a solid third for McLaren.

Japanese Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:28.197
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:28.263
3 Lando Norris McLaren 1:28.489
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:28.682
5 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:28.686
6 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:28.760
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:28.766
8 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:28.786
9 George Russell Mercedes 1:29.008
10 Yuki Tsunoda RB 1:29.413
11 Daniel Ricciardo RB 1:29.472
12 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:29.494
13 Valtteri Bottas Sauber 1:29.593
14 Alexander Albon Williams 1:29.714
15 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:29.816
16 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:30.024
17 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:30.119
18 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:30.131
19 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:30.139
20 Zhou Guanyu Sauber 1:30.143

Sainz leads a Ferrari 1-2 in Australia as Verstappen drops out

Carlos Sainz achieved his third career victory in Formula 1 following a dramatic Australian Grand Prix in which Max Verstappen was forced to retire with brake issue.

After Sainz took the lead from Verstappen on the second lap with a pass around the outside at Turn 10, the Ferrari driver maintained the lead throughout the entirety of the race – and his victory in the 58-lap race was secured a lap early when George Russell crashed out at Turn 6 to produce a virtual safety car.

Just two weeks after having his appendix removed which caused him to miss the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Sainz returned to the top step of the podium, following his victory in the Singapore Grand Prix last year.

Although Verstappen had preserved the lead off pole, waving away with a move from Sainz in the opening lap, the championship leader was unable to break out of DRS range after the first lap and thus gave the chasing Ferrari momentum.

Complaining that he had ‘lost the car’ for a moment on the second lap alongside the Lakeside Drive section of the circuit, Sainz was able to drive past the Red Bull with DRS open and went into the lead.

Verstappen reported further issues with his Red Bull, in which smoke was appearing from the back, which intensified around the rear-right corner of his car.

He then began to slow significantly as it became apparent that his brakes had caught fire, and he returned back to the pits as the hub started to shed debris to retire.

This ends Verstappen’s impressive race results and Red Bull’s reliability. Despite this setback, Max still leads the championship.

Following this retirement, the race was up for grabs. Although Sainz had already taken the initiative and started to build up a gap over Lando Norris to ensure he had breathing space when it came to the opening pitstop stage.

Norris had been under fire from Leclerc but, as the Ferrari driver stopped at the end of the ninth lap, focused on retaining tyre life and hung it out on the mediums until the end of lap 14.

This gave Leclerc the undercut, putting the Ferraris in the top two positions – Sainz pitted at the end of lap 16 to ensure he maintained the lead over his rapidly chasing teammate.

A virtual safety car shortly after Sainz’s stop, produced for a slowing Hamilton as the Mercedes driver suffered an engine problem, brought Leclerc close to Sainz and at striking distance at the restart, but Carlos kept him in situate before restoring his advantage.

Sainz got his lead up to 8.7 seconds before Leclerc stopped for a second time on lap 34 as Norris had started to close on Charles, but the leader waited until the end of lap 41 to make his own switch to a second set of hards.

Leclerc had got the lead down to five seconds, but Sainz stabilised and added half a second on over the following laps to create another buffer. Although he complained that his tyres did not “feel great” with three laps to go, Sainz had enough in reserve to close the lead out – helped by Russell’s race-ending crash as he was battling Fernando Alonso.

Norris was unable to resume his chase over Leclerc, having lost two positions after his opening stop – Leclerc and Oscar Piastri both got ahead through the first-stint undercut, but McLaren decided to swap Norris and Piastri around to give the McLaren driver a chance to chase second position.

But Leclerc put in a series of strong laps towards the end to fend off the threat of the third-placed Norris, as Piastri collected fourth to delight the fans in his home race.

Sergio Perez was some way behind in fifth after a disappointing race, where he lost a place at the start to Russell and then slipped down the order again after his first stop. This forced the Red Bull driver to make ground with the use of DRS, although came up against Alonso in the second half of the race.

Alonso had taken the initiative to pit under the first virtual safety car when Hamilton stopped, which put him ahead of Perez – although the Red Bull driver got past, he was unable to shake Fernando before the final round of stops.

Russell was chasing Alonso for sixth on the final lap when he suffered a big crash at Turns 6-7, with his Mercedes turning over after smashing the barriers.

With Russell retiring in spectacular fashion, Alonso initially took sixth under VSC conditions. However, post-race the race stewards have decided that the incident involved George Russell meant Fernando Alonso was given a twenty-second time penalty plus three penalty points on his FIA superlicense.

Lance Stroll finished in sixth, moving up a position thanks to Russell’s crash, while Yuki Tsunoda scored some points for RB with a quiet race. At least he was much faster than teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

Nico Hulkenberg added more points for Haas after successfully overcutting Alex Albon during the second pit phase, as Kevin Magnussen had also dispatched the Williams to ensure he made the points when Russell retired.

Albon was just outside of the points in P11 after taking over Logan Sargeant’s car for the rest of the weekend after his FP1 crash, with Daniel Ricciardo finishing in P12.

Despite receiving a five-second penalty for crossing the pit exit line too early, Pierre Gasly finished P13 over the Sauber duo of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu, who both suffered slow pitstops once again.

A three-stopping Esteban Ocon completed the finishers, dropping to back after a rear-right brake fire was addressed in the pitstops – a tear-off proved to be the culprit.

So a dramatic Australian Grand Prix with two champions eliminated with technical issues and yet it was a fantastic result for Scuderia Ferrari. Finishing first and second is a good news story for Formula 1. Congratulations to Carlos Sainz in winning and it will be fascinating if this will lead to a new drive for the 2025 season.

Australian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:20:26.843
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +2.366s
3 Lando Norris McLaren +5.904s
4 Oscar Piastri McLaren +35.770s
5 Sergio Perez Red Bull +56.309s
6 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +93.222s
7 Yuki Tsunoda RB +95.601s
8 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +100.992s*
9 Nico Hulkenberg Haas +104.553
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas +1 lap
11 Alexander Albon Williams +1 lap
12 Daniel Ricciardo RB +1 lap
13 Pierre Gasly Alpine +1 lap
14 Valtteri Bottas Sauber +1 lap
15 Zhou Guanyu Sauber +1 lap
16 Esteban Ocon Alpine +1 lap
17 George Russell Mercedes DNF
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes DNF
Max Verstappen Red Bull DNF

*Twenty-second penalty for “potentially dangerous” driving involving George Russell

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

Verstappen wins street fight in Jeddah

Three-time world champion Max Verstappen dominated Formula 1’s 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, leading a Red Bull Racing 1-2 ahead of Sergio Perez, with Charles Leclerc taking third for Ferrari.

An early crash for Lance Stroll meant Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton were a factor in the lead fight after a brief safety car where they stayed out and did not pit, but they eventually finished in the pack behind Ferrari debutant Oliver Bearman.

This was an impressive drive for Ollie as a late replacement to the unwell Carlos Sainz. The Formula 2 driver did a superb job in the Ferrari and to take seventh place is an incredible achievement.

At the start, Verstappen and Leclerc launched in formation from the front row, with the polesitter soon swinging across his rival on the run to Turn 1, where Perez, having got a better start from third, attacked Leclerc.

The Ferrari was behind the Red Bull going into the opening complex but Leclerc fought hard to stay alongside and retook second at Turn 4.

He briefly looked as if he had the pace to keep with Verstappen even without DRS once it was activated on lap two of 50, but although Perez dropped back from Leclerc on that lap as he stayed close enough that the next time by the pit straight he blasted by with DRS to Turn 1.

But before the race could settle down, Stroll crashed his Aston Martin on lap 7 after hitting the inside wall at Turn 22 and going straight on into the barriers outside Turn 23, which meant the safety car was called into action.

All the frontrunners pitted to switch their starting mediums for hards, with Red Bull able to double-stack its cars and maintain track position over Leclerc, who in any case had the longest stop as Oscar Piastri and Fernando Alonso briefly came by.

Due to the having two cars running close together in the pack, McLaren and Mercedes had to leave Norris and Hamilton out at this stage, which meant the former went through to lead Verstappen in the safety car queue, with Hamilton behind and followed by Perez and Leclerc.

The race restarted on lap 10, with Norris running clear up front from Verstappen as the hard tyres took a while to warm up on the Red Bull.

He held out until the start of lap 13, with Verstappen using the DRS to get ahead as the pair flashed by the finish line at the back of the grid, with the champion moving back to first place a formality at Turn 1.

Behind, Perez passed Hamilton at that spot, with Leclerc taking two more laps to do likewise with a battling move on Turn 1’s outside.

As Verstappen shot clear, Perez finally breezed past Norris with DRS down the main straight at the start of lap 18, by which point he was over five seconds behind his teammate and had a five-second time addition for an unsafe release in front of Alonso during the safety car stops phase.

And yet even with the penalty for Checo, the speed of the Red Bull RB20 was fast enough to claim the top two positions at the end.

As the race approached the halfway stage, the two Red Bulls gone in the lead, Norris was able to stay clear of Leclerc, boosted by the race stewards clearing him of a possible jump start.

The McLaren’s mediums continued to slowly fade as Norris fell back from Perez, with Leclerc finally getting back up to third with an easy DRS pass towards Turn 1 at the start of lap 27.

As the race entered its final 20 laps, Verstappen led Perez by 7.3 seconds – a gap he extended to 8.6 seconds in a lifeless end to proceedings, other than the leader losing a little bit of time lapping the backmarkers before pushing hard on the final lap to end the race with a personal best time.

Leclerc, similarly, dropped 8.4 seconds behind Perez by the time he finally repassed Norris, to 9.9 seconds behind at the flag, which meant Perez’s pitlane penalty meant nothing to his result, although Leclerc was able to take the fastest lap bonus point with the fastest lap just 0.1 seconds faster than Verstappen’s effort on the final lap.

Norris finally stopped for soft tyres on lap 37, rejoining after a slightly slow stop due to a delayed right rear change just in front of Hamilton in eighth and ninth – Hamilton having stopped for the same tyre the lap before.

They faced a 6.0 seconds gap to close to Bearman ahead, who had battled by Haas driver in the early stages before running behind George Russell from there.

Hamilton, who had held off Piastri for most of the race before he finally stopped, closed in on Norris and several times looked for a speculative move at Turn 1, where Norris was handed a black-and-white flag warning for weaving in front of Hamilton as the final ten laps kicked off.

They ran out of time to catch Bearman’s seventh place, with the 18-year-old maintaining a 2.7 seconds gap to Norris by the flag.

Piastri ran solo in fourth, with Alonso a chunk behind in fifth and Russell chasing on a similar margin behind the Aston Martin driver.

Nico Hulkenberg scored the final point by staying out under the safety car, then with the twice-penalised Kevin Magnussen holding up the pack behind in the other Haas he was able to stay clear and go on to take P10.

The other retirement was Pierre Gasly, who completed just four laps before stopping in the pits, having reported a gearbox problem ahead of the start.

So a fantastic debut for Ollie Bearman in the Ferrari. To score points in his first appearance in Formula 1 was impressive. He has a bright future in front of him after this solid drive. As for Max Verstappen, as expected the three-time champion scored another win. Another excellent result for Red Bull. Kudos Super Max.

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:20:43.273
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull +13.643s
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +18.639s
4 Oscar Piastri McLaren +32.007s
5 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +35.759s
6 George Russell Mercedes +39.936s
7 Oliver Bearman Ferrari +42.679s
8 Lando Norris McLaren +45.708s
9 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +47.391s
10 Nico Hulkenberg Haas +76.996s
11 Alexander Albon Williams +88.354s
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas +105.737s
13 Esteban Ocon Alpine +1 lap
14 Yuki Tsunoda RB +1 lap
15 Logan Sargeant Williams +1 lap
16 Daniel Ricciardo RB +1 lap
17 Valtteri Bottas Sauber +1 lap
18 Zhou Guanyu Sauber +1 lap
Lance Stroll Aston Martin DNF
Pierre Gasly Alpine DNF

Verstapen sets the qualifying pace in Jeddah

Three-time Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen took pole position for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, ahead of Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez.

The Red Bull driver produced a lap time of one minute, 27.472 seconds on his first run in Q3 but did not improve on his second attempt so that stood as the time to beat.

Leclerc had only been fourth but with a massive eight tenths down after the first runs, where he had tried an additional warm-up lap to cure a handling problem he was suddenly feeling with new softs.

On his second attempt with just a single warm-up effort, he cut Verstappen’s advantage to 0.319 seconds and beat Checo, who had been unable to go quicker than his first lap in the final segment.

Behind came Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso and the McLaren duo – led by Oscar Piastri throughout Q3 – and the Mercedes drivers.

George Russell ended up ahead of Lewis Hamilton despite making a mistake in the first sector on his final Q3 lap and backing off, with Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll rounding out the top ten.

Q2 was interrupted after four minutes when Nico Hulkenberg stopped in the Turn 8 runoff just has he had begun a first flier in the middle segment where his teammate, Kevin Magnussen had provided a tow.

But Hulkenberg’s VF-24 was already sounding bad, with the Hulk pulling over early in sector one and bringing out the red flags as his Haas had to be recovered.

After a five-minute delay, Q2 built to is conclusion where Oliver Bearman missed the cut by a tiny margin of 0.036 seconds in Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari, with the 18-year-old followed by Alex Albon, Kevin Magnussen and Daniel Ricciardo.

In Q1, Valtteri Bottas was shuffled back to being eliminated in P16 being others improving late in the first segment, where Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly also fell for the second week in a row.

Bottas was left feeling angry at traffic issues late in Q1, with his engineer claiming he was 0.1 seconds up on his personal best in sector one on his last lap, after the Sauber driver was eliminated by 0.072 seconds behind Albon.

This time they ended up off the back row, where Logan Sargeant and Zhou Guanyu will start for Williams and Sauber – the former setting a personal best that was not good enough to progress well ahead of the chequered flag falling.

Zhou only left the pits with one minute, 39 seconds left in Q1 after his massive FP3 shunt, but he did not make it around to start a first flier and he was eliminated in P20 with no time set.

Bearman faces a post-session investigation for apparently failing to respect the race directors’ instruction on the maximum delta time in qualifying when not on a flying lap, in both Q1 and Q2.

So as expected, Max Verstappen qualified on pole position. That Red Bull RB20 is a fast car and it will be interesting if Charles Leclerc can challenge in the race as the Ferrari is on the front row once again.

As for Ollie Bearman, this is fine effort despite a lack of preparation. With Carlos Sainz unable to take part with a health issue, this is a great opportunity for the young driver to make a good impression in Formula 1. To qualify P11 and only one place behind Lewis Hamilton is a good achievement.

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:27.472
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:27.791
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:27.807
4 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:27.846
5 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:28.089
6 Lando Norris McLaren 1:28.132
7 George Russell Mercedes 1:28.316
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:28.460
9 Yuki Tsunoda RB 1:28.547
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:28.572
11 Ollie Bearman Ferrari 1:28.642
12 Alexander Albon Williams 1:28.980
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:29.020
14 Daniel Ricciardo RB 1:29.025
15 Nico Hulkenberg Haas No time
16 Valtteri Bottas Sauber 1:29.179
17 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:29.475
18 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:29.479
19 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:29.526
20 Zhou Guanyu Sauber No time

Verstappen wins the opening race in commanding style

Three-time world champion Max Verstappen continued his winning form by taking a commannding Bahrain Grand Prix victory, leading home his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez with a 1-2.

The reigning world champion crossed the finishing line with a 22.4 seconds gap over Perez to clinch his eighth successive Formula 1 win, going back to his Suzuka win last year.

Verstappen faced little in the way of competition, only having to contend with a brief play for the lead from Charles Leclerc into the first corner as the Ferrari driver attempted to make a pass around the outside. But the Red Bull driver held the racing line and kept Leclerc at bay

Although Leclerc may have hoped for some early assistance from the revised DRS regulations, which allows the overtaking aid to be activated from the second lap, Verstappen had already disappeared up the road with an one-second advantage to ensure there were no challenges on the next lap.

Early battles for second gave Verstappen more breathing space and, after George Russell had mounted a pass on Leclerc, the Mercedes was not able to make further inroads and the Red Bull driver extended his lead to three seconds by the end of lap four.

It was a typical Verstappen drive, with relentless consistency and excellent tyre management as Red Bull arguably took a less conservative strategy relative to the other runners; having saved a set of softs from earlier in the weekend, Verstappen and Perez both ran to a soft-hard-soft two-stopper while the others elected to stick to a soft-hard-hard strategy.

Verstappen managed to take his opening stint as far as the end of lap 17 as he became the last driver to pit, but was far enough ahead of Perez – who had since passed Russell for second on lap 14 with an up-and-under overtake into Turn 4 – to maintain a five-second lead.

This grew as Perez faced challenges from Russell and Carlos Sainz behind him, ensuring that Verstappen could focus on maintaining a consistent pace at the head of the field.

He made his final stop on lap 37, switching from his sole set of hard tyres back to the softs, which he was able to press into service for a statement one minute, 32.608 seconds lap before easing back into a strong race pace.

Perez had to spend the race’s second half keeping Sainz at bay, as the Spaniard proved the quicker of the Ferrari drivers throughout the course of the race.

Sainz had earlier reeled off impressive overtakes on team-mate Leclerc and Russell to provisionally occupy a podium position and, although he sometimes had Perez within two seconds, he was unable to make any further inroads towards Checo.

Told on lap 44 that his hard tyres should start to perform more strongly compared to Perez’s softs, Sainz had to settle for third despite an impressive drive especially his inch-perfect racecraft when battling for third place.

Leclerc struggled early on in the race with a series of front lock-ups, notably struggling at Turn 10 as he complained of his car pulling to the right under braking. His later switch to the hard tyres seemed to quell some of those issues, and he managed to dispatch Russell on lap 46 with a move into Turn 11 – Russell had echoed Leclerc’s earlier travails with an off in the previous corner.

Russell’s impressive start to the race could not be carried forward, having had to nurse a suspected power unit issue, which left him having to opt for a lift-and-coast approach through the race, but the Mercedes driver nonetheless beat his McLaren rival Lando Norris into sixth.

Lewis Hamilton could not enjoy the same heroics as Russell early on, as he was largely stuck in lock-step behind Fernando Alonso in the early stages, while fighting the discomfort of a broken seat, but was able to clear Alonso and jump Oscar Piastri in the final round of stops to finish seventh.

Piastri ensured McLaren had both cars in the top eight, while Alonso slipped backwards throughout the race to finish ninth. Lance Stroll recovered from Nico Hulkenberg’s rear-end contact into the first corner to finish in P10 thanks to solid strategy from Aston Martin, which brought him back into the race.

Stroll had been nudged into a spin by Hulkenberg among the Turn 1 contact, which also caught Valtteri Bottas off-guard, but this was the only major moment of note in an incident-free race.

Zhou Guanyu was in with a shout of the final point, having made his first stop early, but could not stop the Astons from making their way through, and thus the Sauber driver had to be content with P11.

Improved race pace ensured that Kevin Magnussen could hold P12 from the chasing RB duo, despite team orders between the drivers; Yuki Tsunoda was asked to move over for Daniel Ricciardo, much to the Yuki’s annoyance, but Ricciardo could not make any further gains on K-Mag.

Alex Albon had to coax an overheating car into P15, ahead of the recovering (and three-stopping) Hulkenberg, while Alpine duo Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly were right at the back with P17 and P18. A damaged Bottas beat Logan Sargeant to P20, as the Williams driver appeared to suffer from a braking issue that forced an off-track excursion at Turn 4 on lap 10.

So this was a reality check for the other teams as the Red Bull RB20 is still the best. Excellent team effort with Max Verstappen winning with teammate Sergio Perez finishing in the runner-up spot.

Bahrain Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:31:44.742
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull +22.457
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +25.110
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +39.669
5 George Russell Mercedes +46.788
6 Lando Norris McLaren +48.458
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +50.324
8 Oscar Piastri McLaren +56.082
9 Fernando Alonso Aston Martis +74.887s
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +93.216s
11 Zhou Guanyu Sauber +1 lap
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas +1 lap
13 Daniel Ricciardo RB +1 lap
14 Yuki Tsunoda RB +1 lap
15 Alexander Albon Williams +1 lap
16 Nico Hulkenberg Haas +1 lap
17 Esteban Ocon Alpine +1 lap
18 Pierre Gasly Alpine +1 lap
19 Valtteri Bottas Sauber +1 lap
20 Logan Sargeant Williams +2 laps

Verstappen takes season opener pole position

Three-time world champion Max Verstappen took his first pole position of the new 2024 Formula 1 season, beating Charles Leclerc by 0.228 seconds to mark his place at the front of the Bahrain Grand Prix grid.

The Red Bull driver had taken a back seat during the opening two stages of qualifying but, when it came down to Q3, he set a demanding benchmark with a time of one minute, 29.421 seconds – and then beat his own effort despite the final runs to settle on a time with one minute, 29.179 seconds.

This was slower than Leclerc’s time from Q2, but the Ferrari driver was unable to replicate that effort in the final runs of the Q3 session, and could only manage one minute, 29.407 seconds as Verstappen claimed the best first sector time by two tenths.

George Russell overcame a brief scare in Q2, where he was on the edge of the elimination zone, to find form in Q3 and worked his way up to third on the grid with a time of one minute, 29.485 seconds.

Although Russell was placed under investigation for exceeding the maximum delta time in Q1, no further action was taken and he should retain his starting position on the second row in Saturday’s race.

This put him ahead of Carlos Sainz, as the Ferrari driver looked fast in Q1 but was unable to retain a similar advantage over his Scuderia teammate Leclerc. Regardless, he will start ahead of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, as he moved up to fifth late on in the Q3 session.

Fernando Alonso will start from sixth, having only completed a single flying lap in Q3 after decided to run in the gap. This lap put him third among the initial runs, but he fell back as the majority of the top ten runners improved in their second efforts.

Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri locked out the fourth row for McLaren, ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who was unable to deliver on the pace he’d shown earlier in the Bahrain weekend and looked out of sorts compared to teammate Russell.

Nico Hulkenberg completed the top ten for Haas, although could not replicate or improve upon the time he had set in Q2.

Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll dropped out of a potential Q3 by late laps by Russell and Hamilton, who delivered under the pressure of needing to find a lap on the second attempt having been stuck in the bottom five.

Although the likes of Tsunoda, Stroll, and Alex Albon all had moments within the top ten, further improvements – including Leclerc’s ride to the top of the order and Hulkenberg’s journey into sixth – shuffled them down the grid order.

Daniel Ricciardo dropped out behind Albon, as Kevin Magnussen could not join his Haas teammate Magnussen in the top ten.

Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu had both moved their Saubers out of the Q1 drop zone after their second runs, but soon drifted back into the bottom five when other drivers on the edge of elimination had improved.

This also cost Logan Sargeant who had been P12 after the initial runs, but the Williams driver could not improve on his final lap and fell to P18.

This was a nightmare situation for Alpine following a disappointing testing, with both Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly at the bottom of the timesheets throughout the session – with Gasly the only driver outside of a second’s gap to Carlos Sainz’s Q1 headline time.

So an expected, the pre-season favourite is quickest with the nearest challenger alongside. With Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc on the front row, the race is going to be exciting.

Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying positions:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:29.179
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:29.407
3 George Russell Mercedes 1:29.485
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:29.507
5 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:29.537
6 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:29.542
7 Lando Norris McLaren 1:29.614
8 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:29.683
9 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:29.710
10 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:30.502
11 Yuki Tsunoda RB 1:30.129
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:30.200
13 Alexander Albon Williams 1:30.221
14 Daniel Ricciardo RB 1:30.278
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:30.529
16 Valtteri Bottas Sauber 1:30.756
17 Zhou Guanyu Sauber 1:30.757
18 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:30.770
19 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:30.793
20 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:30.948