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Max Verstappen left his Saudi Arabian Grand Prix woes behind, scoring another dominant pole position. A tyre lock-up left Sergio Perez beached in the gravel, and last on the grid for the Grand Prix.
F1 Australia Grand Prix Qualifying: Who Will be on Pole?
Verstappen will be on pole for the 2023 Australian Grand Prix. In a reverse of their Saudi Arabian Grand Prix’s fortunes, the two-time champion had a flawless session, while his teammate Sergio Perez ended up in 20th place. It is the Dutchman’s first career pole in Albert Park.
Mercedes was Saturday’s biggest surprise, as George Russell and Lewis Hamilton secured second and third, ahead of Fernando Alonso.
F1 Australia Grand Prix Q1: Verstappen Leads, Perez Spins Out
It was a mixed session for Red Bull. On one hand, Max Verstappen once again was the class of the field. On the other, Sergio Perez’s miserable Saturday came to an unexpected early end.
The Mexican, who had notably struggled in FP3 under braking, ended his afternoon only eight minutes into the session. In a repeat of his practice woes, Perez locked his tyres going into turn 3 and beached his Red Bull in the gravel trap, triggering a red flag. With this, the man second in the standings is set to start dead last on Sunday.
Less than half the field had set a banker lap prior to the red flag, setting up a frantic 10-minute run. The cool weather, combined with Albert Park’s layout, allowed drivers to go the full length of the session without needing a second set of tyres.
The old-school qualifying session saw Verstappen go top, more than three-tenths clear from the rest of the field. Down the order, the fight for a spot in Q2 saw hometown driver Oscar Piastri narrowly miss out, finishing 16th and just under a tenth down on Nyck de Vries. The two Alfa Romeos of Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas, along with Williams’ Logan Sargeant, joined Piastri and Perez as the five eliminated drivers.
F1 Australia Grand Prix Q2: Verstappen on Top Again
With the threat of rain looming on the horizon, drivers wasted no time and immediately went out to set their banker laps.
The Aston Martins of Alonso and Stroll went to the top, with the Canadian a tiny fraction quicker than his more experienced teammate. Charles Leclerc set an impressive time to go top – only to be demoted by Verstappen, who once again went three-tenths faster than the rest of the field. Alonso got himself up to second, slashing the Dutchman’s advantage to just under a tenth.
Verstappen set a late flier to stretch the gap again with a 1:17.056 – just missing out on the first ever 1:16 lap in Albert Park’s history. Nico Hulkenberg secured his spot in Q3 with an impressive lap, briefly moving up to third. The Haas driver was eventually jumped by both Ferraris, but still finished in a respectable fifth.
Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon also advanced with late fliers, while Stroll also advanced with a dangerous ninth place. Esteban Ocon did not manage to replicate his teammate’s efforts, ending up in 11th place by under a hundredth. Joining the Alpine driver were Yuki Tsunoda, Lando Norris, Kevin Magnussen and Nyck de Vries.
F1 Australia Grand Prix Q3: Verstappen Scores Another Pole, Mercedes on the Front Row
Verstappen was the first one out, going to the top of the sheets but over half-a-second down on his best lap. In a quick flurry, the Dutchman dropped down to sixth. Alonso grabbed provisional pole for a brief moment before getting demoted by an impressive Lewis Hamilton.
Verstappen managed to put together a faster lap, pipping Hamilton by nine-thousandths. With the threat of rain once again looming on the horizon, drivers went out for one final attempt.
This time, Verstappen left nothing on the table. The Dutchman set a 1:16.732 for a new unofficial track record, the first ever sub-17 lap in Albert Park’s history. In a suprising ending to the session, the Mercedes of Russell and Hamilton snatched second and third respectively, with Russell also dipping below the 17’s. Alonso will line up fourth, sharing the second row with his former teammate.
Sainz and Stroll will share the third row, with 2022 pole-setter Leclerc lining up in eighth place. Gasly and Hulkenberg rounded out the top 10.
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