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Verstappen takes pole from Sainz in qualifying Down Under

Written by Maria Fashchevskaya, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Max Verstappen reigned supreme once again — taking his 35th pole position in Formula One, and second Down Under, from the returning Carlos Sainz, with Lando Norris set to start from third on the grid, after Sergio Perez’s post-qualifying penalty for impeding Nico Hulkenberg during Saturday’s qualifying session.

Image Credit: RedBull Content Pool

As qualifying unfolded, it was sure not to be a cakewalk for the reigning champions. The Tifosis went into Saturday practice and qualifying being a decent favourite, however, Red Bull would still be counted as favourites for another win. 

All the cars were out on track with soft tyres for Q1. For a change, it was both Ferraris leading the way, Leclerc setting a time of 1:17.248s on the clock. He was beaten by Fernando Alonso who eclipsed the Monegasque with a 1:16.991s.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was trying to get a timed lap in, as he touched on the wall, and had a puncture on the rear left tyre. With around eight minutes to go, both Alpines still hadn’t set a time, sitting at the tail of the leaderboard. 

With five minutes to go, most drivers peeled into the pits for new rubber. In danger at that moment were Hamilton and Russell, as the latter complained of his tyres “not really working”. The track was evolving rapidly, and the times kept tumbling.

Pierre Gasly would be investigated after the session for failing pit exit instructions, with two minutes of Q1 left on the clock. Replays showed the Frenchman did indeed cross the pit lane exit line, and it would all depend on whether he could argue on any mitigating circumstances. He tried his best to make it out of Q1, but couldn’t make the cut. 

Getting out of the Q1, Daniel Ricciardo’s last lap was deleted due to track limits. This put the home hero 18th on the grid. Zhou Guanyu was out of qualifying too, having picked up front wing damage early on. 

Out in Q1: Hulkenberg, Gasly, Ricciardo, Zhou

Ricciardo was eliminated early in the qualifying session; Credit - Red Bull Content Pool


When Q2 started, drivers were back to set times around Albert Park. Carlos Sainz was the first to get in a timed lap with 1:16.671s on used tyres, being usurped by Max Verstappen with 1:16.387s right away, while on fresh rubber. 

Home hero Oscar Piastri went second, 0.254s off Verstappen with 10 minutes to go. He was on fresh tyres too. However, Lando Norris on fresh rubber could not match his teammate in Q2 and went fifth. Piastri had been the pick of the two all weekend long so far, both drivers looking assured of making it into Q3.

Eight minutes to go, and Kevin Magnussen in the Haas still hadn’t set a time in Q2. In the elimination zone sat Ocon, Bottas, Tsunoda and Albon – the only car for Williams this weekend after the FP1 crash, and Logan Sargeant handing over his car to his teammate for the remainder of the weekend. 

With six minutes to go, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz went to the top of the leaderboard with 1:16.189s. Esteban Ocon tried to improve on a timed lap but did not push out of the elimination zone on the board, staying in P15. The same went for Alex Albon, staying in P11, out of Q3, temporarily. In P10 sat Lance Stroll, at risk of being eliminated.

Lewis Hamilton was eliminated in Q2; Image Credit: Mark Thompson / Getty Images

All the drivers last on the board started a final timed lap in the final seconds of Q2. As Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Williams’ Alex Albon could not improve their times, Kevin Magnussen in the Haas improved his time, but not enough to advance into the top 10. 

The Sauber car of honorary Aussie Valterri Bottas stayed in the elimination zone. A big shock would ensue, with Yuki Tsunoda surprisingly pushing his RB car into the Top 10, and putting Lance Stroll under pressure. Stroll himself was on a timed lap, and pushed Lewis Hamilton out of the top ten, who sat P11 while the chequered flag was waved. 

Out in Q2: Hamilton, Albon, Bottas, Magnussen, Ocon


As Q3 went underway, both Red Bulls, Ferraris, Aston Martins, and McLarens were in the Top 10 to fight for the best grid position. Also ‘in’ the game was the RB car of Tsunoda, pleased to fight with the best ones. 

"We are going to go for it, we are not dying to save this soft set for tomorrow. I think if Yuki can repeat that lap, it was a very, very good lap, then there are a couple of these guys we can get", said RB Team Principal Mekies to F1 TV. 

All the cars went out on track, and the two Ferraris were rapid once again, as Carlos Sainz set a benchmark of 1:16.331s. But here went Max Verstappen – the flying Dutchman going first with seven minutes to go, and a time of 1:16.048s.

As everyone went into the pits before a final timed lap, Fernando Alonso went wide and into the gravel at Turn six. He pulled into the pits immediately, to check for damage to his Aston Martin. Oscar Piastri reported some issues on his floor, too.

After a last time in the pits, the first car with Lance Stroll for Aston Martin went out to clock in a timed lap before traffic hit. Two minutes to go and everyone is on an out lap. Purple sector one hit as Verstappen was on the final lap, however, that was snatched by Sainz after him. 

Gaining the provisional pole with a sensational 1m 15.915s, he was followed by teammate Sergio Perez. Carlos Sainz looked on course for pole, but moved up to second, pushing Perez into third. 

Verstappen is on pole in Albert Park. Image Credit: RedBull Content Pool

Charles Leclerc made a mistake at Turn 12, and abandoned his final timed lap immediately, turning into the pits. He stayed fifth behind Verstappen, Sainz, Perez, and Norris in the McLaren in fourth place. 

Finally, Alonso chased a better result, but he did not improve after his expedition into the gravel, starting from P10 tomorrow. Ahead of him was teammate Lance Stroll in P9. 

The younger Australian on the grid, Piastri starts P6 tomorrow, ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell and a delighted Tsunoda in seventh and eighth place, respectively. 

Who will win the Australian Grand Prix tomorrow? Tune in to the live coverage of the race at 3 p.m. track time (4 a.m. GMT) to find out.  


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