Max Verstappen has put his Red Bull in pole position for the Australian Grand Prix after a lively qualifying session at the Albert Park Circuit.
Verstappen’s time of 1:16.732 was unable to be beaten by Mercedes’ George Russell (+0.236) and Lewis Hamilton (+0.372).
The hot lap sealed Verstappen’s first pole Down Under.
“I have been on the podium once, but I want to be on a different step this time,” Verstappen said afterwards.
In his first home grand prix, Australia’s Oscar Piastri failed to jump into the top-15 at the conclusion of Q1.
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The Melburnian slowed late in the first trimester to build space but the pacing compromised his tyre temperature and with a time of 1:18.517 will start 16th on the grid for Sunday’s feature race.
As showers threatened, half the grid queued down pit lane to set an early flying lap.
However, the red flag was shown four minutes into Q1 after Sergio Perez’s horror luck in practice dragged into qualifying.
After running off track four times during practice three, Perez was unable to bring his tyres to temperature, causing him to lock up going into turn three and strand his Red Bull in the gravel.
The session was stopped to remove the car from the circuit – spoiling the flying lap time of teammate Verstappen.
“It was the same f—ing issue again,” Perez said over the team radio, referring to the problems that plagued him in the third practice.
“At this level, that’s just not acceptable,” David Coulthard said on F1 TV commentary.
As Q1 resumed, Verstappen soon set the precedent before Williams’ Alex Albon shocked by shooting up the leaderboard off the back of a quick middle sector.
Fernando Alonso (+0.407), Carlos Sainz (+0.538), Lance Stroll, Charles Leclerc, Albon, Pierre Gasly and Nico Hulkenberg eventually rounded out the top-10 positions.
“This is totally unexpected. For us to be up in the two front rows is a dream,” Hamilton said.
“To be this close to Red Bull is incredible.”
Provisional starting grid for the Australian Grand Prix
1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. George Russell (Mercedes)
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
4. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
6. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
7. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
8. Alex Albon (Williams)
9. Pierre Gasly (Alpine)
10. Nico Hulkenberg (Haas)
11. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
12. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
13. Lando Norris (McLaren)
14. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
15. Nyck De Vries (AlphaTauri)
16. Oscar Piastri (McLaren)
17. Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo)
18. Logan Sargeant (Williams)
19. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)
20. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
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