Red Bull’s Max Verstappen beat Mercedes rival George Russell to pole position for the Australian Grand Prix during an ultra-close qualifying session that began with Sergio Perez sliding off the track and out of proceedings.

    After a particularly messy final practice hour, Perez locked up and beached his car in the gravel trap at Turn 3 as he started his first Q1 run, leaving him at the back of the grid for Sunday's race, and with plenty of work to do.

    READ MORE: Verstappen claims first ever Melbourne pole as Russell bags front row start

    When the action resumed and the top-10 shootout arrived, Verstappen capitalised on his team mate’s troubles to clock the fastest time – a 1m 16.732s – and take pole for Sunday’s race, with the Mercedes drivers emerging as the nearest threat.

    George Russell edged out Lewis Hamilton for a place on the front row, followed by the lead Aston Martin and Ferrari machines of Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz and their respective team mates, Lance Stroll and Charles Leclerc.

    Watch the action from qualifying at Albert Park in the video player above.