RACE DEBRIEF

    Max Verstappen claimed his first ever front row start at Albert Park in qualifying for the 2022 Australian Grand Prix, finishing one place ahead of Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez. But the Dutchman didn’t appear satisfied, as he opened up about the balance issues that had hampered him behind the wheel of his Red Bull RB18 in qualifying.

    Verstappen had looked visibly less comfortable on track than the Ferrari pair of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc throughout the Melbourne weekend. But after leading Q1 and taking P4 in Q2, Verstappen was then on a rapid first flying lap in Q3 when he locked up into Turn 13.

    READ MORE: Leclerc holds off Red Bull charge to take pole in action-packed Australian Grand Prix qualifying

    Verstappen regrouped but was left 0.286s adrift of pole-sitter Charles Leclerc in P2 and, asked how he felt, he replied: “Yes, not good. I didn’t really feel good in the car the whole weekend so far; there has not been one lap where I felt confident so far, so a bit of a struggle. Of course, second is still a good result but not feeling that great to go the limit so we’ll try to analyse it.

    “It's been terrible for me, the whole weekend so far,” he added. “Just not a good balance, all the time chasing something and I never felt comfortable for one lap, except the long runs. Just been a big struggle and clearly we didn't seem to really fix it, even in qualifying.

    2022 Australian GP Qualifying: Leclerc storms to pole ahead of Verstappen

    “It just doesn't give you confidence to push,” Verstappen continued. “Also my first run in Q3, I started to feel a bit better and I was actually hooking it up, but then I locked up again in one corner just because of a random balance shift. So it's not been great to be honest.”

    The reigning champion – yet to score a pole position so far in 2022 – was at least more positive on his prospects for Sunday’s race, saying: “Probably in the race pace everything stabilises a bit, but for me everything this weekend has been a bit all over the place. Of course, happy to be second but also as a team we want more.”

    READ MORE: Leclerc relieved to take pole on Albert Park track where 'I’ve always struggled'

    Team mate Sergio Perez – pole-sitter last time out in Jeddah – was more upbeat after taking P3 on the grid, especially on a day when Leclerc’s team mate Sainz could only manage P9.

    “It felt good, Q1, Q2 things were going good. With all the red flags, it’s always very hard to keep the momentum going,” said Perez. “I regret a bit the decision to go into Q3 with our strategy on the tyres, but I think P3 is a decent start for tomorrow.

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    Verstappen said he hadn't driven one low-fuel lap he was happy with so far this weekend at Albert Park

    “I think we’ve got a nice race ahead of us,” added Perez. “First of all, I hope we make a lot of Aussies very happy tomorrow. Full grandstands already on a Saturday, so hopefully tomorrow we can give them a nice race.”

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    The one cloud on Perez’s horizon was an investigation by the stewards into an alleged failure to slow under yellow flags in Q1 – with Perez due to visit them at 1900 local time.