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Verstappen delighted to overcome ‘really tricky’ qualifying for first F1 pole in Australia

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Max Verstappen expressed his satisfaction after navigating a low-grip qualifying session at the Albert Park Circuit to claim pole position at the Australian Grand Prix for the first time in his F1 career.

As drivers battled to get the most out of their soft tyres, Verstappen ended the first Q3 runs with a slender 0.009s advantage, but the reigning world champion’s second single-lap attempt yielded a much-improved 1m 16.732s – securing top spot by a couple of tenths.

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

With Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez sliding off the track in Q1, Verstappen’s nearest rivals were Mercedes pair George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, who used the tricky conditions to slot their W14s ahead of both Aston Martin and Ferrari machines.

Reflecting on his session and pole position effort, Verstappen said: “The last lap was pretty decent. Up until then it was just really tricky to find the grip and try to nail it on one lap. I think you could see everyone was doing either a build [lap] or going faster on their second attempt.

2023 Australian GP Qualifying: Max Verstappen crosses the line to seal pole position in Melbourne

“I only had time in that last run [in the Q3 session] to go out and just go for that first time, but this time it worked out, so I’m very happy with that.”

He added: “[It was] just very tough to get the tyres to work in Turn 1 and get that comfortable feeling through that corner. I think that has been a bit the story again the whole week.

READ MORE: ‘We’ve got to go for the win’ – Russell and Hamilton reflect on ‘dream’ Melbourne qualifying as they eye victory

“I think also it wouldn’t have mattered if we had full running in FP1 and FP2, it’s just on a performance lap it seems very tricky with this new tarmac around here since last year.”

As for Mercedes emerging as his and Red Bull’s closest challenger, Verstappen said: “I’m a little bit surprised, maybe they are also a little bit surprised!

2023 Australian GP Qualifying: Perez out in Q1 after beaching his Red Bull in the gravel

“I guess it’s a good thing. Again, it’s all about just having the tyres in the right window, and I guess they did a good job with that as well.”

Turning his attention to Sunday’s Grand Prix, Verstappen brushed off any lingering reliability concerns after reporting gearshift complaints over the radio and expressed cautious optimism about the RB19’s race pace at Albert Park.

DATA POINTS: What we learned from Friday practice in Australia

“I did a long run in FP3, so I had a bit of a read on the tyres. I don’t think it’s a straightforward race with the tyres, but I think what we have shown so far this year, I think the car is normally good in the race,” he summed up.

Verstappen heads into the race with a one-point lead over Perez in the drivers’ standings, as the Mexican faces a recovery drive from the back of the grid after his qualifying incident.

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