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Verstappen enjoys ‘unexpected’ pole in Australia as he predicts ‘very exciting’ race amid Ferrari threat

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and

Max Verstappen has admitted that his pole position for the Australian Grand Prix came as a little bit of a surprise after he and Red Bull struggled to get on top of their car’s balance throughout practice.

Reigning world champion Verstappen had several wild moments and off-track excursions across the three practice sessions in Melbourne, including an incident during FP1 that caused damage to his floor and chassis.

READ MORE: Verstappen surges to pole position for the Australian Grand Prix ahead of Sainz and Perez

He was still struggling as qualifying got under way but ever-improving track conditions and a series of tweaks saw him work his way to the top of the timesheets once more, getting the better of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz for P1 on the grid.

Reflecting on his third pole from three events in 2024, and how he turned things around, Verstappen said: “Yeah, it was a bit unexpected I think today in qualifying, but I’m very happy with Q3.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and

Verstappen beat former team mate Sainz to pole position at Albert Park

“I think both of those laps felt really, really nice and that was very enjoyable. It was bit of a tricky weekend so far but we managed to get there in the end, so I’m very happy with that.”

Asked about the threat from Ferrari on race day, he added: “They seem very quick also in the long runs, so a bit of a question mark for tomorrow, but I guess that makes it very exciting, so we’ll find out tomorrow.”

AS IT HAPPENED: Follow all the action from qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix

With Sainz almost three-tenths down on pole, Verstappen’s team mate, Sergio Perez, trailed by another tenth as he slotted into third place – the Mexican ruing a compromised final Q3 lap.

“I think definitely there was a bit more in it,” he said after qualifying. “My first sector was not great, especially Turn 1, I think, on my final attempt I didn’t hook the whole combination, which is straight away a tenth, a tenth and a half.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing

Perez will start a couple of grid slots behind Verstappen in third position

“But I’m happy. I think given how we’ve been during the weekend, I think it’s been a very nice progression.

“I think tomorrow we’ve got a fight on our hands to the Ferraris and to the rest of the field. I think [tyre] degradation is going to be very high, so I think starting position is not that relevant at the moment.”

READ MORE: Vowles insists he still ‘believes’ in Sargeant as he reveals American’s reaction after handing car to Albon

Asked if Red Bull’s straight-line speed could help in race-trim, Perez signed off: “We will find out tomorrow. We have changed a bit our strategy for tomorrow and let’s see who can survive the most on the degradation side.”

The other Ferrari of Charles Leclerc had been in the mix with Verstappen and Sainz earlier in qualifying but the Monegasque abandoned his final effort and wound up back in fifth, splitting the McLarens of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri.

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