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

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

Max Verstappen claimed an assured pole position in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, with the Dutchman setting the pace ahead of Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez.

After setting a time of 1m 16.048s in the first runs of Q3, Verstappen improved on his effort in the final laps with a 1m 15.915s. This put him 0.270s clear of Sainz, who had looked impressive in his first qualifying since returning following surgery for appendicitis two weeks ago.

Perez will share the second row with the lead McLaren of Lando Norris, while Charles Leclerc wound up fifth after abandoning his final flying lap.

Home favourite Oscar Piastri will start from sixth, ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell in seventh and RB’s Yuki Tsunoda in eighth after a strong performance.

The Aston Martin duo of Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso completed the top 10, with each having a moment during their laps in Q3.

Australia 2024

Qualifying results

PositionTeam NameTime
1VER1:15.915
2SAI1:16.185
3PER1:16.274
4NOR1:16.315
5LEC1:16.435
View Full Results

There was a shock in the final moments of Q2 as Lewis Hamilton was pushed out of the top 10 by Tsunoda, meaning that the seven-time world champion will start from P11 on the grid following a difficult session for Mercedes.

He will be joined on the sixth row by Alex Albon, who has taken over the chassis of team mate Logan Sargeant for the remainder of the weekend, after Williams were left with only one following Albon’s crash in Free Practice 1.

Valtteri Bottas – a keen fan of Australia – will start from P13, with Kevin Magnussen the lead Haas in P14 while Esteban Ocon hauled his Alpine into P15, despite a brush with the wall in Q1.

Nico Hulkenberg was amongst the drivers eliminated in Q1, with the German set to start from P16, while Alpine’s Pierre Gasly ended the session in P17 and will also be investigated after the session for crossing the line at the pit exit.

Meanwhile Daniel Ricciardo suffered an early exit in front of his home fans, having had a lap time deleted and ultimately finishing Q1 in P18. The Kick Sauber of Zhou Guanyu will start from the back in P19, with only 19 cars running due to Sargeant’s absence.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull

It was another solid qualifying session for Verstappen as he looks for his third win of the season in Australia

AS IT HAPPENED

Q1 – Sainz quickest as Ricciardo misses out in front of home crowd

Ahead of the session getting underway at 1600 local time, several cars had already formed a queue at the end of the pit lane, with the sole Williams of Albon leading the pack out onto the Albert Park Circuit after the green light appeared.

The majority of the field opted to run the soft tyres for their opening laps in what were slightly warmer conditions than those seen earlier in the day during Free Practice 3.

There was an early moment for Albon as he went wide through the final corner before then losing the lap time altogether due to track limits, while Ocon had a very close brush with the barriers. The Alpine driver subsequently limped back to the pits, having seemingly picked up some damage.

Meanwhile the stewards confirmed that they would investigate an impeding incident between Perez and Hulkenberg in Turn 13 after the session, while Gasly was later noted for crossing the line at the pit exit, adding to Alpine’s recent woes.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving (55) the Ferrari SF-24 on track

Sainz set the early pace during qualifying at the Albert Park Circuit

As Q1 wore on and the lap times continued to fall, the Ferraris and Red Bulls were looking fast while Alonso briefly topped the timesheets with an impressive lap in the Aston Martin. Sainz ultimately came out on top with a time of 1m 16.731s.

Albon bolstered Williams’ prospects by putting himself up into sixth place as the minutes ticked down, while a host of drivers bolted on a fresh set of tyres in the hopes of avoiding the elimination zone.

Amongst them was Ricciardo, who reached P10 before having a lap time deleted due to track limits, dropping him down to P18. Elsewhere, Ocon gave Alpine a boost by impressively claiming P14.

Team mate Gasly wasn’t so lucky, though. The Frenchman was eliminated in P17, along with Hulkenberg in P16, the aforementioned Ricciardo in P18 and Zhou – who appeared to have picked up some damage to his front wing – rounding out the pack in P19.

Knocked out: Hulkenberg, Gasly, Ricciardo, Zhou

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Visa Cash App RB

Ricciardo suffered a Q1 exit in front of his home crowd

Q2 – Hamilton makes shock exit

It was a busy start to the 15-minute Q2 session, with some drivers – including the Red Bull duo – running a fresh set of soft tyres while the likes of Ferrari opted for used rubber.

Sainz and Verstappen exchanged times at the top of the timesheets, with Verstappen ultimately setting the initial pace with a lap of 1m 16.387s, while Piastri surely delighted the home fans by putting himself into P2.

As the Ferrari pair switched to fresh C5 tyres for their quick laps, Sainz looked to have the edge over team mate Leclerc. The Spaniard again went top, with Leclerc slotting into third behind Verstappen.

Further back, the final moments of Q2 saw several drivers try to find a way into the top 10. While most were left in the elimination zone, Tsunoda succeeded in putting himself up into P9, leading the charge for RB.

This resulted in Hamilton being pushed out of the top 10 and into P11, continuing what has been a difficult visit to Albert Park so far for the Mercedes driver. Also exiting were Albon, Bottas, Magnussen and Ocon, all flying the flag for their respective teams.

Knocked out: Hamilton, Albon, Bottas, Magnussen, Ocon

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG

Hamilton was a surprise elimination from Q2 after a difficult session for Mercedes

Q3 – Verstappen beats Sainz while Leclerc abandons flying lap

There were a mixture of new and old tyres being used as Q3 got underway, with fresh rubber for the Ferraris, Red Bulls and McLarens while others opted for used.

As the first laps came in, Sainz again looked quick and put himself into provisional pole, before Verstappen took the position by more than two tenths of a second with a lap of 1m 16.048s.

Elsewhere Alonso had a visit to the gravel at Turn 6, prompting the Spaniard to return to the pits without setting a time, while Stroll had also stayed in the pits during the initial runs and instead completed his lap while the track was clear of traffic.

During the final runs, Verstappen improved on his time to stay P1 with a 1m 15.915s, while Sainz managed to separate the Red Bulls by slotting into second ahead of Perez in third.

Norris was the lead McLaren in fourth, while Leclerc abandoned his last lap and ended the session in fifth. Piastri is set to start from sixth, ahead of Russell in seventh and an impressive Tsunoda in eighth.

After both experienced a moment on track during their respective laps, Stroll and Alonso finished Q3 in P9 and P10.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull

Verstappen will start from pole position for a third time in 2024

Key quote

“It was a bit unexpected I think today in qualifying but very happy with Q3,” said Verstappen after the session. “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.”

What’s next

The 2024 Australian Grand Prix is set to begin at 1500 local time. Head to the RACE HUB to find out how you can catch the action from Melbourne.

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