Verstappen takes Australian Grand Prix pole ahead of Sainz & Perez

Verstappen takes Australian Grand Prix pole ahead of Sainz & Perez

Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen took his third straight pole position of 2024 with a blistering final lap of Q3 that left him almost three tenths of a second clear of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, with Sergio Pérez third in the second Red Bull. 

Verstappen had struggled for car balance throughout practice sessions in Melbourne and even as he worked through the opening two sessions of qualifying the Dutchman was unhappy with the handling of his Red Bull RB20. But following tweaks made after Q2 the three-time champion found a sweet spot and powered clear of his rivals. 

“So far this weekend it's been a bit tough to find a good balance in the car,” he said after taking his 35th career pole position. “Even throughout qualifying, Q1, Q2, I didn't really feel like fighting for pole. But then we made some little tickles on the car and that seemed to help me in Q3 to really push it to the limit. Both of my laps I felt quite happy with it. I mean, there are always things that you can improve, but overall, I am satisfied with the performance.”

Sainz’s front-row start represents a good result for the Spanish driver who is returning following surgery to last time out in Bahrain to remove his appendix. 

“It's been a tough couple of weeks, a lot of days in bed, waiting for this moment, to see if I could be here today,” he said. “To make it to this weekend and then obviously to put it on the front row after leading through qualifying, I was almost not believing it, especially after how tough it's been. But very happy to be here, very happy to be challenging the Red Bulls this weekend.”

Sainz led the way in Q1, setting a lap of 1:16.731, ahead of Ferrari Pérez who took P2 thanks to a lap of 1:16.805. Verstappen took third place just 0.014 behind his team-mate. The Dutchman wasn’t happy with his RB20 however, complaining about understeer.

Eliminated at the end of Q1 were Haas’ Nico Hülkenberg in P16 ahead of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly. RB’s Daniel Ricciardo was also dumped out of the session when he plummeted from P10 to P18 after his final lap was deleted for overstepping track limits in Turn 5. Sauber’s Zhou Guanyu was slowest in the session and exited in P19.

At the start of Q2 it was Verstappen, on fresh tyres, who made the most of the first runs,  the champion taking P1 with a lap of 1:16.387 that put him little over two tenths ahead of McLaren’s Oscar Piastri. Sainz and Leclerc, on used tyres, took third and fourth places, ahead the second McLaren of Lando Norris. 

With fresh Soft tyres on board, Sainz then moved ahead, taking top spot with a lap of 1:16.189. 0.198s ahead of Verstappen, who stayed in the garage for the final laps. That gave Leclerc an opportunity and in the final moments the Monegasque driver posted a lap of 1:16.304 to bump Verstappen down to third. 

There was no place in the top-10 shootout for Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton who exited in P11 ahead of Williams’ Alex Albon, Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas, the Haas of Kevin Magnussen and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon.

With Sainz in charge through the opening two segments and with Leclerc also quick, it looked like Ferrari had the upper hand, but in the minutes before the green lights were lit to start the top-10 shootout, whatever adjustments Verstappen’s team made to his car paid off and in the opening runs of Q3, the Dutchman stamped new authority on the session as he took provisional pole ahead of Sainz and Leclerc.

And he tightened his grip on pole with his final flying lap. The Dutchman ended the session as the only driver to dip below 1m16s and his time of 1:15.915 was good enough to beat Sainz by 0.270s with Pérez a further nine hundredths of a second back in third. 

Fourth place went to Norris, but Leclerc slumped to fifth after a mistake on his final flyer forced him to abandon his bid for pole. Piastri will start sixth ahead of Russell and Tsunoda, with the Astons of Alonso and Stroll in ninth and tenth. 

2024 FIA Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix – Qualifying 
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:15.915 - -
2 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:16.185 0.270 
3 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Racing 1:16.274 0.359 
4 Lando Norris McLaren 1:16.315 0.400 
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:16.435 0.520 
6 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:16.572 0.657 
7 George Russell Mercedes 1:16.724 0.809 
8 Yuki Tsunoda RB 1:16.788 0.873 
9 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:17.072 1.157 
10 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:17.552 1.637 
11 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:16.960 1.045 
12 Alexander Albon Williams 1:17.167 1.252 
13 Valtteri Bottas Sauber 1:17.340 1.425 
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:17.427 1.512 
15 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:17.697 1.782 
16 Nico Hülkenberg Haas 1:17.976 2.061 
17 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:17.982 2.067 
18 Daniel Ricciardo RB 1:18.085 2.170 
19 Zhou Guanyu Kick Sauber 1:18.188 2.273 

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