Verstappen on pole position as Perez starts last

Mercedes show strong pace to qualify second and third as Verstappen clinches pole position

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 01: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit on April 01, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202304010103 // Usage for editorial use only //

Max Verstappen will start the Australian Grand Prix from pole position for the first time in his careers after setting the fastest time in a tricky qualifying session at Albert Park.

There was a sense of urgency at the start of the session, with rain forecast to hit the track before the end of the qualifying, while the cooler than expected track temperatures meant some struggled to get heat into their tyres.

Sergio Perez’s hopes of repeating his win from Saudi Arabia were dealt a blow when he locked up and ran wide, beaching his Red Bull in the gravel, resulting in a Q1 red flag while the car was cleared.

Logan Sargeant dropped out in the first session for the third straight race, spinning early in the session, while there was disappointment for the home crowd as Melbourne’s Oscar Piastri went out in Q1.

Traffic cost Esteban Ocon in Q2, as the Alpine driver couldn’t find clear track to match his teammate’s pace.

Ferrari warned its drivers rain was imminent as the cars headed out for Q3, with the drivers pushing hard early in the final part of qualifying, but the track remained dry.

That meant Verstappen was able to set the best time of the day late on – one of only two drivers to set a time under 1:17.

Fernando Alonso had looked like being Verstappen’s closest rival for pole, but the Mercedes cars both found pace late on, with George Russell joining the reigning champion on the front row, just ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton, pushing Alonso down into fourth.

Alex Albon starts from eighth after showing strong pace throughout qualifying, setting the fastest time of the day in the second sector of the track.

Provisional qualifying result:

1 Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

2. George Russell (Mercedes)

3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

4. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)

5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)

6. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)

7. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

8. Alex Albon (Williams)

9. Pierre Gasly (Alpine)

10. Nico Hulkenberg (Haas)

11. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)

12. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)

13. Lando Norris (McLaren)

14. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)

15. Nyck DeVries (AlphaTauri)

16. Oscar Piastri (McLaren)

17. Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo)

18. Logan Sargeant (Williams)

19. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)

20. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)

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