Pole for Verstappen as Mercedes come alive in Albert Park
Despite difficulty to get tyres in the right operating window, Red Bull's Max Verstappen got the job done and will start the Australian Grand Prix from pole position. Mercedes' George Russell and Lewis Hamilton secured second and third.
Qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix kicked off in unusually cool conditions while the track was still slippery due to rain earlier in the day. This made it a very tricky start of the session, taking into account the small runoffs around Albert Park.
Logan Sargeant was one of the first to find out as he spun after getting on the throttle too quickly on the penultimate corner. The American got his Williams turned around and went into the pitlane before anyone else passed this section of the track.
As the track got busy and everybody but Sargeant was on track 7 minutes into the session it was Perez who locked up the inner front wheel at Turn 3. The Mexican couldn't get his car turned in, sending him into the gravel and out of qualifying. While stuck he reported it was "the same f***ing issue as in practice", pointing to the identical issue he had in FP3, consistently in the same corner. Despite lots of work by his mechanics the problem had clearly not been dialled out of his RB19.
The subsequent red flag situation lasted for a about 8 minutes before Verstappen was the first to take to the track, followed by Alonso, Stroll, Albon and the two Ferraris.
Verstappen first lap was immediately strong and good enough to take the top spot. Still, for pretty much everybody the second laps proved better with tyres not getting warm enough by the first flying lap. Verstappen for instance shaved 6 tenths off his first time to record 1:17.469 5 minutes from the end of the session. Alonso slotted into second followed by a surprising Alex Albon, then Sainz and Stroll, Russell, Mercedes, Leclerc.
Some further improvements still popped up with Hamilton going second fastest, then eventually Russell while Ocon slotted in 4th.
Further back Devries and Tsunoda just got themselves saved and into Q2, dropping out home hero Piastri, Zhou, Sargeant, Bottas and of course Perez.
The second part of qualifying once again saw Verstappen go fastest with a single lap on a set of softs while the Mercedes, Ferrari and Aston Martin all remained out longer and seemed to perform better after that first flying lap. Verstappen though did return to the track late in the session to improve another 0.15s on his previous best.
Alonso was a close second at 0.227s, set on his second of 4 timed laps on the same set of softs. Alonso was notably also the only driver not to return to the track in the closing minutes.
As the session ended Hulkenberg shot up to third to secure a spot in Q3 followed by another improvement for Sainz to get past Hulkenberg again, 0.293s slower than Verstappen. Leclerc set a similar time another few seconds later.
In the elimination zone it was a tense fight for Albon, Tsunoda and the Alpine drivers. In the end it was Gasly who made it through for Alpine just like Albon and Stroll. Ocon ended up 11th by a few milliseconds and blamed it on traffic while Tsunoda was 12th and got infuriated yet again when his stop at the weighing bridge didn't go as quickly as he had hoped. Norris, Magnussen and Devries filled the slots fro 13th to 15th place.
This meant a single Red Bull in Q3, joined by two Aston Martins, two Ferraris, two Mercedes, one Haas, one Alpine and one Williams.
The session starts with Verstappen in front, followed by Alonso and Sainz. Verstappen's first sector was immediately 1.2s faster than what Alonso did as the Spaniard, just like the others went for a quick but controlled first lap to warm up the tyres whereas Verstappen didn't have the slightest of problems with tyre warmup.
Verstappen's lap was clearly not ideal and he ended up just 6th after the others had completed their second flying laps. Hamilton was fastest until Verstappen made his second flyer, after a cooldown lap count. The Dutchman was only just 0.009s quicker than Hamilton, 0.041s ahead of Alonso and 0.086s ahead of Russell. Sainz and Leclerc followed in 5th and 6th.
Lance Stroll meanwhile was on a different run plan and only started his second flying lap when Verstappen returned to the box while reporting another gear shifting problem. Stroll was 0.301 off of Verstappen but with that only 7th, ahead of Albon by just 4 hundredths.
In the final minute Verstappen magically improved another half a second as both Mercedes snuck ahead of Alonso for the final grid positions. George Russell second second place ahead of Hamilton. Carlos Sainz was the fastest Ferrari in 5th while Stroll eventually improved again to slot into 6th, ahead of Leclerc.
|1||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda Rbpt||1:17.384||1:17.056||1:16.732||24|
|4||14||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:17.832||1:17.283||1:17.139||26|
|6||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:17.873||1:17.616||1:17.308||26|
|8||23||Alexander Albon||Williams Mercedes||1:17.962||1:17.761||1:17.609||27|
|9||10||Pierre Gasly||Alpine Renault||1:18.312||1:17.574||1:17.675||25|
|10||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Haas Ferrari||1:18.029||1:17.412||1:17.735||26|
|11||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||1:17.770||1:17.768||18|
|12||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Honda Rbpt||1:18.471||1:18.099||22|
|13||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||1:18.243||1:18.119||24|
|14||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:18.159||1:18.129||18|
|15||21||Nyck De Vries||Alphatauri Honda Rbpt||1:18.450||1:18.335||23|
|16||81||Oscar Piastri||Mclaren Mercedes||1:18.517||12|
|17||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:18.540||12|
|18||2||Logan Sargeant||Williams Mercedes||1:18.557||12|
|19||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:18.714||12|
|RT||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Honda Rbpt||2|