First-time pole-sitter Max Verstappen wins the Australian Grand Prix: Mercedes’ George Russell finished second ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton after Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez’s Q1 collision; Watch live coverage of the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday from 6am on Sky Sports F1, with build-up beginning at 4:30am.
In Australian Grand Prix qualifying, Max Verstappen fought off a surprising Mercedes push to take pole position ahead of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton.
After his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez crashed out in Q1, the incumbent world champion became an overwhelming favourite for pole, but Mercedes presented a surprising challenge in the tough chilly and windy conditions at Albert Park.
During the first pair of runs in Q3, Hamilton was only nine thousandths of a second behind Verstappen, but the Dutchman was able to carve out a clear 0.2s edge with a 1:16.732 in the dying minutes.
Russell was able to snag a spot on the front row, beating off Hamilton by tenth and out-qualifying his seven-time world champion teammate for the third time this season.
Fernando Alonso, who had previously finished on the podium behind Red Bull one-twos in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, finished fourth for Aston Martin, while teammate Lance Stroll finished sixth.
Carlos Sainz split the Aston Martins in fifth place, scoring a rare Qualification victory over Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc, who finished eighth.
Alexander Albon finished eighth, as a Williams driver made Q3 for the first time this season, ahead of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly and Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg, who maintained his good start to the season.
Australian GP 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) Alexander Albon, Williams
9) Pierre Gasly, Alpine
10) Nico Hulkenberg, Haas
What happened to Perez?
Perez’s ambitions of establishing a world championship assault had been a hot subject heading into the weekend in Melbourne after delivering a highly remarkable effort to defeat Verstappen in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago.
Nevertheless, the Mexican had one of the worst days of his Formula One career, going off track numerous times in final practise on Saturday morning after missing the start of the session as his mechanics worked on his vehicle.
Conditions were tough as the practise began, with Logan Sargeant’s early spin in his Williams at Turn 13 serving as a strong signal to other drivers.
Nevertheless, Perez did not learn, and locked up on the approach into Turn 3, before racing into the gravel and was beached in muck right before the barrier, as he had done in practise.
Although Verstappen was able to come from 15th on the grid to finish second in Saudi Arabia, Perez has a difficult assignment in extending Red Bull’s one-two start to the season.
Mercedes appears out of nowhere to cause Q3 trouble.
With Red Bull’s domination, Mercedes has been all doom and gloom this season, with team manager Juergen Wolff saying big changes to their design philosophy are in the works.
After Friday practise, Russell and Hamilton stated that the third row of the grid was the most they could hope for in Qualifying, but as the pole position battle unfolded – with Perez absent – it became evident that the W14s were Verstappen’s only rivals.
After the initial runs completed, Verstappen just edged Hamilton out of provisional pole by the smallest of margins, and the potential of a first pole since December 2021 for the 38-year-old seemed more feasible.
Nevertheless, with only one flying lap remaining after the competition pitted for new tyres, Verstappen executed a fantastic run that would be enough to secure the two-time world champion his maiden pole at Albert Park.
Russell was able to close the gap to 0.3s, with Hamilton trailing by a half-tenth after his lap preparations were hampered by Hulkenberg’s failure to allow a clear route for the Mercedes to pass.
Australian GP Qualifying Timesheet
|1) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1:16.732|
|2) George Russell||Mercedes||+0.236|
|3) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+0.372|
|4) Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin||+0.407|
|5) Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||+0.538|
|6) Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||+0.576|
|7) Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+0.637|
|8) Alex Albon||Williams||+0.877|
|9) Pierre Gasly||Alpine||+0.943|
|10) Nico Hulkenberg||Haas||+1.003|
|Out in Q2|
|11) Esteban Ocon||Alpine||1:17.768|
|12) Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||1:18.099|
|13) Lando Norris||McLaren||1:18.119|
|14) Kevin Magnussen||Haas||1:18.129|
|15) Nyck de Vries||AlphaTauri||1:18.335|
|Out in Q1|
|16) Oscar Piastri||McLaren||1:18.517|
|17) Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo||1:18.540|
|18) Logan Sargeant||Williams||1:18.557|
|19) Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||1:18.714|
|20) Sergio Perez||Red Bull||no time|