Verstappen on pole again as Ferrari misses its chance

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Ferrari lost an apparent chance to stop Red Bull and Max Verstappen in qualifying for Formula 1’s Australian Grand Prix, as a scrappy Q3 for Charles Leclerc left Verstappen with a comfortable pole.

Verstappen and Red Bull were struggling with a “tricky weekend so far” full of balance woes that meant a third 2024 pole was “a bit of a surprise” to Verstappen after the session. He set two laps good enough for a pole, the fastest a 1m15.915s.

Leclerc topped final practice and was quickest in Q2 but then couldn’t extract the laptime in Q3 with a “really difficult to drive” Ferrari SF-24 that perplexed him after qualifying.

He abandoned his final flying lap which included running wide at Turn 12 and he ultimately qualified fifth with a Q3 time that was over a tenth of a second off what he achieved in Q2.

“I just didn’t find the right feeling today for some reason,” Leclerc told Sky.

“There was something already from FP3 that I could feel that I told myself I’d find in qualifying which most of the time that works, but today it didn’t.

“The front wasn’t as strong as I wanted and then in the last run I went very aggressive and we went the other side [over the limit]. So a bit of a shame.”

SAINZ RETURNS IN STYLE

That left returning Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz as Verstappen’s closest challenger and he did a superb job to qualify on the front row. 

Sainz underwent surgery for appendicitis just over two weeks ago and returned to the cockpit in style – despite not feeling 100% – by earning his best qualifying since Las Vegas last year. Although he also only found a few thousands of a second versus his Q2 time.

Sergio Perez made it two Red Bulls in the top three ahead of the lead McLaren of Lando Norris.

Leclerc was fifth followed by Oscar Piastri and the sole Mercedes in Q3 George Russell. 

RB’s Yuki Tsunoda made it back-to-back Q3 appearances and beat both Aston Martins in Q3 to claim eighth on the grid.

An off in Q3 at Turn 6 neutered Alonso’s session and allowed Lance Stroll to outqualify him for the first time since Brazil last year. They’ll share the fifth row on Sunday. 

Hamilton out in Q2

Neither Mercedes driver could improve on their FP3 times in Q2 but that marginal difference between them (0.059s) dumped Hamilton out of Q2 and meant Russell outqualified Hamilton for the fifth consecutive race weekend.

Hamilton will share the sixth row of the grid with Alex Albon, who having taken over team-mate Logan Sargeant’s Williams for the rest of the weekend, couldn’t repeat his 2023 Q3 heroics here with a Q2 time that was slower than his fastest Q1 effort. He’s due to start 12th.

Esteban Ocon dragged the Alpine into Q2 for the first time this year but was powerless to qualify any better than 15th once he got there. Valtteri Bottas and Kevin Magnussen were 13th and 14th respectively, both well adrift of the time they needed to get to Q3.

Ricciardo’s home race nightmare

Pre-weekend Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko gave Daniel Ricciardo the dreaded hurry-up: “[Ricciardo] must now come up with something soon”, in particular over one lap after Tsunoda reached Q3 in Jeddah.

And Ricciardo was within a tenth of Tsunoda in Q1 on home soil, only to lose his final laptime for running wide at Turn 5 and abusing track limits.

That dumped Ricciardo out of Q1 and left him with a lap only faster than the Sauber of Zhou Guanyu, who picked up front wing damage and was slowest of all.

Ricciardo and Zhou will start 18th and 19th respectively with Sargeant not taking part in the rest of the weekend, having given his Williams to team-mate Albon after FP2. 

Nico Hulkenberg made it into Q3 here last year but could only manage 16th on the grid in 2024.

Alpine’s Pierre Gasly couldn’t follow his team-mate into Q2 and was instead 17th quickest. 

Qualifying Results

Pos Name Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda RBPT 1m16.819s 1m16.387s 1m15.915s
2 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1m16.731s 1m16.189s 1m16.185s
3 Sergio Pérez Red Bull-Honda RBPT 1m16.805s 1m16.631s 1m16.274s
4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1m17.430s 1m16.750s 1m16.315s
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m16.984s 1m16.304s 1m16.435s
6 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes 1m17.369s 1m16.601s 1m16.572s
7 George Russell Mercedes 1m17.062s 1m16.901s 1m16.724s
8 Yuki Tsunoda RB-Honda RBPT 1m17.356s 1m16.791s 1m16.788s
9 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1m17.376s 1m16.780s 1m17.072s
10 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin-Mercedes 1m16.991s 1m16.710s 1m17.552s
11 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m17.499s 1m16.960s
12 Alex Albon Williams-Mercedes 1m17.130s 1m17.167s
13 Valtteri Bottas Sauber-Ferrari 1m17.543s 1m17.340s
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m17.709s 1m17.427s
15 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1m17.617s 1m17.697s
16 Nico Hülkenberg Haas-Ferrari 1m17.976s
17 Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault 1m17.982s
18 Daniel Ricciardo RB-Honda RBPT 1m18.085s
19 Guanyu Zhou Sauber-Ferrari 1m18.188s

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