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Australian GP Qualifying: Verstappen pips Sainz, Leclerc disappoints

Australian GP Qualifying: Verstappen pips Sainz, Leclerc disappoints

Australian GP Qualifying: Verstappen pips Sainz, Leclerc disappoints

Max Verstappen took pole for the 2024 Australian GP denying both Ferrari drivers Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc who failed to deliver on their strong all weekend long.

The reigning Formula 1 World Champion did not seem as happy with his car all weekend compared to his Ferrari counterparts, but he pulled a blinder in the Q3 to take his 35th career pole.

Sainz delivered a monumental effort to go second fastest, outqualifying his teammate, an impressive feat given he is driving while not yet fully recovered from the surgery he underwent for appendicitis over the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend.

Sergio Perez was third fastest in the other Red Bull, but his position is under threat as he is being investigated for possible impeding of Nico Hulkenberg in Q1, which means he may be slapped with a grid penalty.

Lando Norris delivered a strong fourth for McLaren who this weekend outperformed Mercedes and Aston Martin.

Leclerc, who was the pole contender following his showing in practice, failed to deliver when it mattered and couldn’t put a lap together and will line up fifth on the grid and was left ruing a car that was difficult to drive understeering at one point and oversteering at another on his final effort.

He dived into the pits without even finishing his final hot lap.

Local hero Oscar Piastri was sixth fastest in the other McLaren ahead of George Russell, seventh in the Mercedes while Yuki Tsunoda was an impressive eighth in the RB.

With Lewis Hamilton out in Q2, it was another terrible performance for the Briton and his team, and while they showed some improvement in the final practice, they failed to keep the momentum going, easily outpaced by McLaren.

Tsunoda’s performance once again raised questions regarding his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo’s performance as he was eliminated from Q1.

Lance Stroll outqualified Fernando Alonso and was ninth, the Spaniard tenth, having messed up his first attempt in Q3 going off track, while Aston Martin failed to deliver their full potential having been fast all weekend on one-lap pace.

Verstappen: Pole a bit unexpected

Speaking after qualifying in parc ferme, Verstappen insisted he was surprised by taking pole, he said: “A bit unexpected today in qualifying but very happy with Q3. Both of those laps felt very nice and it was enjoyable.

“A bit of a tricky weekend so far but we managed to be there at the end, so very happy with that,” he added.

The Dutchman was cautious with his race expectations claiming Ferrari may pose a threat with their long-run pace, he said: “Ferrari seem quick on the long runs, so bit of a question mark for tomorrow, but I guess that makes it exciting.”

Sainz, after his impressive performance said: “It’s been a tough couple weeks, a lot of days in bed waiting for this moment to see if I could be here today.

“To make it to this weekend and then 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,” he added.

Looking back on his weekend so far, Sainz said: “I was a bit rusty at the beginning yesterday but then I got up to speed and I could finally find the pace and am feeling good with the car.

“I’m not going to lie, I’m not in my most comfortable state when I’m driving out there but I can get it done. And as long as I can get it done without the pain, obviously a lot of discomfort and weird feelings but no pain, so it allows me to push flat out,” he revealed.

Third-placed Perez commented: “There was a bit more in it. My first sector was not great, especially Turn One. On my final lap, I didn’t hook the whole combination which straight away is a tenth or tenth and a half.

“But, I’m happy given I think how we have been during the weekend,” the Mexican continued. “I think tomorrow we have a fight on our hands with the Ferraris and the rest of the field. Degradation is going to be very high, so starting position is not as relevant at the moment.”

Q3: Leclerc fluffs it as Verstappen delivers

The final ten drivers lined up in the pitlane for the final shootout for the top ten starting order of the Australian GP.

Based on Q1 and Q2, Ferrari had the advantage with Sainz and Leclerc a tad too fast for Verstappen in the Red Bull, but Q3 was always going to be an exciting tussle for pole.

Sainz was the first to start a flying lap, with Russell, and Leclerc behind. The McLarens and Verstappen followed suit.

Verstappen took provisional pole, over two tenths ahead of Sainz and Leclerc, then Perez. Alonso on the other hand had a scruffy first lap, losing the car in Turn 6 and hence did not set a time.

First laps in and the order was: Verstappen – Sainz – Leclerc – Perez – Norris – Piastri – Russell – Tsunoda.  Alonso and Stroll – no time.

With less than four minutes remaining, Stroll made his way to the track on his own to do his only lap in Q3 with teammate Alonso following him. Soon the other drivers set out to do their second and final runs.

With the final laps done, Verstappen managed to improve and took pole with a lap time of 1:15.915, 0.270s ahead of Sainz in second.

Perez was third fastest, 0.359s off the pace and 0.041s ahead of Norris in fourth.

Leclerc was a disappointing fifth, over half a second off the pace and 0.137s ahead of Piastri in sixth.

Russell was seventh in the Mercedes, 0.064s ahead of Tsunoda in eighth, the latter 0.284s faster than Stroll in ninth as Alonso rounded off the top ten.

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Q2: Hamilton eliminated

The remaining 15 cars set out on track, each driver trying to secure a place for himself in the top ten, with Verstappen going fastest early on ahead of Piastri, Sainz, Leclerc, and Norris.

Sainz soon puts a new set of Soft tyres to good use and jumps to the top of the timing screens almost two tenths clear of the of Verstappen, while Leclerc improves to third and Perez jumps to fifth.

With first laps in the order was: Sainz – Verstappen – Leclerc – Piastri – Perez – Norris – Alonso – Russell – Hamilton – Stroll.

With two minutes remaining the second run of hot laps began and when it was all over, Sainz kept his top spot with a 1:19.189, 0.115s ahead of Leclerc in second as Verstappen in third 0.198s off the pace.

The first to miss out on Q3 was Hamilton on a forgettable weekend so for for the seven-time F1 Champion. He missed out by 0.059s to teammate Russell and will start the race from 11th.

Hamilton radioed his engineer: “Are we safe or not?”, but the response was: “Negative, we’ve just been bumped”

Alex Albon was 12th fastest in the Williams, an impressive effort nonetheless and was 0.173s ahead of Valtteri Bottas in 13th.

Kevin Magnussen was 14th fastest ahead of Esteban Ocon in 15th.

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Q1: An Alpine finally makes it into Q2 in 2024

The sun shone through some remaining clouds and the temperatures rose as the start of qualifying was signaled, with track temperatures up to 35 degrees Celsius and air temperature at 19 degrees.

The cars lined up at the end of the pitlane, Albon the first out there, with the pressure of exonerating his team’s decision to give him his teammate’s car after he crashed his, the chassis rendered irreparable, with no spare one available.

Albon soon gets on the radio, he reports: “There are a lot of leaves on the track.”

Albon’s first attempt was deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn 10, as replay showed him taking too much kerb.

Verstappen goes to the top on his first attempt, but soon report that his RB20 is understeering like “crazy”.

Sainz soon overhauls Verstappen’s time to go fastest only to be edged by teammate Leclerc. The McLaren’s of Norris and Piastri lined up in fifth and sixth respectively after their first run.

Hamilton soon goes faster than the McLarens in fifth, while Russell has a scruffy first attempt, down in 15th.

Replay showed Ocon hitting the wall while exiting the final corner, no apparent damage there for the Alpine.

Piastri and Norris improve on a second push lap going third and fastest, while Stroll improves to fifth, while Perez improves to second with Alonso going to the top, Verstappen going second fastest behind the Spaniard.

The Ferraris soon started their second hot laps with Sainz claiming the top spot, Leclerc going fastest.

With seven minutes to go the order was: Sainz – Leclerc – Alonso – Verstappen – Perez – Piastri – Norris – Stroll – Hamilton – Tsunoda.

Russell on a his second push lap reported that his front brakes didn’t seem to be working, as several other drivers set out for another attempt. Russell goes tenth on the second timed lap pushing Tsunoda out of the top ten.

Gasly was under investigation by the stewards for crossing the white line at the pitlane exit.

With Q1 over, Sainz lead the way into Q2 with a 1:16.731 with Perez 0.074s behind in second, as Verstappen – complaining about understeer – third fastest and 0.088s off the pace.

Leclerc and Alonso were fourth and first, while Russell was sixth and Albon an impressive seventh, ahead of Tsunoda, Piastri and Stroll – eighth, ninth and tenth respectively.

Ocon made it into Q2, 14th fastest, with Magnussen in 15th for Haas.

First to lose out on Q2 was Nico Hulkenberg, losing out to his teammate by 0.267s and was 16th fastest in the second Haas.

Pierre Gasly was 17th fastest in the Alpine with Daniel Ricciardo down in 18th after having his best lap deleted for exceeding track limits. Zhou Guanyu was 19th fastest.

The stewards were investigating Albon, Perez, Ocon, Russell, Magnussen and Zhou for going too slow on their out-laps.

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