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Verstappen on pole with Ferrari putting up a challenge

Phil Branagan
Saturday, 23 March 2024

Ferrari throws down the gauntlet with Piastri to start from P6.

After a compelling Qualifying session for the FORMULA 1 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX 2024, Max Verstappen will start from pole position.

The World Champion, who is looking to start the 2024 season with three wins, made it three pole positions with a stunning lap of 1:15.915sec—the first time a Formula 1® car has lapped the Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit at an average speed of more than 250km/h.


After looking under threat for nearly two days, the flying Dutchman ended up with a stunning 0.2sec clear of the opposition, which is led by the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez’s Red Bull.

“It was a bit unexpected, but I am very happy with Q3,” said Verstappen after another great lap.

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“It is bit of a tricky weekend so far but we managed to be there at the end, I am happy with that.”

Sainz has made a remarkable return to racing after missing the last Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia due to appendicitis.

“It has been a tough couple of weeks, a lot of time in bed,” he admitted.

“To put it on the front row, I am almost not believing it. I am happy top be challenging the Red Bulls this weekend.”

Perez said he felt he had a little more speed to get from his car.

“I think there was a little more in it, I did not hook in the whole combination. But I am happy, it has been a very nice progression.”

The good news for local fans is that both McLarens made it into the top 10 and that Oscar Piastri will start Sunday’s race, his second Australian Grand Prix, from sixth on the grid, immediately behind his teammate Lando Norris.

In the third chapter of the three-part Qualifying session Verstappen took the advantage early with a lap of 1:16.048sec before trimming a tenth off that on his final try – while Charles Leclerc aborted his final lap and will start from 10th after running wide at Turn 12. He will start the race from fifth.

The session started with the Ferrari pair going 1-2 in Q1, Leclerc ahead of Sainz. With only 19 drivers on the track after Logan Sargeant was withdrawn by Williams so that teammate Alexander Albon could race his car, four drivers were eliminated from Q1; the Haas of Nico Hulkenberg, Pierre Gasly’s Alpine, the Sauber of Zhou Guanyu and Daniel Ricciardo, who looked to have made the cut into Q2 before his best lap was deleted because he had exceeded track limits on the exit of Turn 4.

In Q2, Verstappen wasted little time in taking the top slot before he was topped by Sainz and then Leclerc, with a fired-up Piastri in fourth place. While some of that was largely predictable, what was not was that Lewis Hamilton did not make it into Q3, the eight-time pole sitter bounced back to 11th after a last-minute dash by Yuki Tsunoda (RB-Honda).

The bottom five cars to be eliminated were led by Hamilton and Alex Albon, who justified the decision by the Williams team to keep him in the race by taking 11th on the grid, just 0.1sec from making it into Q3 and the top 10. Valtteri Bottas was next for Sauber, from Kevin Magnussen (Haas).

Update: Sergio Perez received a post-qualifying penalty after he was found to have "unnecessarily impeded” Nico Hulkenberg during Q1, and "consistent with previous cases", he's been dropped three places to sixth on the grid. Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc and Oscar Piastri all move up a spot.