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F1 Australian GP: Verstappen takes pole ahead of Sainz, Perez

Verstappen had not headlined a single session across the weekend so far, but dialled in his pace throughout the qualifying sessions and found a quarter-second advantage at the very end to deny Ferrari a chance at pole.

Sainz had been fastest in both Q1 and Q2 and looked set to challenge for pole on his return to F1 after missing the Saudi Arabia round with appendicitis, but found a far more concerted challenge from Verstappen in the top-10 shootout.

In the initial flurry of runs, Verstappen reeled off a 1m16.048s which neither of the Ferrari drivers could get near, and followed that up with an impressive 1m15.915s to set a high benchmark.

Although Sainz found pace over Verstappen in the opening sector, he was unable to exploit Ferrari's pace in the final sector and had to be content with second on Sunday's grid.

Sergio Perez collected third place, less than half a tenth clear of Lando Norris as the Briton sought to demonstrate his dominance over team-mate Oscar Piastri, as the Australian had been impressive thus far during the sessions at his home race.

The McLarens were split by Charles Leclerc, who had a slide out of Turn 12 and abandoned his final lap of the session to cement fifth on the grid - ending his streak of front-row starts.

George Russell was the sole Mercedes in Q3 and collected seventh on the grid, ahead of Yuki Tsunoda. Lance Stroll had just one run and finished ninth-fastest, despite a snap of oversteer at Turn 10, ahead of Aston Martin team-mate Fernando Alonso.

Alonso aborted his first run of the session after skipping across the gravel at Turn 6, and couldn't find much in the way of pace in his final lap.

Stroll had relegated Lewis Hamilton into an ignominious Q2 exit as the Mercedes driver failed to find sufficient improvements on his final flying lap of qualifying, which left him on the cusp of the elimination zone.

Tsunoda had been able to shuffle Stroll below the line with a strong final Q2 lap under pressure, but Stroll responded on his final effort to reclaim a top 10 position at the expense of Hamilton.

Alex Albon, who was controversially given Logan Sargeant's car for the rest of the weekend after crashing his own in FP1, was 12th after failing to break out of the bottom five after his final run of the session.

This nonetheless kept the Williams driver ahead of Valtteri Bottas, who was 13th ahead of Kevin Magnussen.

Esteban Ocon survived an early Q1 wall-bang at Turn 14 to progress into the intermediate phase of qualifying, but could go no faster than 15th having been almost 0.3s shy of Magnussen's time ahead.

Daniel Ricciardo was dumped out in Q1 after losing his best lap in the session to a track limits violation in Turn 5, which promoted Magnussen into a Q2 appearance to spare Haas' blushes.

The Australian had put himself up to 12th with his last effort of the opening phase of qualifying, but the deletion of his time resigned him to an early bath having dropped to 18th.

Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg had both dropped into the bottom four - the elimination zone consisting of only a quartet of cars as Sargeant is not participating in the rest of the weekend - but the Dane was spared through Ricciardo's drop.

Hulkenberg dropped into the elimination zone in a fraught session, as he was baulked by Sergio Perez in his earlier runs, and could only manage 16th ahead of Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman is under investigation for crossing the pit exit line too early, as is Perez for impeding Hulkenberg.

Zhou Guanyu propped up the order after his front wing appeared to shed its elements apropos of nothing, which left him unable to progress from the first part of qualifying.

Cla   Driver   Car / Engine   Time   Delay 
Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda RBPT 1'15.915  
Carlos Sainz  Ferrari 1'16.185 0.270
Sergio Perez Red Bull/Honda RBPT 1'16.274 0.359
Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1'16.315 0.400
Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1'16.435 0.520
Oscar Piastri McLaren/Mercedes 1'16.572 0.657
George Russell Mercedes 1'16.724 0.809
Yuki Tsunoda RB/Honda RBPT 1'16.788 0.873
Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 1'17.072 1.157
10  Fernando Alonso Aston Martin/Mercedes 1'17.552 1.637
11  Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1'16.960 1.045
12  Alexander Albon Williams/Mercedes 1'17.167 1.252
13  Valtteri Bottas Sauber/Ferrari 1'17.340 1.425
14  Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1'17.427 1.512
15  Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1'17.697 1.782
16  Nico Hulkenberg Haas/Ferrari 1'17.976 2.061
17  Pierre Gasly Alpine/Renault 1'17.982 2.067
18  Daniel Ricciardo RB/Honda RBPT 1'18.085 2.170
19  Zhou Guanyu Sauber/Ferrari 1'18.188 2.273



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