Max Verstappen will lead Sunday’s (April 2) Australian Grand Prix when the lights go out after taking his first ever pole position in Melbourne during Saturday’s (April 1) qualifying session. The result is the first pole position for Red Bull Racing in Australia since Sebastian Vettel‘s first place performance in 2013.
Verstappen will be joined on the front row by Mercedes’ George Russell while Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso will compose the second row of the grid.
“The whole weekend has been very tough, to get the tires in the right window to push straight away,” Verstappen told Sky Sports’ Naomi Schiff. “But it all worked out in Q3. So yeah, very happy with the lap, and of course very happy to be on pole position … really looking forward to tomorrow.”
The threat of impending rain pushed the whole field to take to the track as quickly as possible during the final session of the day, aiming to set as many lap times as possible before mother nature interfered in the final few minutes of the session.
In the frenzy, Alonso, Russell and Hamilton all took turns atop the charts as everyone fought for grip on a greasy track. Meanwhile, Verstappen informed his crew that he was noticing issues with power delivery and downshifts, potentially opening a window for the rest of the field to challenge for the top spot on the grid.
The Ferraris of Chales Leclerc and Carlos Sainz struggled for pace throughout the final session in contrast to Alex Albon and Nico Hulkenberg, who both performed beyond their machinery by qualifying in eighth and 10th, respectively.
A comparatively calm second session of the day saw Verstappen, Alonso, Leclerc, Hamilton and even Hulkenberg show flashes of pace to challenge for the top spot. Though, in keeping with the tempo of the season so far, nobody could match the pace of Verstappen’s Red Bull when the going got good in the second half of the session.
Eliminated from Q2 were:
11. Esteban Ocon
12. Yuki Tsunoda
13. Lando Norris
14. Kevin Magnussen
15. Nyck De Vries
The Williams duo of Albon and Logan Sargeant lined up to be the first on track for Q1, followed by the AlphaTauris of Tsunoda and De Vries and a pair of Alfa Romeos in the form of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu.
Sargeant brought out the first yellow flag of the day by losing the rear-end of his Williams on the exit of Turn 15, though the American was able to quickly make his way to the pit lane for fresh rubber.
Moments later, disaster struck for Sergio Perez when the Guadalajara native beached his RB19 in the Turn 3 gravel travel trap; the same corner where Perez had struggled under braking throughout practice. With the consistent rain which had been falling throughout the weekend, Perez’s car needed to be manually removed from the wet gravel patch, necessitating Perez exit the car, eliminating him from qualifying.
Perez was livid on the radio, suggesting that the issue may be down to the car rather than driver error. “We need to sort that issue man,” he told his team over the radio. “It was the same **** issue again.”
Eliminated from Q1 were:
16. Oscar Piastri
17. Zhou Guanyu
18. Logan Sargeant
19. Valtteri Bottas
20. Sergio Perez
2023 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix Qualifying Results
The Australian Grand Prix will get underway on Sunday, April 2 at 1:00 a.m. ET with coverage on ESPN.
About the author
Alex is the IndyCar Editor at Frontstretch, having initially joined as an entry-level contributor in 2021. He also leads the Center for Asia-Pacific Policy at the BIED Society, an international think tank in Washington, D.C. With previous experience in China, Japan and Poland, Alex is particularly passionate about the international realm of motorsport and the politics that make the wheels turn - literally - behind the scenes.
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.