Formula 1

Formula 1: Lerclerc beats Verstappen to pole in thrilling Australian GP qualifying

Featured image credit: @f1 official twitter

Charles Leclerc triumphed in a battle with Max Verstappen to take his second pole of the season during a red-flagged qualifying on Formula 1’s return to Albert Park.

But Leclerc’s Ferrari team-mate was hampered by the session stoppage and ended up ninth. Perez was third ahead of the resurgent McLaren of Lando Norris, while Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will start Sunday’s Grand Prix from the third row.

Q1 – Red Bull on top, but rock bottom for Latifi and Stroll

Crashes for both Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll in Saturday’s free practice session left the Aston Martin team with a race against time to get its two cars out in qualifying.

Championship leader Leclerc led the way with a lap of 1 minute 31.391 seconds before Sainz went over 0.1s quicker.  Red Bull Verstappen and Perez both improved to move into first and second.

Stroll made it out of the pits with four minutes remaining, but was almost immediately involved in a bizarre incident with Williams driver Nicholas Latifi.  After letting Stroll past through turn four, Latifi then tried to retake his Canadian countryman exiting the next corner. But, appearing to not check his mirrors, Stroll moved across, resulting in Latifi being fired into the barriers and his own car also suffering damage.

The session was red-flagged while the incident was cleared, which helped Stroll’s team-mate Vettel make it to track when qualifying resumed. But, a disrupted weekend for the German – returning after missing the first two races with COVID-19 – meant he could only muster 18th position. Kevin Magnussen also missed out on Q2 in 17th for Haas, as did Alex Albon in 16th. The Williams driver will also take a three-place grid drop for an incident with Stroll at the Saudi Arabian GP.


  • 16th Albon
  • 17th Magnussen
  • 18th Vettel
  • 19th Latifi
  • 20th Stroll

Q2 – Advantage Red Bull again, but Alpha Tauri miss out 

Verstappen put in an early effort of 1m18.611s to head the timesheets, ahead of Perez, The Mexican then shaved almost 0.3s off his team-mate’s benchmark to go fastest. But he was placed under investigation by the stewards for failing to slow for yellow flags during a brief off-track excursion for Russell. Leclerc split the two Red Bulls by moving into second, while Sainz took fourth spot.

A late effort from Alpine’s Esteban Ocon put him eighth, demoting Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly out of the top-10. Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas failed to make Q3 for the first time since 2016 after ending up 12th. Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri), Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo) and Mick Schumacher (Haas) were also unable to progress.


  • 11th Gasly
  • 12th Bottas
  • 13th Tsunoda
  • 14th Zhou
  • 15th Schumacher

Q3 – Leclerc pips Verstappen after red flag

Verstappen posted an early flier of 1m18.399s, but his lap was hampered by a lock-up at turn 13. Perez took advantage to edge his team-mate by 0.001s on his first attempt.

Alpine’s Fernando Alonso looked on course to post a quick lap, but crashed at turn 11 after his car got stuck in 4th gear under braking. That brought out the red flags, preventing both Sainz and Russell from completing their laps. Some drivers opted for darker visors once the session resumed due to the sunset causing visibility issues.

Despite not improving in the first two sectors, Verstappen improved at the end of his lap to snatch provisional pole by 0.001s. But Leclerc responded on his final attempt to pip the Dutchman to pole by 0.286s. Perez will start in third, subject to the stewards’ investigation for his Q2 infringement. A mistake from Sainz at turn six left him needing to pull something out the bag on his final tour. But, struggling with tyre temperatures, he could only post the ninth-quickest time behind Alpine’s Esteban Ocon.

After a difficult start to the season, McLaren enjoyed a welcome return to form. Lando Norris qualified fourth, while home hero Daniel Ricciardo was seventh. Sandwiched between the two Papaya cars were the two Silver Arrows. Despite trailing Russell in the closing stages, Hamilton improved on his final lap to beat his team-mate to fifth.


  • 1st Leclerc
  • 2nd Verstappen
  • 3rd Perez
  • 4th Norris
  • 5th Hamilton
  • 6th Russell
  • 7th Ricciardo
  • 8th Ocon
  • 9th Sainz
  • 10th Alonso


Featured image credit: @f1 official twitter

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