until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Verstappen on pole again as Ferrari misses its chance

by Josh Suttill
4 min read

Ferrari lost an apparent chance to stop Red Bull and Max Verstappen in qualifying for Formula 1's Australian Grand Prix, as a scrappy Q3 for Charles Leclerc left Verstappen with a comfortable pole.

Verstappen and Red Bull were struggling with a "tricky weekend so far" full of balance woes that meant a third 2024 pole was "a bit of a surprise" to Verstappen after the session. He set two laps good enough for a pole, the fastest a 1m15.915s.

Leclerc topped final practice and was quickest in Q2 but then couldn't extract the laptime in Q3 with a "really difficult to drive" Ferrari SF-24 that perplexed him after qualifying.

He abandoned his final flying lap which included running wide at Turn 12 and he ultimately qualified fifth with a Q3 time that was over a tenth of a second off what he achieved in Q2.

"I just didn't find the right feeling today for some reason," Leclerc told Sky.

"There was something already from FP3 that I could feel that I told myself I'd find in qualifying which most of the time that works, but today it didn't.

"The front wasn't as strong as I wanted and then in the last run I went very aggressive and we went the other side [over the limit]. So a bit of a shame."

Sainz returns in style

That left returning Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz as Verstappen's closest challenger and he did a superb job to qualify on the front row. 

Sainz underwent surgery for appendicitis just over two weeks ago and returned to the cockpit in style - despite not feeling 100% - by earning his best qualifying since Las Vegas last year. Although he also only found a few thousands of a second versus his Q2 time.

Sergio Perez made it two Red Bulls in the top three ahead of the lead McLaren of Lando Norris.

But Perez will start sixth as he received a three-place grid penalty after the session for unnecessarily impeding Nico Hulkenberg.

He will line up behind Leclerc and Oscar Piastri and ahead of George Russell, who took the sole Mercedes in Q3 to the seventh-fastest time. 

RB's Yuki Tsunoda made it back-to-back Q3 appearances and beat both Aston Martins in Q3 to claim eighth on the grid.

An off in Q3 at Turn 6 neutered Alonso's session and allowed Lance Stroll to outqualify him for the first time since Brazil last year. They'll share the fifth row on Sunday. 

Hamilton out in Q2

Neither Mercedes driver could improve on their FP3 times in Q2 but that marginal difference between them (0.059s) dumped Hamilton out of Q2 and meant Russell outqualified Hamilton for the fifth consecutive race weekend.

Hamilton will share the sixth row of the grid with Alex Albon, who having taken over team-mate Logan Sargeant's Williams for the rest of the weekend, couldn't repeat his 2023 Q3 heroics here with a Q2 time that was slower than his fastest Q1 effort. He's due to start 12th.

Esteban Ocon dragged the Alpine into Q2 for the first time this year but was powerless to qualify any better than 15th once he got there. Valtteri Bottas and Kevin Magnussen were 13th and 14th respectively, both well adrift of the time they needed to get to Q3.

Ricciardo's home race nightmare

Pre-weekend Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko gave Daniel Ricciardo the dreaded hurry-up: "[Ricciardo] must now come up with something soon", in particular over one lap after Tsunoda reached Q3 in Jeddah.

And Ricciardo was within a tenth of Tsunoda in Q1 on home soil, only to lose his final laptime for running wide at Turn 5 and abusing track limits.

That dumped Ricciardo out of Q1 and left him with a lap only faster than the Sauber of Zhou Guanyu, who picked up front wing damage and was slowest of all.

Ricciardo and Zhou will start 18th and 19th respectively with Sargeant not taking part in the rest of the weekend, having given his Williams to team-mate Albon after FP2.

Hulkenberg made it into Q3 here last year but could only manage 16th on the grid in 2024.

Alpine's Pierre Gasly couldn't follow his team-mate into Q2 and was instead 17th quickest. 

Qualifying result

1Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPT1m16.819s1m16.387s1m15.915s
2Carlos SainzFerrari1m16.731s1m16.189s1m16.185s
3Sergio PérezRed Bull-Honda RBPT1m16.805s1m16.631s1m16.274s
4Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1m17.430s1m16.750s1m16.315s
5Charles LeclercFerrari1m16.984s1m16.304s1m16.435s
6Oscar PiastriMcLaren-Mercedes1m17.369s1m16.601s1m16.572s
7George RussellMercedes1m17.062s1m16.901s1m16.724s
8Yuki TsunodaRB-Honda RBPT1m17.356s1m16.791s1m16.788s
9Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1m17.376s1m16.780s1m17.072s
10Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-Mercedes1m16.991s1m16.710s1m17.552s
11Lewis HamiltonMercedes1m17.499s1m16.960s
12Alex AlbonWilliams-Mercedes1m17.130s1m17.167s
13Valtteri BottasSauber-Ferrari1m17.543s1m17.340s
14Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1m17.709s1m17.427s
15Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1m17.617s1m17.697s
16Nico HülkenbergHaas-Ferrari1m17.976s
17Pierre GaslyAlpine-Renault1m17.982s
18Daniel RicciardoRB-Honda RBPT1m18.085s
19Guanyu ZhouSauber-Ferrari1m18.188s
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