Max Verstappen takes pole ahead of Carlos Sainz at Australian Grand Prix


Max Verstappen takes pole ahead of Carlos Sainz at Australian Grand Prix

Verstappen leaves the track after getting pole
Verstappen leaves the track after getting poleAFP
Dominant three-time world champion Max Verstappen (26) clinched a third straight pole of the season on Saturday at the Australian Grand Prix as the flying Dutchman targets a record 10th consecutive win.

In overcast conditions at Melbourne's Albert Park, Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, back in the car barely two weeks after appendicitis surgery, came second in tense qualifying and will keep the Red Bull ace company on the front row.

"A bit unexpected today, but very happy - both (Q3) laps felt very nice," said Verstappen, who is looking to repeat his feat from last year when he won in Australia from pole.

"A bit of a tricky weekend so far, Ferrari seem very quick in the long runs so that makes tomorrow exciting."

The Dutchman knocked out his rivals with a flying lap of one minute 15.915, 0.270 secs ahead of Sainz.

Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull will start third alongside Lando Norris, who scored a surprise fourth in his McLaren.

The 2022 Melbourne winner Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari was fifth with McLaren's Oscar Piastri sixth on his home track.

Mercedes' George Russell came seventh ahead of RB's Yuki Tsunoda and the Aston Martin pair of Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso.

But there was disappointment for seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton who missed Q3 and will start in 11th.

"It's been a tough couple of weeks, a lot of days in bed waiting to see if I could be here today," said a relieved Sainz, who missed the last race in Jeddah for his surgery.

"To put it on the front row after leading through qualifying, I was almost not believing it."

But despite his best efforts, he could not topple Verstappen, who won the opening two races of the season in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, both from pole.

The Dutchman is chasing a 10th straight victory to match his own record set last year, while Red Bull are attempting to score a third straight 1-2 finish for the first time in the team's history.

Sainz topped Q2 from Verstappen and Leclerc with Hamilton - an eight-time Australian pole-sitter - a key casualty.

His loss was Tsunoda's gain as the only interloper outside of the big five teams joining the Q3 ranks.

Haas' Kevin Magnussen also missed out in Q2, along with Valtteri Bottas in the Sauber, Esteban Ocon in his Alpine and Alex Albon in the sole Williams.

Sainz was also fastest in Q1 ahead of Perez and Verstappen.

Sauber's Zhou Guanyu came last with RB's Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly in the other Alpine and Haas' Nico Hulkenberg also failing to progress.

Logan Sargeant was absent after his Williams was given to teammate Albon.

Albon crashed on Saturday and with no spare chassis Williams was left with just one car and opted for the Anglo-Thai driver over the American.


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