Verstappen takes pole in Australia from Mercedes pair as Perez crashes out

Perez struggled throughout the final practice session and crashed out of Q1 following an issue with his car

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Max Verstappen will start the 2023 Australian GP from pole position for Red Bull, as his teammate Sergio Perez crashed out in Q1 with an ongoing issue with his car.

Verstappen was two tenths clear of second placed George Russell, who managed to just out qualifying his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in third in the Brackley-based team’s best Saturday performance so far in 2023.

The Dutchman had complained of issues with downshifts, raising more concerns about the reliability of the Red Bull given the problems Perez had faced, but he was able to keep it on track and take pole position.

Fernando Alonso was in fourth for Aston Martin, fourth tenths behind pole, ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and his teammate Lance Stroll.

Charles Leclerc will start the race in Melbourne from seventh as Ferrari continued to struggle for pace compared to their rivals at the front, ahead of the Williams of Alex Albon in his first Q3 appearance of the year so far.

Pierre Gasly was ninth for Alpine, with Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg rounding out the top 10.

“It was the same f***ing issue”

Perez had struggled during the final practice session in Melbourne, with a delayed start to proceedings as the mechanics continued to work on his car.

When the Mexican did get out on track, he struggled to find pace, and had three laps go astray due to mistakes and ended up in the gravel.

The driver was complaining throughout the session about issues with the car, and it seems the problem was still there by the time qualifying came around, as the Red Bull team were still working on it once again with just minutes to go before the lights went green.

Then Perez’s bad day got even worse as he locked up the brakes going into Turn 3 in the early stages of Q1, with the car careening into the gravel and taking him out of the session entirely before it had even really got underway.

“It was the same f***ing issue again,”Perez said on the radio, leaving the Mexican facing a tough climb through the field for the race.

Piastri out early

Elsewhere on the grid, it was another challenging session for McLaren, with hometown hero Oscar Piastri unable to get out of Q1 and Lando Norris struggling for pace back in 13th.

Alfa Romeo were similarly lagging the pack despite some promising performance in the first two races of 2023, with Zhou Guanyu down in 17th and Valtteri Bottas the slowest driver who set a lap in 19th.

Kevin Magnussen was 14th for Haas, ahead of the AlphaTauri of Nyck De Vries, with Yuki Tsunoda in 12th.

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