Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc claimed his second pole position of the season as Formula 1 returned to Australia after a two-year hiatus. The Monegasque driver was comfortably ahead of Red Bull pair Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
Lando Norris claimed a well-earned fourth, in what was a great comeback for McLaren. He was followed by the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell with Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo starting seventh for his home race.
Esteban Ocon, Carlos Sainz, and Fernando Alonso rounded out the top 10.
Q3: Alonso suffers crash
As the sun began to set, several drivers complained about visibility issues, asking their crew members for the darkest helmet visor tints available.
It was Verstappen who got things underway with the Dutchman looking to topple his teammate. Perez though was under investigation for not slowing down adequately for the yellow flags during the previous session.
A mistake from Verstappen would hand the advantage to Perez with the Mexican driver going quicker by one-thousandth of a second. Leclerc would go first, right before the session witnessed its second red flag as Alpine’s Alonso, who was on a flier crashed heavily into the barriers after a hydraulics issue.
The session restarted with a little under seven minutes to go. As the green flag dropped it was the Mercedes pair of Russell and Hamilton who made their way out onto the circuit. The final part of qualifying saw a sluggish restart with Perez and Sainz the next drivers to exit the pitlane.
Ironically, Perez finished a thousandth of a second slower than Leclerc, improving his grip over second place. Russell and Hamilton, who eased into their hot laps went fourth and sixth respectively, with the younger Brit once again living up to his billing of the “Mr.Saturday” moniker.
However, it was Leclerc who would qualify in pole position as the session came to an end. The Monegasque driver finished over two-tenths quicker than Verstappen, with Perez third. Sainz, who was unfortunate to have his first attempt compromised due to the red flag could only manage ninth.
Norris, Hamilton, and Russell were fourth, fifth, and sixth. Home hero Ricciardo was seventh.
Q2: Bottas’ streak ends
The session got underway after a brief delay that was necessitated by Alex Albon’s Williams coming to a standstill during the final seconds of Q1.
Verstappen led the drivers out, with the Dutchman followed by the Mercedes drivers. The opening salvos saw Red Bull lead Ferrari with a brief yellow flag compromising the pace of Perez, Leclerc, and Sainz.
Russell, the man responsible for the yellow flag, managed to go sixth fastest after his off, though Perez would top the times with the Mexican going two-tenths quicker than his world champion teammate.
The sessions came agonizingly close to witnessing a second major accident as Hamilton whizzed past Verstappen, with the Red Bull driver not realizing that Hamilton was on a hot lap.
The final part of the session saw Perez, Sainz, and Leclerc occupy the top three positions. The big story however was Valtteri Bottas‘ exit from Q2, which marked the first time he failed to make Q3 since his debut for Mercedes at the 2017 Australian Grand Prix.
Bottas was joined by Schumacher, Zhou Gaunyu, Yuki Tsunoda, and Pierre Gasly in exiting Q2.
Q1: Latifi suffers massive accident
After a two-year hiatus, Formula 1 returned to Australia with the circuit undergoing a significant redesign. Haas’ Mick Schumacher was the first driver to head out with the likes of Albon, Nicholas Latifi, and Kevin Magnussen some of the other drivers to get an early lap in.
The opening exchanges saw Leclerc and Norris at the top of the timesheets, with McLaren showing a marked improvement since the season opener in Bahrain. They would soon be displaced by Sainz and Perez, with Perez’s teammate Verstappen only managing fourth ahead of Norris and Ricciardo.
Leclerc would regain his spot at the top of the leaderboard with Alonso and Alfa Romeo’s Bottas battling for fifth, with the Finn prevailing.
As the session past the halfway mark, the Mercedes drivers Hamilton and Russell made their way onto the circuit. The W13 looked a handful to drive with Hamilton only managing 11th and Russell ninth.
The final five minutes of the session saw a flurry of cars make their way onto the circuit, with Verstappen going quickest. Unfortunately, the session was red-flagged as Latifi and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll made contact resulting in a massive accident for the Williams driver.
With a little over two minutes left, the session restarted with Ricciardo leading the pack in what was a mad dash to get their final lap times in. The delay allowed Sebastian Vettel to get a lap time in, with the German missing a large chunk of the session due to reliability woes.
Ultimately it was Stroll, Latifi, Vettel, Magnussen, and Albon who exited the first part of qualifying.