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Australian GP Qualifying: Charles Leclerc beats Max Verstappen to pole for Ferrari, Mercedes improve

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Charles Leclerc on pole, 0.286s clear of Max Verstappen; Lando Norris fourth ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and George Russell; Fernando Alonso crashes in Q3, Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi collide in Q1; watch Sunday’s race live on Sunday at 6am on Sky Sports F1

Last Updated: 10/04/22 6:07am




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Join Charles Leclerc on board for his pole lap of the Australian GP

Join Charles Leclerc on board for his pole lap of the Australian GP

Championship leader Charles Leclerc will start on pole for the Australian Grand Prix after outpacing 2022 rival Max Verstappen with his final lap of an exciting Melbourne qualifying that was disrupted by crashes.

Leclerc left it late but posted a mighty 1:17.868 in the dying embers of Q3 to snatch pole from Verstappen, who finished almost three tenths off the driver he has gone wheel-to-wheel with in both races to start the season.

“It feels great,” said Leclerc, who now has two poles out of three this year. “We were quite surprised by our pace.”

A frustrated Verstappen has complained of a lack of balance all weekend and felt that held him back again in qualifying, calling it a “struggle” and insisting there wasn’t “one lap where I have felt confident.”

Karun Chandhok compares Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen's best qualifying laps for the Australian GP

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Karun Chandhok compares Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen’s best qualifying laps for the Australian GP

Karun Chandhok compares Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen’s best qualifying laps for the Australian GP

The pair will go head-to-head again on the front row for Sunday’s race, live on Sky Sports F1 at 6am.

Verstappen still beat Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, while Lando Norris delivered a superb fourth for McLaren as the team put their early 2022 struggles behind them with both cars in the top seven.

Another team who found much-needed improvement were Mercedes.

While still finishing one second off pole, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell managed fifth and sixth, lowly positions given Mercedes’ F1 success of old but heady ones considering their form so far this weekend and this season.

Fernando Alonso's qualifying comes to a sudden end as he crashes on turn 11 in Q3.

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Fernando Alonso’s qualifying comes to a sudden end as he crashes on turn 11 in Q3.

Fernando Alonso’s qualifying comes to a sudden end as he crashes on turn 11 in Q3.

Carlos Sainz was surprisingly only ninth in the other Ferrari, caught out by the red flags that were brought out by Fernando Alonso in the the second crash of qualifying.

Alonso, who looked to be in the battle for top positions and was on a stonking opening Q3 lap, agonisingly went off in the final sector in his Alpine to end his chances.

Earlier in qualifying, there was a bizarre coming together as Nicholas Latifi and Lance Stroll crashed heavily in Q1.

A big misunderstanding with Lance Stroll leads to a huge crash for Nicholas Latifi in Q1 of the Australian Grand Prix

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A big misunderstanding with Lance Stroll leads to a huge crash for Nicholas Latifi in Q1 of the Australian Grand Prix

A big misunderstanding with Lance Stroll leads to a huge crash for Nicholas Latifi in Q1 of the Australian Grand Prix

Latifi and Stroll were both on slow laps when they squabbled for position when trying to get out of the way of another car, with Stroll inadvertently turning into the Williams as he tried to pass. Both drivers blamed each other.

That incident also had potential to have repercussions further up the grid, with Perez investigated for failing to slow for the double waved yellows – although the Mexican was later cleared.

Australian GP Qualifying, Top 10
1) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
2) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
3) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
4) Lando Norris, McLaren
5) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
6) George Russell, Mercedes
7) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
8) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
9) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
10) Fernando Alonso, Alpine

Leclerc shines again, Hamilton gets grip on ‘viper’ Merc

Heading into qualifying it looked like there could be a four-team fight for pole, with Alpine and McLaren joining Ferrari and Red Bull in the battle at the front. Once the session began, however, the cream truly rose to the top.

Red Bull looked to be in control with Verstappen and then Perez topping Q1 and Q2, but the Ferrari has always looked the more stable on track this weekend and it was Leclerc who once again delivered when it mattered most.

Watch as Charles Leclerc takes his second pole of the season at the Australian Grand Prix

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Watch as Charles Leclerc takes his second pole of the season at the Australian Grand Prix

Watch as Charles Leclerc takes his second pole of the season at the Australian Grand Prix

The 0.286s margin to Verstappen was mainly built in the final two corners, and the pair will renew hostilities from the front on Sunday, with Red Bull having two against one versus Ferrari thanks to Sainz’s struggles.

McLaren and Mercedes provided one of the biggest talking points of qualifying thanks to their return to form.

From McLaren’s end, they appear to have solved their brake issues and say the new high-speed Albert Park layout helped them, while Mercedes third-row result is largely down to their drivers and qualy setups.

Charles Leclerc felt he struggled in earlier qualifying but focused on putting it together for the final lap to land pole for tomorrow's Australian Grand Prix.

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Charles Leclerc felt he struggled in earlier qualifying but focused on putting it together for the final lap to land pole for tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc felt he struggled in earlier qualifying but focused on putting it together for the final lap to land pole for tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix.

Mercedes have not brought upgrades this weekend, but both Hamilton and Russell – split by just a tenth – impressed, a the team got their underperforming W13 car into a better window despite the heavy porpoising.

“I feel like we extracted the most out of the car today,” said Hamilton. “The problem is when you push the car a little bit more, it’s quite spiteful. It’s like a viper, or a rattlesnake.”

Lewis Hamilton says it is nice to be back up there' after qualifying fifth but claims his Mercedes can react like a 'viper' if you push it too far

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Lewis Hamilton says it is nice to be back up there’ after qualifying fifth but claims his Mercedes can react like a ‘viper’ if you push it too far

Lewis Hamilton says it is nice to be back up there’ after qualifying fifth but claims his Mercedes can react like a ‘viper’ if you push it too far

Alfa Romeo and Haas meanwhile took steps back, both failing to reach Q3 for the first time this season, while Williams and Aston Martin endured miserable Saturdays.

Not only did their drivers Latifi and Stroll crash, but Alex Albon stopped on track after Q1 and the Williams driver was later excluded from qualifying over a fuel sample. Sebastian Vettel – while able to get back on track after a P3 shunt – finished 18th and was handed a fine for pit-lane speeding.

Australian GP Qualifying Timesheet

Driver Team Time
1) Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:17.868
2) Max Verstappen Red Bull +0.286
3) Sergio Perez Red Bull +0.372
4) Lando Norris McLaren +0.835
5) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.957
6) George Russell Mercedes +1.065
7) Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +1.164
8) Esteban Ocon Alpine +1.193
9) Carlos Sainz Ferrari +1.540
10) Fernando Alonso Alpine No time set (crashed)
Out in Q2
11) Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:19.226
12) Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:19.410
13) Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:19.424
14) Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:20.155
15) Mick Schumacher Haas 1:20.465
Out in Q1
16) Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:20.254
17) Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:21.149
18) Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:21.372
19) Lance Stroll Aston Martin No time set (crashed)
20) Alex Albon Williams Excluded





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