Charles Leclerc Pulls Out Flying Lap for Pole in Crash-Filled Australian Qualifying

Pole position for the Australian Grand Prix came down to the last lap. Max Verstappen had pulled out his best lap of the Saturday in his Red Bull to pass Leclerc’s provisional time. Charles Leclerc followed that up with a blistering lap that beat Verstappen’s effort by nearly three tenths and showed the speed of his Ferrari.

“It felt good!” Leclerc said. “Even more because it’s a track where I’ve always struggled in the past. In Q3 I managed to put everything together so it feels great. Very happy.”

“The car is nice to drive,” he added. “Everything is possible tomorrow. We needed a good start!”

Max Verstappen was less happy with his effort, saying it was “not good,” and that he “didn’t really feel good in the car all weekend.” He went on: “I don’t think there’s been one lap where I’ve felt good in the car. We’ll try to analyze it. This weekend has been all over the place. As a team, we want more.”

His teammate, Sergio Perez, will line up third. He also appeared disappointed with his effort.

Conversely, the second Ferrari will start a lot further back in ninth after a disastrous third round of qualifying. “Everything that could go wrong did go wrong with me which was a shame as I was in the fight for pole,” Charles Leclerc said. “We had a problem with the starter, we went out three minutes late, I couldn’t warm the tires, I had to go out with freezing tires.”

Sainz summed it up: “I’m angry. I’m not going to be happy, but tomorrow is a new day.”

The rest of the field was able to make gains on the top group, none more so than the McLaren teammates of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo. Ricciardo will start seventh on Sunday while Norris will be in the second row with his fourth place time.

Norris said he’s “very happy.” He thanked the team for the improvements after a difficult opening to the season. “Big thanks to everyone here at the track and at the factory for their hard work. It’s good to be back given where we’ve been over the last few weeks. Hopefully today sets up for a good good race tomorrow and some decent points.”

Team principle Andreas Seidl said, “It was good to see that we could confirm the performance we could see throughout the practice sessions. After the difficult start to the season, today is a great boost for everyone.”

Mercedes, the team sitting second in the Constructors Championship going into the race, will be starting fifth and sixth, with Hamilton beating his teammate George Russell by a single tenth.

For the rest of the field, the qualifying wasn’t so good. Especially for the Aston Martins and Williams, who actually wrecked with each other at one point. Both Astons came into the session with damage, and when Sebastian Vettel got tagged by Latifi, neither team car advanced out of Q3.

Neither did the Haas of Kevin Magnussen, who’s enjoyed plenty of speed the previous races. His Haas teammate of Mick Schumacher could only manage fifteenth after barely making Q3, making it the first session he’s beaten his teammate.

Another early competitor this year couldn’t find the speed either, and Valtteri Bottas will start twelfth, two positions ahead of his teammate. It’s the first time Bottas hasn’t advanced to Q3 since he joined Mercedes back in 2017.

Fernando Alonso did make Q3, but he caught the grass in a braking zone and ran into a wall, ending his run. He will start tenth, the only car Sainz was able to set a better time than in Q3.

1 Charles Leclerc MON Scuderia Ferrari 1:18.881 1:18.606 1:17.868
2 Max Verstappen NED Oracle Red Bull Racing 1:18.580 1:18.611 1:18.164
3 Sergio Perez MEX Oracle Bull Racing 1:18.834 1:18.340 1:18.240
4 Lando Norris GBR McLaren F1 Team 1:19.280 1:19.066 1:18.703
5 Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team 1:19.401 1:19.106 1:18.825
6 George Russell GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team 1:19.405 1:19.076 1:18.933
7 Daniel Ricciardo AUS McLaren F1 Team 1:19.665 1:19.130 1:19.032
8 Esteban Ocon FRA BWT Alpine F1 Team 1:19.605 1:19.136 1:19.061
9 Carlos Sainz ESP Scuderia Ferrari 1:18.982 1:18.469 1:19.408
10 Fernando Alonso ESP BWT Alpine F1 Team 1:19.192 1:18.815 No Time Set
11 Pierre Gasly FRA Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:19.580 1:19.226
12 Valtteri Bottas FIN Alfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen 1:19.251 1:19.410
13 Yuki Tsunoda JPN Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:19.742 1:19.424
14 Guanyu Zhou CHN Alfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen 1:19.910 1:20.155
15 Mick Schumacher GER Haas F1 Team 1:20.104 1:20.465
16 Alexander Albon THA Williams Racing 1:20.135
17 Kevin Magnussen DEN Haas F1 Team 1:20.254
18 Sebastian Vettel GER Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team 1:21.149
19 Nicholas Latifi CAN Williams Racing 1:21.372
20 Lance Stroll CAN Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team No Time Set
Owen Johnson