Max Verstappen secures pole position in Melbourne

By Sports Desk March 23, 2024

Max Verstappen is on course to take a record-equalling 10 consecutive victories after putting his Red Bull on pole position for the Australian Grand Prix.

Verstappen’s third pole in as many races appeared under threat with Ferrari threatening to knock the all-conquering Dutchman off his perch.

But Verstappen upped the ante in front of a record Saturday crowd at Melbourne’s Albert Park of just shy of 131,000, to see off Carlos Sainz, who missed the last round in Saudi Arabia with appendicitis, by 0.270 seconds.

Lewis Hamilton holds a record eight pole positions here, but the British driver was eliminated in Q2, leaving him a disappointing 11th on the grid – his lowest starting position in Melbourne for 14 years.

Hamilton failed to progress to Q3 after he finished 0.059 seconds behind George Russell in the other Mercedes.

Russell, who will start seventh, holds a 3-0 qualifying lead over Hamilton who will leave the Silver Arrows at the end of the season to join Ferrari.

Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez qualified third, ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who aborted his last lap after he made a mistake.

Related items

  • Norris: McLaren can challenge Red Bull for title Norris: McLaren can challenge Red Bull for title

    Lando Norris believes McLaren can open up the F1 title fight when they head to Monaco for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

    The 24-year-old finished in the top two of the previous three grand prix, claiming his maiden victory in Miami.

    He threatened to finish ahead of Max Verstappen for a second time at Imola last Sunday with a late charge, but finished within one second of the Red Bull driver.

    Looking back at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Norris said while he is sure he could have done things differently, he sticks by his choices.

    "I did everything I believed was right at the time," Norris told Sky Sports.

    "When it's so close you always think 'What really could I have done that little bit differently,' but you always could have done something a little bit better or a little bit differently. I'm sure Max could have reviewed things and said the same thing.

    "But nice to know it wasn't an easy one for him. It's about time someone put him under pressure, and he felt a bit of nerves again because I'm sure he hasn't felt it for a while.

    "I don't want to be overconfident - that's never been me - but we want to come into races now and be confident in racing against the Red Bull, racing against Ferrari because we are in the mix with them."

    Before the race at Imola, Norris said he believed McLaren were not quite ready to challenge Red Bull for the title this year.

    The Briton currently sits fourth in the standings, 60 points behind Verstappen, but he now thinks they can count themselves in the running this year.

    "We're a third of the way through so we have a very long way to go, so I think many, many things can happen," he added.

    "But also, Monaco is a place where anything can happen. So, I would never say 'no' anymore.

    "I've got fed up of myself kind of underestimating what we can achieve as a team. So, we're going to come in, we're positive, we've had a very good run of results - second, first, second - and there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to continue that here in Monaco.

    "It's not known to be our best track but, at the same time, anything can happen."

  • Hamilton tips Antonelli to replace him at Mercedes Hamilton tips Antonelli to replace him at Mercedes

    Lewis Hamilton would choose Andrea Kimi Antonelli to take his Mercedes seat when he makes the move to Ferrari next year.

    In February, Hamilton stunned the Formula One world by announcing he was exercising a break clause in his contract with the Silver Arrows and would join Ferrari from 2025. 

    Several drivers have been linked with the upcoming vacancy at Mercedes, including world champion Max Verstappen, though he is thought likely to stay with Red Bull for next season.

    Carlos Sainz – who will lose his Ferrari seat to Hamilton – has also been tipped as a potential candidate, but Hamilton thinks 17-year-old prodigy Antonelli deserves a chance.

    "Carlos is a great driver, so wherever he goes I think he would be a positive for any team," Hamilton said of Sainz. 

    "Honestly, I have no idea what Toto [Wolff]'s plans are, but for me, taking on a youngster, I would probably take on Kimi."

    Antonelli has been part of Mercedes' junior team since 2019 and currently competes for Prema Racing in Formula Two, sitting sixth in the drivers' championship standings after four rounds of the 2024 season.

    Speaking at Sunday's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, team principal Wolff hinted the teenager was under serious consideration for next year.

    "I guess for the Italians it's super exciting to have Lewis Hamilton in red next year. We will get used to the outfits, but we have got to look at ourselves," he said.

    "Maybe there is an option where we can shine more with an Italian in our car, so we're pushing back hard."

  • Russell will not 'sulk' about losing position to Hamilton as Mercedes struggle again Russell will not 'sulk' about losing position to Hamilton as Mercedes struggle again

    George Russell will not "sulk" after giving up sixth place to team-mate Lewis Hamilton at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, where Mercedes failed to arrest their slide.

    Hamilton and Russell finished sixth and seventh respectively as Max Verstappen held off a charging Lando Norris for his third successive victory at the Imola event.

    Russell was ahead of Hamilton as his tyres began to wear late in the race, leading Mercedes to call him in for a pit stop and bring him out ahead of eighth-placed Sergio Perez.

    That ensured Hamilton finished above his team-mate for a second straight race, having failed to top him in any of the first five races of 2024.

    Russell refused to criticise the team's strategy after the race, though he lamented their continued struggles with their W15 car.

    "You're never going to be happy with P6 and P7," Russell told Sky Sports.

    "At the end of the day, as a team we scored an extra point. I lost my position to Lewis but I'm not going to sulk over losing a P6."

    Asked to explain the decision, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said: "[Russell's] lap times were getting slower and slower, and our forecast saw he was not going to make it to the end and we didn't want to lose the position to Perez.

    "Lewis would have probably taken him anyway. The point being that we are racing for P6 and P7 and wanted to keep the Red Bull behind. It was a safety call."

    Russell is currently seventh in the drivers' championship standings with Hamilton in eighth, with neither driver managing a podium finish so far this year.

    McLaren have emerged as the foremost challengers to Red Bull and Ferrari in recent weeks, leaving Mercedes marooned in a disappointing fourth place in the team standings. 

    "This is where we are right now, a little bit in no man's land behind the Ferraris and McLarens but ahead of the midfield," Russell said of their struggles.

    "Everyone is still super motivated, the morale isn't dropping at all, which is quite inspiring to say. Everyone is trying to make this work and improve it."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.