Red Bull team principal Christian Horner asserted after the Miami Grand Prix on Sunday that Sergio Perez's form is critical to helping the team take points away from Ferrari. 

Max Verstappen won a tightly contested race while Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished within 10 seconds of the reigning world champion. 

Perez came fourth despite being the only driver in the top 10 to pit twice and experiencing a sensor fault that resulted in a loss of power. 

With that, Verstappen has only made an incremental gain in the driver's standings after his wins at Miami and Imola, with the Leclerc now holding a 19-point advantage. 

Horner believes Perez can join the fight and be on the podium but due to the car's reliability concerns was simply not able to do so in Miami. 

"Of course, reliability's going to be an issue," Horner told Sky Sports. "We had a sensor issue on Checo's [Perez's] engine, the guys did well to move them around but he lost about 30 horsepower with that. He was losing half a second a lap and I think without that he might have even been second with the tyre advantage, because we pitted him. 

"We need Checo in there and he's capable of doing that. You saw in Imola how quickly things can turn around and I think we've got some interesting races coming up. 

"The car's running well, we've got some developments hopefully coming later in the summer that will help us, we need to save a little bit of weight, but generally, I think we're on a good trajectory." 

With DNFs in Bahrain and Australia, Verstappen has fought off challenges from Leclerc to win the other three races of the season, showing distinct poise under pressure. 

That was particularly the case in Miami, where the Dutch driver stayed consistent and managed to shake off Leclerc from the DRS window. 

Horner was full of praise for Verstappen and how consistent he stayed despite the challenge from Ferrari. 

"Max is under so much pressure in that position, it's easy to lock the wheel and so on, and he kept it clean," he said. "He didn't make any mistakes and then was gradually able to break the DRS after five-six laps and was able to manage it from there." 

Charles Leclerc thought he was going to catch Max Verstappen towards the end of the Miami Grand Prix before settling for second place. 

Ferrari driver Leclerc qualified on pole but was overtaken by Verstappen – who started third – on lap nine and was almost eight seconds behind when a safety car was deployed with 16 laps remaining. 

Leclerc was initially able to keep pace with the reigning Formula One champion after the restart but was unable to find a way past the Red Bull even with DRS enabled. 

The Dutchman pulled out the fastest lap to get away from the championship leader, whose lead was consequently cut to 19 points. 

"It was a very difficult race physically. We struggled quite a bit on the medium tyres in the first stint and got overtaken. It made our race a bit more difficult from that moment onwards," said Leclerc. 

"On the hard we were very competitive and towards the end I thought I could get Max at one point, but they had the advantage in terms of pace. 

"We need to keep pushing. Upgrades will be important, and I hope now we can do a step up from the next race onwards. It has been an exciting beginning to the season and that's what we like to see." 

Verstappen acknowledged he had to dig deep in order to follow up his success at Imola with another victory. 

"It was an incredible grand prix. Very physical as well, but I think we kept it exciting until the end," said Verstappen. 

"I am really happy with winning here in Miami, it was an incredible Sunday for us." 

Carlos Sainz kept Sergio Perez at bay after the restart following the safety car to get back on the podium after retiring early in the previous two races. 

He had to battle through the pain barrier to achieve it, because he was still feeling the effects of a crash in practice. 

"I have been better. Obviously after the crash on Friday, I had a little bit of neck pain going into the race, but I had to manage it and I fought through it," said Sainz. 

"Especially with Checo [Perez] at the end on the medium tyres he was very difficult to keep behind, but we managed to keep the volume, which is a decent result.  

"It wasn't easy at all. It has been a tough race with the tyres and the heat, the car was sliding a lot, and we got what we deserved, I think, which is a decent P3, and we can build it up from here." 

Max Verstappen sealed his second straight Formula One win by getting the better of Charles Leclerc at the maiden Miami Grand Prix. 

Reigning champion Verstappen – who started in third – got past Carlos Sainz and pole-sitter Leclerc in the early stages and never looked back. 

It was not entirely plain sailing for the Red Bull driver, with a safety car deployed after Lando Norris collided with Pierre Gasly seeing his seven-second advantage evaporate. 

Leclerc was on Verstappen's tail thereafter, but the Dutchman got out of DRS range by setting the fastest lap and cut the Monegasque's championship lead to 19 points. 

Verstappen got away well at lights out and dived down the outside of Sainz at Turn One, while DRS helped him reel in Leclerc by lap nine. 

Leclerc was unable to retaliate with the Ferrari lacking pace on the straights, and Verstappen gradually established a lead of almost eight seconds. 

The collision between Norris and Gasly, which forced both drivers to retire, initially brought out a virtual safety car on lap 41 of 57, but that was quickly upgraded to a full safety car. 

Neither Verstappen nor Leclerc were able to get into the pits quick enough for fresh tyres, but the Ferrari man was seemingly energised by having the Red Bull back in his sights. 

However, after failing to make a move, Leclerc started to lose time and Verstappen took the chequered flag in relative comfort.

Charles Leclerc knows there is work still to do, but his Miami Grand Prix qualifying debut went entirely to plan as Ferrari's main man claimed pole position and was joined on the front row by Carlos Sainz.

Leclerc was able to secure pole for the third time in five races this season despite complaining he had not run his best lap on Saturday.

The Scuderia superstar profited from a late error from Max Verstappen, who had to settle for third, also letting through Sainz – back on form following his practice crash on Friday.

It puts Ferrari in a great position for a third win of the season, as many as they had managed in their previous three years combined, with Leclerc converting his previous two 2022 poles. All of his four career victories have come after qualifying fastest.

Each of the past four races in the United States have been won by a different driver – none of them being Leclerc – with three of them starting from pole.

"The last weekend hadn't been great for me [at the Emilia Romagna GP]," Leclerc said. "I made a mistake in the race.

"But today went well. We are starting on pole and we need to finish the job tomorrow.

"Red Bull are extremely quick in the straight lines, we are quick in the corners, and it will be a tight challenge tomorrow. But hopefully we will come back on top."

Leclerc is right to be wary of the threat of the Red Bulls in third and fourth, as Verstappen still believes he is in a good position to contend.

"Of course, you want to be on pole," the world champion said, "but where we came from, we've done a really good job.

"We have to start making the weekends a little bit less difficult because, like this, it's always going to be tricky.

"We have a good chance tomorrow. The car is handling quite well, so I'm looking forward to it."

Mercedes had taken pole – and subsequently won – at each of the previous six new Formula One circuits, but George Russell failed to get out of Q2 while Lewis Hamilton made do with sixth.

 

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:28.796
2. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.190secs
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.195s
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.240s
5. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) +0.679s
6. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.829s
7. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0.894s
8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.954s
9. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +1.136s
10. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +1.880s

Max Verstappen has rejected Lewis Hamilton's complaints about Mercedes' W13 car, saying George Russell's early successes with the team show it is "not all horrific".

Verstappen claimed his second victory of the 2022 campaign at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix last time out, with Sergio Perez following him home to ensure Red Bull's first one-two since the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix.

Seven-time champion Hamilton, meanwhile, has struggled since losing the title to Verstappen in the closing seconds of 2021's final race in Abu Dhabi, and was lapped by the Red Bull driver at Imola as he toiled to a 13th-place finish.

On Thursday, Hamilton repeated criticism of his team's car, comparing it to his struggles in the 2009 season when he finished fifth, telling The Race: "There are people that watch and say I've never had a bad car, and I can assure you that I have. 2009's car was very, very far off – the worst car that I've had. This car currently is not far off that experience."

But Hamilton's new team-mate Russell is yet to finish outside the top five since joining Mercedes, which Verstappen says is evidence the team's car is not as bad as Hamilton claims.

The reigning world champion, however, denied that he enjoyed lapping Hamilton in Italy, claiming he was simply focusing on his own race.

"To be honest, it wasn't something I was enjoying at the time," he told the Telegraph ahead of the inaugural Miami Grand Prix. "I was just focused on my race, on getting through the traffic as cleanly as possible and winning. 

"It wasn't like I was saying, 'Oh, I'm lapping Lewis, what an amazing feeling'. I had great battles with Lewis last year. Now he's in a car which is not so great.

"Having said that, of course, George does finish fourth in that car [at Imola]. So, it is not all horrific, right?

"I'd say [Hamilton's] car had quite a bit more pace than the midfield traffic. But yeah, it was hard to pass. I mean also when there was only one dry line and when you don't have, let's say, a top speed advantage anymore. 

"It makes it a lot harder to judge how far Lewis was off George. But clearly the whole weekend George was doing really well." 

Verstappen sits second in the drivers' standings after Red Bull's erratic start to the season, in which the Dutch driver has posted two victories but failed to finish twice. 

Formula One's ever-expanding presence in the United States will come to the fore as it returns to Florida for the first time in over 60 years with the Miami Grand Prix this weekend.

Bruce McLaren claimed the first of four Grand Prix wins at Sebring in 1959, before the United States GP moved to Riverside for 1960 and then Watkins Glen until 1980.

Last time out at Imola, Ferrari suffered their first bad weekend of the season, with Red Bull's one-two compounding Carlos Sainz crashing out on the opening lap and Charles Leclerc spinning after going over a sausage kerb, before finishing in sixth.

With DNFs in Imola and Melbourne, Sainz had not retired in his previous 24 races and will be looking to recover at a track that could suit this year's Ferrari package.

Even after Imola though, Ferrari still lead in both the driver's and constructor's championships, with respective 27 and 11-point leads.

Following his wins in Bahrain and Australia, Charles Leclerc could equal Ferrari's win tally in the previous seasons combined, with all three coming in 2019.

Though the Monegasque driver converted his pole position into a win at Albert Park, only four of his 11 career wins have come from pole position.

Reigning world champion Max Verstappen has been much more clinical in that regard, converting his 14 pole positions into 10 race victories.

Verstappen was the last winner in the United States, taking the top step at COTA last year in Austin.

Mercedes bring upgrades

Although George Russell sits fourth in the driver's championship, Ferrari and Red Bull have had the two best packages on the grid so far this season.

Mercedes have struggled to match them for pace and performance as they come to terms with the car's particularly aggressive porpoising coming into braking zones.

They are hoping upgrades could revive Lewis Hamilton's season and the USA has traditionally been a happy hunting ground, with six of his 18 wins in North America coming there.

Can Red Bull consolidate?

Defending champion Max Verstappen won at Imola in what was an assured drive, reminding the paddock that Red Bull are capable of coming up with a strong package this season.

Sergio Perez has also been in solid form to open the season, securing back-to-back second-place finishes for the first time in his career in Melbourne and Imola.

Anything less than another strong performance will undo the progress they made, however.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 86
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 59
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 54
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 49 
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 38

Constructors

1. Ferrari 124
2. Red Bull 113
3. Mercedes 77
4. McLaren 46
5. Alfa Romeo 25

Red Bull team advisor Helmut Marko could not help but add insult to injury following the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday, suggesting Lewis Hamilton should have retired at the end of last season.

The seven-time Formula One world champion finished out of the points in 13th position at Imola and to compound the misery, was lapped by rival Max Verstappen, who went on to win the race in a one-two for Red Bull.

Mercedes have struggled to come to grips with porpoising as a result of new regulations this season, but Hamilton's form is in stark contrast to that of team-mate George Russell, who sits 21 points ahead in the driver's standings and finished fourth on Sunday.

When asked how Hamilton might be feeling after Imola, Marko could not resist.

"I mean, he was lapped by us, so I don't know," Marko told Sky Sports F1. "Maybe he is thinking he should have stopped last year,"

Verstappen played down the gravity of Hamilton being lapped, however, saying it's a natural consequence of the disparity in performance between the Red Bull and Mercedes packages.

"They've been slow all year so for me it's not really anything exciting, it just happens," he said.

Verstappen's win at Imola was an assured drive, the Dutchman untroubled from pole to finish. With Carlos Sainz out on the opening lap, Red Bull were able to put second-placed Sergio Perez on a different strategy to force Ferrari's hand with championship leader Charles Leclerc.

The reigning world champion moved to second place in the driver's standings on 59 points, 27 points behind Leclerc, who recovered from a spin on lap 53 to finish sixth.

Marko asserted the one-two was a critical result from the standpoints of team morale and the championship, following DNFs in Bahrain and Australia.

"It was very important after our problems in Bahrain and Australia from the engine side…another one-two, the last one was 2016 in Malaysia," Marko said.

"It was about time, for the morale and everything it's more than important. It showed that we are competitive, we just have to get the package together and then we are there.

"There are so many races coming, the important thing is that we have such a strong package, so the championship will be very exciting but hopefully it doesn't go the last race like last year."

Max Verstappen felt Red Bull "were on it" at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and thoroughly deserved their one-two. 

Reigning Formula One champion Verstappen started on pole after winning Saturday's sprint race and he took maximum points at Imola by winning and setting the fastest lap. 

He cut Charles Leclerc's championship lead from 45 points to 27. The Ferrari driver span out from third when trying to take the bonus point from Verstappen and ended up finishing sixth. 

That opened the door for Lando Norris to finish third, with Sergio Perez making it a first one-two for Red Bull since Malaysia in 2016. 

"It's always tough to achieve something like that but already yesterday and the day before, we were on it and it was looking like a strong weekend," said Verstappen. 

"Today, you never know with the weather how competitive you are going to be, but I think we did very well and this one-two is very deserved. 

"The start was very important but afterwards, judging the conditions and when to swap to the slick tyres, because in the lead you have to always dictate the pace, and it's always a bit more difficult initially, but everything was well managed." 

Perez defended brilliantly to keep Leclerc at bay after getting past him on the opening lap, though he was lucky DRS was not enabled until after he took a trip across the grass and gave the Ferrari a chance to close the gap.

"It was really intense! The fight since halfway through the race we were fighting, then it was all under control but then they start chasing us again with the stop and it was the fight again to warm up the tyres," said Perez. 

"The most important thing today is to not make mistakes, because with these conditions it was so tricky out there. To get a one-two in these conditions, I think it is a great result for the team. We've been so unlucky at the start. It's been so difficult for us. 

"I am very pleased to see everyone in my team smiling today." 

Norris said: "It was an amazing race. An amazing weekend.  

"I'm happy, the team deserves it. From where we were in race one to now scoring a podium, top job by the team. It's just hard work [from the team]. A lot of time of effort back in the factory and here at Imola. 

"It was a mixture of tricky conditions, but we've been able to capitalise on that as well. But I love these conditions, so I always do quite well. Just a mixture of hard work and a great weekend and it all pays off." 

Ferrari's tyre strategy could be key to preventing Max Verstappen from cutting into Charles Leclerc's championship lead after Red Bull's reigning world champion triumphed in the sprint at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Having been passed by Leclerc at the start, pole-sitter Verstappen ensured he will start Sunday's 63-lap race first on the grid after overtaking Leclerc on the penultimate lap of the 21-lap sprint.

Leclerc and the raucous home Ferrari fans were denied a victory to cheer as his right front tyre grained in the closing laps, Verstappen taking advantage by sweeping around the outside into Tamburello.

It meant Verstappen collected eight points while Leclerc took seven to extend his championship lead to 40 points, with Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz his closest challenger after finishing fourth behind Red Bull's Sergio Perez in third.

Ferrari, like most of the grid, were on the soft tyres for the sprint, but Leclerc is unsure what compound they will initially select on Sunday after his fast start resulted in that critical degradation.

He told Sky Sports: "I pushed hard at the beginning to try not to be too vulnerable with Max having the DRS behind and I felt like I paid the price of doing that at the end of the race.

"It felt also like they had maybe something more today and he kept it until the end of the race and overtook me when it mattered.

"We'll work on ourselves for tomorrow and try to maximise our package and hopefully the same start as today without the degradation that we had at the end.

"I think with today's data it will help us make the right decision for tomorrow, but whether we will go for the hard compound or not I'm not sure yet."

Only three drivers went with the medium compound for the sprint, including the Haas drivers of Kevin Magnussen (eighth) and Mick Schumacher (10th), both of whom had impressive pace in the final laps.

And Verstappen conceded he may not enjoy the same fortune on Sunday with the harder compounds set to play a more prominent role.

"The start was very bad. I don't know exactly what happened or why it was so bad, just too much wheelspin," he said at the post-race presentation.

"After that we had to stay calm. It initially looked like Charles was having a bit more pace but I think he ran out of tyres and we could close the gap and go for the move into turn 2.

"I know tomorrow it might be again a bit different, but for sure today it worked out for us to be on this compound, so I'm very happy to have a clean sprint race in the end.

"I'm happy about today, but I know it might be different tomorrow with those other tyre compounds coming into play."

Max Verstappen recovered from a slow start to Saturday's sprint race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix to prevail and ensure he will start Sunday's race in first.

The Tifosi at Imola are hoping for a weekend-long celebration amid Ferrari's resurgence, led by Charles Leclerc, in 2022.

He was on course to give them something to cheer in the sprint, getting past pole-sitter Verstappen and, for most of the 21 laps, looking set to claim the maximum eight points.

But Leclerc's front right tyre grained in the final laps as Verstappen closed quickly in an impressive Red Bull, the reigning world champion retaking the lead on the penultimate lap to claim victory.

Leclerc extended his championship lead to 40 points as Mercedes' George Russell finished outside the eight points places on another dismal day for the Silver Arrows, while Ferrari's Carlos Sainz moved into second in the drivers' standing as he took fourth behind Red Bull's Sergio Perez.

An abundance of wheelspin at the start saw Verstappen surrender top spot to Leclerc and he was not close to the Ferrari at a safety car restart following a collision between Pierre Gasly and Zhou Guanyu.

But, as Leclerc's right front faded, Verstappen struck a blow for Red Bull as he got himself within a second at the DRS zone on the start-finish straight and swept around the outside of the Ferrari into the Tamburello chicane.

Perez got himself up from seventh to third while Sainz improved from 10th to fourth after his crash in qualifying, with the McLarens of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo claiming fifth and sixth.

The final points places went to Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas and Haas' Kevin Magnussen, with Russell and Lewis Hamilton non-factors who will start 11th and 14th respectively.

A frustrated Lewis Hamilton said "each weekend is a rescue" after Mercedes' dismal start to the Formula One season continued with a disappointing qualifying session ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Hamilton finished 13th during an incident-strewn, weather-affected afternoon at Imola on Friday, missing out on Q1.

Mercedes team-mate George Russell, meanwhile, will be in 11th for Saturday's sprint race, which Max Verstappen will start at the front of the grid.

It is the first time Mercedes have had both cars fail to progress from Q2 since the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix.

They were unfortunate, with Ferrari's Carlos Sainz crashing as rain started to fall to end the session prematurely, though it seemed unlikely the Silver Arrows would have made it into Q3 regardless.

Mercedes sit second in the constructors' standings after the opening three races of the season but are 39 points adrift of leaders Ferrari, whose championship-leading Charles Leclerc will start alongside Verstappen on the front row on Saturday.

Red Bull, meanwhile, are just 10 points behind Mercedes, and Hamilton lamented a difficult day on the track.

"It wasn't a great session," the seven-time world champion told Sky Sports. "Came here with optimism and everyone is working hard at the factory, but it is disappointing.

"I think we underperformed as a team today. There are things we should have done, but we didn't. We will work as hard as we can to move up in the sprint race.

"We will just keep working. It is what it is. Each weekend is a rescue."

Reigning champion Verstappen, meanwhile, secured his first pole position of the season, albeit he needs to maintain that in the sprint race to start at the front on Sunday.

He said: "It was tricky out there with the dry/rain. It was very slippery. It was hectic, a long qualifying but of course in the end happy to be here. It is an amazing track and it really punishes you if you make a mistake.

"I am really pleased with pole. It will be different weather at the weekend but a good start.

"Our first three races didn't go to plan, but we will try to have a good weekend here."

Lando Norris spun into the barriers to end Q3 – and the session as a whole – early, but the McLaren driver will start in third place on Saturday.

"I am happy I am top three which is quite a surprise for us," Norris said. "There was a chance at least for us to go forwards even more. The car was feeling good and I was feeling confident. A shame it ended like that, but I am happy.

Leclerc, meanwhile, rued making an error in Q3 as he had to settle for second.

"It was very tricky, especially on the slicks. There were quite a lot of wet patches, and it was all about putting the laps in and waiting for Q3 to put it together," Leclerc explained. "It is frustrating because when it counts in Q3 I made the wrong choice."

Max Verstappen says Red Bull are "already miles behind" after the reigning world champion suffered a second DNF of the 2022 Formula One season at the Australian Grand Prix.

The Dutchman had sat second throughout the race at Albert Park and had closed the gap on eventual race winner and championship rival Charles Leclerc amid a safety car deployment.

But a mechanical failure saw him forced to retire once again after he also failed to see out the season opener in Bahrain, with the Ferrari of Leclerc leading home from Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez and Mercedes' George Russell.

It is the second time in three races Verstappen has been blighted by problems beyond his control, and he bemoaned that he cannot think about defending his crown right now.

"We're already miles behind," he stated. "I don't want to think about the title fight, I just want to finish races.

"It's frustrating and unacceptable. These kinds of things if you want to fight for the title cannot happen."

Team principal Christian Horner voiced his own disappointment to Sky Sports afterwards too, adding: "We don't know what the issue is yet. I don't think it is engine related.

"I think it might be a fuel issue but we need to get the car back and look at exactly what has happened.

"[It's] desperately frustrating. We didn't have the pace to race Charles today. They were in a league of their own but frustrating not to bag those points."

One beneficiary of Verstappen's exit was Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, with the seven-time world champion completing a second-row lockout for the Silver Arrows after his struggles this year.

"We definitely didn't expect to be third and fourth," the Briton added to Sky Sports. "George did a great job today. We'll take these points and keep pushing.

"I couldn't fight for third as the engine kept overheating. I had to back off. We bagged as many points as we could for the team and that's great."

Charles Leclerc extended his championship lead by winning the Australian Grand Prix and Max Verstappen retired for the second time in three races on Sunday.

Ferrari driver Leclerc led from start to finish at Albert Park to secure his second victory of the season, with Sergio Perez finishing second and George Russell third.

World champion Verstappen pulled over on lap 39 of 58, while Leclerc's team-mate Carlos Sainz - who started the day second in the driver standings - spun off early in the race after starting back in ninth spot.

Leclerc got off to a good start and Lewis Hamilton moved up from fifth to third behind world champion Verstappen.

The safety car was deployed when Sainz found himself in the gravel after losing control on lap three, with Leclerc extending his advantage as Perez used the DRS to overtake Hamilton.

Verstappen pitted for hard tyres on lap 19 and the safety car was out again when Sebastian Vettel retired, giving Russell the opportunity to pit and remain in third place.

Leclerc fended off Verstappen when the race restarted and that was as close as the Dutchman came to taking the lead before he pulled over due to another issue with his Red Bull.

Monegasque Leclerc was untroubled, easing to a second win in three races and put the icing on the cake by clocking the fastest lap.

Leclerc finished over 20 seconds ahead of Perez, with Russell securing a podium spot and Hamilton crossing the line in fourth spot.

Max Verstappen believes the Australian Grand Prix has been hindered by the FIA removing a DRS zone. 

Reigning Formula One champion Verstappen was pipped to pole position for Sunday's race in Melbourne by Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc. 

The Dutchman questioned the FIA's decision to continue with three DRS zones for the rest of the weekend after removing one between turns eight and nine for "safety reasons".

"Of course, with taking away one DRS zone, it's going to be harder," Verstappen said of overtaking at a restructured Albert Park. 

"I don't really understand why they took it away, because it was much safer than what we did in Jeddah, for example. So, it's a bit of a mystery to me why that happened. But we'll give it our best. 

"There was only one team who complained about it and it got removed this morning, so I don't really understand because, for me, it was way easier than doing it in, for example, in Jeddah because there were way more corners. 

"For me, there was never any issue with driving there with the DRS open. You'll have to ask the FIA why they took it away. It's a shame because it would have helped the racing." 

Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, who qualified third, added: "I think it's a bit of a shame because I think definitely the racing could have been a lot better. 

"And it sounds like when you look at Jeddah where we have the DRS within the corners, within the walls ... but I think I'm not the right one to answer." 

Max Verstappen admits he is still finding it a "struggle" to drive his Red Bull after being pipped to pole for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix by Charles Leclerc.

Championship leader Leclerc outpaced Verstappen with his final lap of a dramatic qualifying session in Melbourne on Saturday to ensure he will start at the top of the grid.

The Ferrari driver, who has finished first and second in the opening two races of 2022, posted 1:17.868 late on in Q3 to finish 0.286s ahead of Verstappen.

"It feels great and very happy to be starting on pole," Leclerc said. "Again, we were quite surprised by our pace in qualifying, so we will see what happens.

"Overall, I'm very happy because it's a track where I've always struggled in the past and I've struggled this weekend.

"You probably couldn't see from outside because we were quite fast, but I was struggling quite a lot with mistakes, being inconsistent.

"I really worked on that to try to put a good lap together in Q3. I knew it was just all about putting it together and I managed to do it in Q3, so I'm very happy."

Verstappen was edged out by Leclerc in a thrilling Saudi Arabian Grand Prix two weeks ago and is third in the drivers' standings, with Carlos Sainz occupying second place.

Leclerc's Ferrari team-mate Sainz will start Sunday's race down in ninth, however, after being caught by red flags that were brought out following a crash for Fernando Alonso.

Red Bull's Verstappen will therefore have a chance to climb the standings this weekend, but the Dutchman is not entirely pleased with how the weekend has gone thus far.

"I would have hoped to start first, but we have to accept where we finish, but the whole weekend has been a bit tricky for me," he said.

"I've never really found a stable grip whether it's front or rear and that's just not nice. For me, that's really been the case all year.

"I've never found a comfortable balance where I could attack corners, especially in qualifying and that's a big limitation – it's something very new for me in the last three years.

"Of course, I'm talking like I'm P18, but I think we have a lot of potential in the car we're not showing and I think that's a bit of a shame.

"But I expect it to be tight [on Sunday]. Maybe Ferrari will find something, but I hope not and hopefully we can have a good battle again."

 

Despite his complaints, it is Verstappen's first front row start at Albert Park as he seeks just a second podium finish in six appearances Down Under.

Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez finished third in qualifying, though that will be reviewed as he is under investigation.

That is due to the Mexican failing to slow for double waved flags after Lance Stroll inadvertently turned into Nicholas Latifi, with both drivers blaming each other for the crash.

Perez, who could only finish four in Jeddah last time out after claiming pole – the first Mexican to ever do so – was more upbeat than Verstappen.

"It felt good. Q1, Q2 things were going good. With all the red flags, it's always very hard to keep the momentum going," he said.

"I regret a bit the decision to go into Q3 with our strategy on the tyres, but I think P3 is a decent start for tomorrow."

Elsewhere in Saturday's qualifying session, Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, who has taken a record eight poles in Australia, finished fifth, narrowly behind McLaren's Lando Norris.

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