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.

Jamaica's karting sensation Alex Powell is gearing up to write a new chapter in his racing career, as he recently inked a deal with Prema Racing to compete in its 2024 Formula 4 programme.

Powell, who displayed immense potential on the karting circuit where he secured numerous top three finishes in some of Europe's top-class championships, is now aiming to add to his karting successes, though he is well aware that Formula 4 presents much more formidable opponents.

“I’m happy to continue my journey with Prema Racing, since I started with them earlier in karting. We finished off to a great karting career and I look forward to continuing developing as a single seater driver with this incredible team. I’m grateful for this opportunity and I will continue to do my best with the amazing support of the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team Junior Programme," Powell declared.

Powell, a Mercedes-AMG F1 protege, whetted his appetite for Formula 4 competition late last year, and will on this occasion, enjoy his first full season in European and Italian Formula 4 championships.

Prema Racing's Team Principal Angelo Rosin welcomed Jamaican Powell to Prema’s Formula 4 team for 2024, noting that the 16-year-old is the first drive to transition from Prema’s karting team to its F4 team.

“Alex is a really promising driver. We followed him during his early years, and we were delighted to welcome him to our new karting team for 2023. When he made the step up to cars, he was impressive despite the steep learning curve and made solid improvements every time he went on track…we are looking forward to seeing what’s ahead for us," Rosin said.

Max Verstappen will begin his quest to win the world championship from third for Saturday’s sprint race in Qatar as Oscar Piastri took a surprise pole position.

Piastri saw off team-mate Lando Norris as McLaren secured a front-row lockout.

Lewis Hamilton was knocked out of Q2 and qualified only 12th in his Mercedes for the 19-lap dash, which gets under way at 8:30pm local time (6:30pm BST).

Verstappen will wrap up his third consecutive title if he finishes sixth or better, or if Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez fails to finish inside the top three in the sprint at the Lusail International Circuit. Perez qualified only eighth on yet another scruffy outing for the struggling Mexican.

A day after taking top spot for the start of Sunday’s 57-lap main event, Verstappen, who has dominated all year, saw his first lap in Q3 deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn 5.

And the 26-year-old Dutchman was unable to do enough on his final run to usurp Piastri, finishing two tenths behind the rookie Australian.

Norris was in the running for first place but he ran wide at the last corner and failed to improve on his earlier effort.

George Russell finished fourth for Mercedes – four tenths behind Piastri – and ahead of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, who took fifth and sixth respectively for Ferrari.

Sprint qualifying at a windswept Lusail – 18 miles north of Doha – was delayed amid fears over the safety of the tyres.

The running had been due to start at 4pm local time (2pm BST), but was delayed by 20 minutes following revisions to the track limits.

The drivers took part in an additional 10 minutes of practice to familiarise themselves with the changes made to the track at turns 12 and 13 prior to qualifying.

Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, said “a separation in the sidewall between the topping compound and the carcass cords” were discovered on the Pirelli tyres following yesterday’s one-hour running.

The federation believe the problem is likely to have been caused by a number of the high kerbs used at the circuit.

An emergency summit was staged in the build-up to qualifying with the drivers assured they would not be put in harm’s way.

Additional analysis will take place following today’s sprint race and further action – which will include three mandatory tyre stops – may be taken for Sunday’s grand prix.

Lance Stroll shoved his British performance coach and stormed out of a television interview after he was eliminated from Q1 in Friday’s running.

And the under-pressure Canadian fell at the first hurdle again on Saturday, one place better off in 16th.

Stroll’s Aston Martin team-mate Fernando Alonso, who also saw his best effort in qualifying chalked off for exceeding track limits, lines up in ninth.

Max Verstappen took pole position for Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix as the indomitable Dutchman closes in on his third world title.

Verstappen will be crowned champion of the world if he finishes at least sixth in Saturday’s 19-lap race at the Lusail International Circuit.

And the Red Bull driver started his quest to become just the 11th driver in history to win the title on more than two occasions in typically irresistible fashion by clocking the fastest time in qualifying.

In terms of the championship mathematics, Verstappen’s pole lap for Sunday’s main event will be redundant if he secures three points in Saturday’s sprint – the starting order for which will be determined by a second qualifying session here on Saturday afternoon – or Sergio Perez fails finish inside the top three. The probability of both are high.

As Verstappen raced to top spot, with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton securing second and third on the grid for Mercedes, Perez failed to make it out of Q2.

His best lap, which would have been fast enough to see him sneak through to Q3, was deleted for exceeding track limits at turn five. Perez, in equal machinery to the driver dominating the sport, will start 13th on Sunday.

Perez threatened to fight Verstappen for the championship by winning two of the opening four rounds of the season, but the Mexican’s challenge has faded. He has not won since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on April 30, with Verstappen winning 11 of the next dozen races.

Indeed, only a Singapore blip for Red Bull has thwarted this most one-sided of seasons for the Dutchman.

He bounced back in impressive fashion to win in Japan last time out and his form under the Lusail lights, 18 miles north of Doha, indicates he will wrap up his third championship in as many years in style.

Qualifying did not pass without incident for the 26-year-old following a duel with the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, who, like Perez, was a surprise casualty in Q2.

“What is he doing, man?” Verstappen yelled over the radio. “He is defending. You see that? I almost crashed into him.” The stewards are investigating the Spaniard for erratic driving.

Verstappen then aborted his final lap after making a rare mistake, but his first effort was good enough for first place, and he is primed to celebrate his probable title triumph on Saturday by claiming his 14th win from the 17 rounds so far 24 hours later.

Behind Verstappen, Lando Norris looked to have taken second place, but his lap was scrubbed after he put all four wheels of his McLaren over the white line, relegating him to 10th.

Russell was bumped up to second, one place ahead of Norris’ McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri. However, the Australian’s lap was also chalked off, dropping him to sixth and promoting Hamilton to third.

Mercedes will take some comfort from being best of the rest, but Russell still finished four tenths off Verstappen, with Hamilton half-a-second down.

Though the FIA Karting World Championships victory in the KZ2 (shifter kart) category slipped his grasp, young sensation Alex Powell still had much to celebrate, as he again etched his name in the annals of Jamaica’s sporting history.

Powell, who has been endured a series of mixed results throughout the season, placed second in the coveted championships in Wackersdorf, Germany on Sunday in what was another solid demonstration of his immense potential to rise to the occasion when it matters most.

While the American-born driver would have loved to top the podium and become the first Jamaican or Caribbean driver to win a World Championships title, the runner-up position sufficed for Powell, who knows that in a competitive category of this nature boasting over 125 drivers, the chances of winning fluctuate.

It was his first time finishing on the podium at the illustrious championships, as Germany’s Niels Troger finished tops, while Romania’s Daniel Vasile was third in the 26-lap final.

“The aim is always to ensure the Jamaican flag is displayed during the presentation ceremony and we made that happen. It's something that not many people are able to experience, but I am fortunate enough to have accomplished that and I am very grateful and proud that I am able to represent Jamaica and the Caribbean on this big stage,” Powell said as he reflected on the grueling weekend.

“I am just hoping that it inspires other kids coming up, not only from Jamaica, so they know, they too can do it because at the end of the day you know, I started from where they're starting now and I'm very proud of what I have been able to achieve. Sure, I still have a long way to go still, but I hope that I've been able to open a few doors for the kids coming up behind me,” he told from his base in Italy.

The 15-year-old, who started his driving career in a parking lot in Trinidad and Tobago and his now a Mercedes-Benz AMG F1 protégé, also took into account the fact that this was his first, and possibly, only season competing in the shifter karts category.

As such, he welcomed the lessons as part of his growth process in a budding career that could see him transition to the Formula 4 ranks next year.

“This was my third FIA event in KZ2 this year and I was on the podium twice, so it is great that I was always a contender, challenging for victories in highly competitive category. Because at the end of the day, I'm racing experienced guys that are double my age, so even being around them, you know, I learnt a lot and I'm able to take away so much you know, sort of nibbling at their experience,” Powell shared.

“So, to finish runner-up in the World Championship was nice as you can imagine, it's probably a bit sour as well because you're so close, but then you know start to put it into perspective. So, I'm proud of the way that we were able to progress, not only from the weekend, but also from the beginning of this year, so like I said, hopefully next time, we can go one step higher,” he added.

This performance coupled with his third-place finish overall in the FIA European Championships, has boosted Powell’s confidence significantly, as he heads into the business end of the season in pole position in the five-race Champions of the Future (COTF) series, and still has the World Championships OK category to contest.

On that European Championships standing, Powell 191 points, behind Dutch driver Rene Lammers (278 points) and Italy’s Gabriel Gomez (213 points).

Meanwhile, he heads the COTF standings on 196 points heading into the final round in France. Great Britain’s Kean Nakamura-Berta (184 points) and Gomez (155 points) are his closest pursuers.

“I think that for the upcoming two races, we're in much better shape than we were before, so I'm quite confident, I have proven to myself that I can deal with the pressure and also produce strong results. So, to be honest, I think mentally, I'm in a strong place going into these last two events. So hopefully everything goes as well as it did this past weekend, but I'll be I'll be fighting hard,” Powell declared.

“Especially given the fact that this might be the last season in go-karts for me, so I would like to finish on the high and I'll be giving it my all. After so many years of trying and failing, to finally get on the podium of a FIA World Championship has taken off a lot of pressure and shows that we're moving in the right direction,” the cousin to former 100m World record holder and sub-10 sprint king Asafa Powell, ended.

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