Verstappen keeps Mercedes at bay in exciting 2023 Australian GP qualifying


Max Verstappen secured pole position in a closely-contested qualifying session with the Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton second and third

2023 Australian GP Red Bull Max Verstappen

Verstappen took pole – but it wasn't straightforward

Red Bull

Red Bull took its third 2023 pole in a row as Max Verstappen secured the prime starting spot for the 2023 Australian GP – but it wasn’t foregone conclusion in what was a thrilling qualifying session.

The Dutchman will start first but with both Mercedes cars eyeing the sole Red Bull on Sunday, after Sergio Perez slid off and out of Q1. An impressive George Russell will line up next to Verstappen tomorrow after setting a time just two tenths slower, with Lewis Hamilton a further 0.1sec back.

Fernando Alonso, who at one point looked like he might snatch pole from Verstappen, will line up fourth, while the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc struggled to fifth and seventh.

Lance Stroll will start in between the Scuderia pair, while a hugely impressive Alex Albon, whose Williams was consistently fastest in the flat-out middle sector, set the eighth-fastest time – the Alpine of Pierre Gasly and the Haas of Nico Hülkenberg filled out the top ten.

2023 Australian GP Red Bull Sergio Perez

Perez exits Q1

Red Bull

“The whole weekend has been very tough to get the tyres in the right window to push straightaway,” explained Verstappen when out of the car. “But it all worked out in Q3.

“Very happy with the lap, of course very happy to be on pole position and already looking forward to tomorrow.

“I think tomorrow we will have a good racecar but again it’s quite tricky on the tyres to keep them alive in the trace, so [it’s] gonna be an interesting race for sure.

Meanwhile the Mercedes pair couldn’t hide their elation at securing second and third.

“We weren’t expecting that, that’s for sure!” said Russell. “A lot of hard work going on back in factory and here in Melbourne and wow, what a session for us.

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“Car felt alive, the lap at the end was right on the limit and I’ve got to be honest, I was a little bit disappointed that we didn’t get pole position.

“It’s one of those things, how your expectations changed so quickly in this sport. We probably would have been happy with a top four / top five yesterday, but the car felt awesome, and it goes to show we’ve definitely got potential with more still to come.”

Hamilton was similar in his pleasantly surprised reaction to how things played out.

“This is totally unexpected,” he said. “For us to be up on the two front rows is honestly a dream for us. We’re all working as hard as we can to get right back up the front and so to be this close to the Red Bull is honestly it’s incredible.

“We’re hoping for a day like the first year in 2007 in Turn 1 [that] here would be awesome [when Hamilton leapt from third to second at the start].”

2023 Australian GP Mercedes George Russell

Russell will start second on Sunday


Verstappen looked assured in Q1 by topping the timesheets with a 1min 17.384sec but will be the lone Milton Keynes car starting up-front after Sergio Perez dumped his RB18 into the gravel early on in the session. .

The Mexican blamed “the same “****ing problem again” on the radio as he struggled to get the car slowed on corner entry, whilst 16th-placed Oscar Piastri was also eliminated after missing out on Q2 by 0.04sec.

Joining the pair out in Q1 was Zhou Guanyu, Logan Sargeant and Valtteri Bottas in an extremely disappointing session for Alfa Romeo.

A real scrap developed for the final top-10 place in Q2, with the Williams of Albon, both Alpines and Lando Norris squabbling over entry into Q3.

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It was the mightily impressive Grove car of Albon who went through, with Esteban Ocon, Yuki Tsunoda, the beleaguered McLaren of Norris, Kevin Magnussen and Nyck De Vries eliminated.

All cars rushed out in Q3 as the threat of rain loomed, with all the top teams trading times.

Verstappen looked to be on the back foot in Q3 as the excitement built – Alonso was initially fastest on a 1min 17.303sec, before the crowd erupted as Hamilton nicked a tenth off the Spaniard to top the timing screens.

With both Mercedes, Ferraris and Alonso going faster than him at first, Verstappen’s qualifying session briefly looked in jeopardy, but the Dutchman just about weathered a scruffy lap to go quickest by 0.008sec on his second run.

Sainz was informed of rain in the last 3-4 minutes as all drivers hurried to fit in as many fast laps as possible.

2023 Australian GP Mercedes Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton was surprised but pleased with Mercedes pace


With the dark clouds moving in, Verstappen then showed the field just how much pace he had, by extending his advantage by a stunning half a second.

Russell then impressed by setting a time a 0.25sec off, with Hamilton a further 0.15sec back in his first top-six starting position of the season. Alonso, hustling his AMR23 as has become customary this season, was 0.4sec slower than Verstappen in fourth. The two Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc were split by Stroll.

“Not easy to get the tyres in the window,” commented Verstappen afterwards while an elated Russell said “I thought our car was a second off the pace?!”

“We just got it together,” explained Mercedes boss Toto Wolff afterwards. “Over the weekend we just grind away with putting performance on the car in terms of the right mechanical setup, but also operational in terms of knowing what laps you needed to do on build-up and warm-up as well.”

2023 Australian Grand Prix qualifying results

Position Driver Team Time
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1min 16.732sec
2 George Russell Mercedes 1min 16.968sec
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1min 17.104sec
4 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1min 17.139sec
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1min 17.270sec
6 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1min 17.308sec
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1min 17.369sec
8 Alex Albon Williams 1min 17.609sec
9 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1min 17.675sec
10 Nico Hülkenberg Haas 1min 17.735sec
Q2 times
11 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1min 17.768sec
12 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1min 18.099sec
13 Lando Norris McLaren 1min 18.119sec
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1min 18.129sec
15 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri 1min 18.355sec
Q1 times
16 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1min 18.517sec
17 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1min 18.540sec
18 Logan Sargeant Williams 1min 18.557sec
19 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1min 18.714sec
20 Sergio Perez Red Bull No time