Australian Grand Prix: Charles Leclerc takes pole for Ferrari in Melbourne

Charles Leclerc sealed pole position for the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday in Melbourne, with him set to start ahead of his Red Bull rival Max Verstappen.

Formula 1 hasn’t raced at Albert Park since 2019 but we look nicely set-up for an entertaining return to the circuit tomorrow, with three of the early potential title contenders in the top three and the likes of a resurgent Lando Norris in just behind.

It was a red flag-strewn qualifying session Down Under, too, and this is how it all played out…

Aston Martin are having a weekend to forget and that continued on Saturday. Sebastian Vettel saw running heavily reduced on Friday thanks to a mechanical fault and then in Saturday practice both he and Lance Stroll picked up damage in incidents.

Stroll’s car would be repaired with enough time for him to head out in qualifying, but then he and Nicholas Latifi in the Williams would have a totally unnecessary collision, sending both out of Q1.

The red flag that followed gave Aston time to get Vettel’s car ready for a late run but he couldn’t post a quick enough time and he’d join the two Canadians, Alex Albon and Kevin Magnussen in being eliminated at the first hurdle:

The second session of qualifying would prove a little less dramatic with the main issue being the setting sun, and drivers complaining they couldn’t see out of their visors – hardly ideal when driving at 200mph.

On track, the AlphaTauri cars of Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda, Mick Schumacher and the Alfa Romeo duo of Guanyu Zhou and Valtteri Bottas dropped out of Q2, with the latter seeing an incredible run of 103 consecutive Q3 appearances come to an end – some record.

Finally, in Q3, Fernando Alonso – quick all weekend – was looking on a mega lap before a hydraulics issue sent him into the gravel trap and, eventually, the wall. It sparked another red flag and a huge feeling of deflation as it genuinely looked as though he had a shot at being in the mix for potentially even pole.

Pole, though, would go to Charles Leclerc with him delivering a fine lap of 1:17.868, with him over 2 tenths quicker tha Max Verstappen in second place.

Sergio Perez qualified in P3 whilst Lando Norris underlined McLaren’s progress over the weekend by coming P4, ahead of the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

Daniel Ricciardo will start his home race from seventh, ahead of Esteban Ocon, Carlos Sainz – who saw his best time deleted just before the line because of Alonso’s red flag – and Fernando who will start P10.

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