Charles Leclerc Grabs Pole Forward of Max Verstappen for Australian Grand Prix

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Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc claimed pole on Saturday for the Australian Grand Prix forward of title rival Max Verstappen — and within the course of broke Lewis Hamilton’s stranglehold on the grid in Melbourne. Verstappen’s Purple Bull team-mate Sergio Perez is on the second row after coming in third forward of McLaren’s Lando Norris. Mercedes’ Hamilton, who has been the pole-sitter eight occasions in Melbourne, together with the final six in a row at Albert Park, will begin fifth.

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It’s a second pole of the yr for Leclerc after the season-opening race in Bahrain, the place he went on to win.

He knocked out his rivals with a flying lap on the demise of 1 minute 17.868, fractionally forward of Purple Bull’s world champion Verstappen, who received in Saudi Arabia two weeks in the past.

“It felt good. Much more as a result of it’s a monitor the place I’ve all the time struggled up to now, in Q3 I managed to place every part collectively so it feels nice, very pleased,” stated Monaco’s Leclerc.

“The automobile is sweet to drive, every part is feasible tomorrow. We want a great begin.”

Verstappen had complained of oversteer and stability issues within the last observe forward of qualifying for Sunday’s race and the Dutchman stated he was nonetheless struggling regardless of being second-fastest.

“I didn’t actually really feel good within the automobile all weekend. I don’t assume there’s been one lap the place I’ve felt good within the automobile,” he stated.

“We’ll attempt to analyse it. This weekend has been far and wide. Pleased to be second, however as a crew we would like extra.”

Whereas Mercedes’ velocity is bettering, it nonetheless has issues with porpoising — bouncing an excessive amount of at velocity. However fifth was a serious enchancment for Hamilton, who solely certified sixteenth in Jeddah. His team-mate George Russell was sixth on Saturday.

In a morale-boost, each McLarens made Q3 for the primary time this season with Daniel Ricciardo coming seventh. Esteban Ocon in an Alpine was eighth and Carlos Sainz within the different Ferrari solely ninth.

Veteran Fernando Alonso, who has been fast all weekend within the Alpine, needed to accept tenth after crashing at Flip 11, saying on the radio he couldn’t shift down gears.

‘HE HIT ME’

However it was a dismal day for four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who despatched his Aston Martin right into a wall at excessive velocity within the last observe and managed simply three laps in qualifying.

He completed 18th to cap a depressing time for the German, who missed the opening two races of the yr with Covid, suffered engine failure on Friday and was fined 5,000 euros (US$5,437) after driving a moped on the monitor.

His team-mate Lance Stroll additionally endured a tricky day. After crashing in third observe, his crew patched up the automobile and bought him out with 4 minutes left of Q1.

However earlier than he accomplished a lap, Nicholas Latifi careered into him, leaving particles from the Canadian’s Williams strewn on the monitor.

“He simply hit me man,” Stroll stated in an expletive-laden radio message, with Latifi responding: “I don’t perceive what he was doing, he wasn’t trying in his mirrors. Automotive’s destroyed.”

Perez topped Q2 from Sainz and Leclerc with Valtteri Bottas, the 2019 Melbourne winner, a casualty in his Alfa Romeo.

The Finn’s team-mate Zhou Guanyu additionally missed the reduce, as did Mick Schumacher in a Haas and AlphaTauri pair Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda.

Verstappen was quickest in Q1 forward of Perez.

Together with Latifi, Stroll and Vettel, Kevin Magnussen in a Haas and Williams’ Alex Albon, who already has a three-place grid drop after an incident in Saudi Arabia, additionally did not get out of Q1.

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