Charles Leclerc’s advantage: In a public duel with world champion Max Verstappen, the Ferrari driver took the lead on Saturday, and the Dutchman snatched first place in the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Despite the bright sun that many drivers complained about at Melbourne’s Albert Park, Red Bull Verstappen’s Mexican Sergio Perez was tamed by Monaco who finished third in this qualifying session.
“I felt good! Especially since it’s a track where I’ve always had problems in the past (…) The car is fun to drive, anything is possible tomorrow. We need a good start,” Leclerc commented after his first runner-up of the season. .
During the inaugural Grand Prix in Bahrain in mid-March, it was already Leclerc who took the lead, before winning the race the following day against Verstappen, forced into retirement by collapsing a few laps from the finish.
But the Dutchman responded two weeks later in Saudi Arabia, achieving his first win of the season despite finishing fourth in the qualifiers.
Leclerc (45 points) is currently 12 points ahead of fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz Jr. (33) – who will start in ninth on Sunday – and 20 points over Verstappen (25).
The Scuderia predicted its first place on Australian soil since 2007, at the time of Kimi Raikkonen, the retired Finn who, that year, handed over to Ferrari’s last F1 world championship title.
‘A horrible weekend’ by Verstappen
In the competition, the Red Bull drivers didn’t have the sensations: Facing the general balance issues of his single seat, Verstappen admits he has had a “horrible weekend” so far.
“Obviously we haven’t really solved the problem, even in qualifying. The driver explained that we struggled a lot with the car’s balance and that didn’t give us confidence to go forward.
For his teammate, tires were the problem: “I never felt like I knew which strategy was the best in terms of tyres, I think it’s very sensitive,” Perez commented.
As for Charles Leclerc, despite the problems at Red Bull, he expects “a very difficult race tomorrow (Sunday)”.
After a difficult start to the season for McLaren, the British team appears to be on a fast paced: Briton Lando Norris will start from fourth on the grid, alongside Perez, and regional Daniel Ricciardo will lead a little further, in seventh.
On the Mercedes side, the defending champion from the constructors but facing difficulty since the beginning of the season, for several reasons (aerodynamics, engine), Lewis Hamilton will start in the third row (fifth), next to his teammate George Russell (sixth).
If Hamilton performed better than in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the end of March (16 in qualifying), “we have not made any progress,” he confirmed at the end of this session. “Nothing we change on the car makes a difference at the moment,” he had already lamented to the seven-time world champion after Friday’s free practice.
Behind Mercedes, France’s Esteban Ocon (Alpine) and Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) will start from eighth and eleventh positions respectively.
In the other Alps, Fernando Alonso, very quick in free training and a potential first-place candidate, lost control of his singles bench in Q3, due to a sudden loss of his hydraulic systems. It will start on Sunday from 10th place.
Qualifiers were also marked by a collision between Canadian single-seat Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi during the first part of qualifying (Q1).
Stroll’s Aston Martin and Latifi’s Williams collided when they weren’t on a flight lap, and the two drivers had to stop their sessions there, causing them to be deactivated for a few minutes.
Stroll, who is held responsible for the collision, received a penalty of three places on the grid. It would have no effect since he was already the last Canadian, without time due to this collision.
Stroll will start on the 19th, just before Alex Albon.
Albon is not eligible
Moreover, Ty Albon (Williams) has been disqualified from qualifying sessions and will start last Sunday at Melbourne, after the guards were unable to sample enough fuel from his singles seat, organizers announced on Saturday.
“Williams has not been able to provide the one-liter regulatory fuel sample to the FIA, as required under Section 6.5.2 of the Formula 1 Technical Regulations,” the FIA said in a statement.
The Thai driver has therefore been ruled out by the judges from the qualifying results, but he will be allowed to start the race on Sunday at Albert Park. »
At the wheel of a Williams FW44, Albon finished 16th in qualifying, but was demoted three times on the grid after a penalty imposed for causing a collision during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix there. In two weeks.
It will start on Sunday after 19 more single seats have entered.
Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari)
Max Verstappen (Netherlands / Red Bull-Honda)
The second line:
Sergio Perez (Mexico / Red Bull-Honda)
Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren-Mercedes)
Lewis Hamilton (GB/Mercedes)
George Russell (GB/Mercedes)
Daniel Ricciardo (Australia/McLaren-Mercedes)
Esteban Ocon (FRA / Alpine-Renault)
Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain / Ferrari)
Fernando Alonso (Spain / Alpine Renault)
Pierre Gasly (FRA / AlphaTauri-Honda)
Valtteri Bottas (FIN / Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari)
Yuki Tsunoda (Japan / AlphaTauri-Honda)
Zhou Guanyu (China / Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari)
Mick Schumacher (GER/Haas-Ferrari)
Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas Ferrari)
Sebastian Vettel (Gear/Aston Martin-Mercedes)
Nicholas Latifi (Canada / Williams Mercedes)
Lance Stroll (Canada / Aston Martin-Mercedes)
Alexander Albon* (THA/Williams Mercedes)
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