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Verstappen claims Melbourne pole


Ahead of Q1 the air temperature is 19 degrees C, while the track temperature is 35 degrees. It is bright but with lots of cloud.

With a question mark over the tyres, we are expecting a closely fought qualifying session today with traffic in Q1 and Q2 adding to the drama.

The softs had shown themselves to be good for 2 or 3 fast laps but this morning that wasn't always the case, while Carlos Sainz posted the best time on mediums, leading to speculation that someone might take the gamble and run the yellow-banded rubber in Q3.

Mercedes was a lot more competitive than yesterday, while Ferrari appears to have the legs of Red Bull, with Alonso and Piastri also looking strong.

In the minutes before the start, the mechanics are working furiously on both Mercedes.

As a reminder the top eight were covered by just 0.373 earlier.

Albon leads the queue in the pitlane with as number of drivers clearly eager to get to work as soon as possible.

As Albon heads out to the applause of the crowd, he is followed by Ocon, Gasly, Hulkenberg and Magnussen.

Albon warns of a lot of leaves on the track as the Ferraris, Bulls and Mercedes head out.

Albon crosses the line at 18.709 as replay shows him running wide in Turn 9 and therefore having his time deleted.

Leclerc calls for a darker visor, as Magnussen posts an 17.874 and Hulkenberg a 17.992.

"So much understeer," complains Verstappen as he posts a 17.478, while the stewards have noted an impeding incident involving Perez and Hulkenberg.

Sainz goes quickest but is immediately leapfrogged by his Ferrari teammate who posts a 17.244. A 17.670 puts Perez fourth.

Norris goes fifth, ahead of Piastri, Alonso, Magnussen and Stroll.

Ocon pits after brushing the barriers while Albon goes twelfth with an 18.154.

Hamilton goes fifth but his teammate can only manage 15th.

Piastri improves to third with a 17.369, just ahead of his McLaren teammate.

Leclerc responds with a 17.244 and Perez a 17.275, only for Alonso to bang in a 16.991.

A 17.229 puts Verstappen second.

Sainz goes quickest (16.731) and his Ferrari teammate second (16.984).

Gasly has been noted for crossing the line at the pit exit.

Russell fails to improve on 17th as some drivers are managing two flying laps and others only one. "The front brakes really don't feel like they're working," reports the Mercedes driver.

Despite his brake issue, Russell improves to tenth (17.522), just behind his teammate.

Norris complains of rear-locking as Gasly improves to fourteenth.

The Bulls trade fastest sectors, Perez going second (16.805), while Verstappen goes third (16.819).

A 17.130 puts Albon sixth.

With 2:30 remaining, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Zhou and Ocon comprise the drop zone, with Gasly, Bottas and Magnussen hovering.

Magnussen improves to 13th and Gasly 15th, while Ricciardo goes tenth.

Stroll goes eighth and Bottas thirteenth.

Tsunoda goes seventh, Russell sixth and Ocon 15th as Ricciardo has his time deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn 5 and drops to 18th.

"Where did I get damage," wails Zhou after failing to make the cut, his car sporting a broken front wing after he apparently clipped a kerb.

Quickest is Sainz, ahead of Perez, Verstappen, Leclerc, Alonso, Russell, Albon, Tsunoda, Piastri and Stroll.

We lose Hulkenberg, Gasly, Ricciardo and Zhou.

Albon, Magnussen, Zhou, Perez, Ocon and Russell are to be investigated for failing to adhere to the maximum delta time.

Sainz leads the way as Q2 gets underway. He is followed by Ocon, Verstappen, Leclerc, Albon, Stroll and Alonso. As more drivers head out it is a mixture of fresh and used softs.

Verstappen posts a 16.387, ahead of Sainz, Leclerc and Albon, however Perez and Norris are on strong laps.

Perez goes fourth (16.753) only to be demoted by Norris (16.750).

Hamilton goes sixth (17.014) but is demoted when a 16.601 puts Piastri second.

Stroll goes eighth and his teammate ninth.

Russell goes seventh with a 16.901, as Magnussen can only manage 13th.

Having previously run used softs, the Ferrari pair switch to fresh rubber.

Ocon complains of vibrations.

Sainz goes quickest in S1 and S3, crossing the line at 16.189. His teammate responds with a 16.569 to go third while Perez goes fifth with a 16.631.

Ocon fails to improve on 15th, as Albon goes eleventh and Alonso seventh.

Stroll posts a 17.064 but remains tenth, while Albon aborts his lap and pits. "I lost everything in 9 and 10," he reports.

Hamilton remains ninth after a poor final sector, while his teammate remains eighth.

Bottas and Magnussen both fail to improve, while Tsunoda goes eighth only to be demoted by Stroll, who also drops Hamilton out of the top ten.

"Are we safe or not," asks the seven-time world champion. "Negative, we've just been bumped," he is told.

Quickest is Sainz, ahead of Leclerc, Verstappen, Piastri, Perez, Alonso, Norris, Stroll, Tsunoda and Russell.

We lose Hamilton, Albon, Bottas, Magnussen and Ocon.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Melbourne here.


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