Australian GP: Qualifying team notes - Pirelli


Red Bull's Max Verstappen has claimed pole position for the Australian Grand Prix with a best time in qualifying of 1m16.732s. He was followed by the two Mercedes drivers: George Russell on a 1m16.968s leading his team mate Lewis Hamilton, who set a 1m17.104s. All three drivers used a new set of P Zero Red soft tyres to set their best times. The Q1 session was interrupted by a red flag after Sergio Perez got his Red Bull stuck in a gravel trap. The eventual pole time was more than a second quicker than last year.

Verstappen was additionally fastest in FP3, with a time of 1m17.565s. Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso and Alpine's Esteban Ocon were second and third, setting times of 1m17.727s and 1m17.938s respectively. The FP3 session was also interrupted by a red flag for debris on track halfway through the hour, with rain beginning to fall five minutes from the end. As a result, not all teams managed to complete their long runs or qualifying simulations.

There was a threat of rain all day but it stayed dry throughout qualifying - with some rain in the last few minutes of FP3. Ambient temperatures remained between 15 and 17 degrees centigrade all day, with asphalt temperatures ranging from 20 to 24 degrees.

The Pirelli Pole Position Award was handed to Verstappen by Celeste Barber, known as Australia's 'queen of comedy'. Barber is an actress, writer, and influencer with more than 9.5 million Instagram followers, and she stars in the Netflix Wellmania series: among the most-viewed in recent weeks.

A one-stop strategy is quickest on paper for the Australian Grand Prix. Based on simulation data gathered up to now, the best way would be to start on the P Zero Yellow medium and change to P Zero White hard between laps 17 and 23. Slightly slower is starting on soft and then switching to hard between laps 15 and 21. A two-stopper is also possible, using all three compounds, albeit not as quick as stopping just once. In which case, the fastest tactic would be to start on soft, switch to hard between laps 10 and 15, and then go onto medium between laps 38 and 45 for the final run to the flag. Unlike last year, the softest tyre available this weekend (the C4, as opposed to the C5 in 2022) plays a potential role in race strategy.

Mario Isola, Head of Motorsport: "This was a particularly intense Saturday. Yesterday's rain largely prevented the teams from gathering tyre data over long runs, which meant that there were two jobs to do in FP3 today: preparing for qualifying and carrying out some long runs on full fuel.

"From what we have seen over the two days so far, the three available compounds are performing as we expected. Both the soft and the medium showed a little bit of graining on a track that still isn't rubbered in, with low temperatures, while the hard demonstrated itself to be very consistent and not so far from the other two compounds in terms of performance. There was a threat of rain throughout qualifying, but with the exception of a couple of drops in Q3, the session was run entirely on dry-weather tyres. Leaving aside Verstappen's final run, today was very close, with barely four-tenths of a second covering P2 to P7 on the grid.

"A one-stopper remains the optimal strategy, with medium-hard being theoretically fastest and soft-hard slightly slower. This validates the decision to bring the C4 this year, offering a wider range of strategies compared to last year. Since 2022, it's clear to see how much performance has evolved, with the latest generation of cars going nearly a second a half faster here. Verstappen's pole time was 1.1 seconds faster than the equivalent from Charles Leclerc last year - but that was set with the softest C5 compound, which is around 0.4 seconds faster than the C4: the softest option in Australia this weekend."

Check out our Saturday gallery from Melbourne here.

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Published: 01/04/2023
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