The drivers had been struggling throughout the weekend even in dry conditions, with wind and a lack of grip in the cool temperatures leading to cars going off track with great regularity.
With light rain already in the air, and more expected during qualifying, there a lot of extreme drama was expected at Albert Park in the qualifying session for the 2023 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix. Whether it was surprise exits in Q1 and Q2, or a car that wasn’t a Red Bull on pole position, there was a feeling that just about anything could happen in this session.
Rainy conditions, tricky circuit, and some strategy calls to be made- what a session we had ahead of us. All the drivers wanted to get out early with the track at it was driest to get a good lap in before the rain started to pour. It was going to be an interesting one.
And qualifying was a go! Just what impact would the rain play over the one hour session? The Williams pair of Logan Sargeant and Alex Albon were very eager to get out before the wet stuff started to fall. Alex Albon topped the early timesheets before being overtaken by the Alfa Romeo cars and then Magnussen in the Haas. Lando Norris went second in his McLaren – before Albon retook the lead. Logan Sargeant, though, was on the grass, while Sergio Perez’s nightmare day continued: he hit the brakes hard and as he turned into the corner, he went off into the gravel and couldn’t get the car out. This is not what was needed for his championship hopes: “We need to sort that issue man. It was the same issue again,” Perez told his team.
Show your support for Scuderia Ferrari with official merchandise collection! Click here to enter the F1 online Store and shop securely! And also get your F1 tickets for every race with VIP hospitality and unparalleled insider access. Click here for the best offers to support Charles and Carlos from the track!
After Sergio Perez brought out that red flag, the track was cleared and we were back under way! Lots of drivers were compromised by that red flag, including Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, so it was interesting to see how people played it at this restart. It was Max Verstappen who lead the way out from the pit lane.
Woe for Checo but Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen glided across the Albert Park circuit and set the fastest time of 1:118.064 to lead Hulkenberg by three tenths. Fernando Alonso, though, was over a second behind the Dutchman. William had shown decent pace in Australia and was quick again as Albon shot into second place in Q1, less than a tenth behind Verstappen. Ferrari man Carlos Sainz was third, just under three tenths in arrears. Albon’s Williams team-mate was clinging on to 15th. The pair of Mercs came out and put themselves firmly in the top ten, Lewis Hamilton putting himself sixth and Russell seventh. However, Fernando Alonso seemed to get his tyres in the perfect window and Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg also put in great laps.
As the leads changed hands – Alonso took it before Verstappen reclaimed it – we saw the peculiar sight of Albon in the Williams sitting higher than Hamilton in the Mercedes. Albon went even faster than before and was now at P3, behind Verstappen and Alonso. Wow!
Oscar Piastri (McLaren), Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo), Logan Sargeant (Williams), Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) and Sergio Perez (Red Bull) were out in Q1, as Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc ended the first stage of qualifying in P6 and P11.
We were back under way now for Q2 and this was shaping up to be quite the session. Nyck de Vries in the Alpha Tauri led the cars back out on track. An Aston Martin went quickest in Lance Stroll, with a 1:17.616 putting him around six tenths ahead of team-mate Fernando Alonso. But that lead was short-lived as Charles Leclerc trumped Stroll with a 1:117.560. Hulkenberg was third at this stage.
Esteban Ocon’s decent lap sent Tsunoda into the danger zone alongside Gasly, Magnussen, De Vries and Norris. The McLaren man was back out on track and squeezed into the top 10, ahead of Alex Albon – but only temporarily. Esteban Ocon (Alpine), Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri), Lando Norris (McLaren), Kevin Magnussen (Haas), Nyck de Vries (Alpha Tauri) were eliminated in Q1, while Alex Albon finished 10th and got himself into Q3! A superb performance from the Thai-British racing driver. Carlos Sainz went P3 and Charles Leclerc P4, with both Ferrari cars heading into Q3.
Max Verstappen was the obvious favourite for pole position as he led the cars back out onto the track but he had challenges from Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, the Mercs, and maybe the likes of Nico Hulkenberg and Alex Albon. The Dutchman was straight out of the garage to post a 1:17.578. The drivers wanted to get an early time in ahead of the potential rain later on. After Lewis Hamilton took top spot for a few moments, he was quickly usurped by Max Verstappen, who went just +0.009s quicker.
A 1:16.732 extended Max Verstappen’s lead and he was joined by George Russell in the Mercedes on the front row with Lewis Hamilton one spot back in third ahead of Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz. Charles Leclerc will start the Australian Grand Prix from P7, behind the other Aston Martin car of Lance Stroll, on a difficult Saturday for the Maranello team at the Albert Park circuit.
Leave a Reply