Charles Leclerc has put Ferrari on the pole at the Australian Grand Prix

Charles Leclerc Australian Grand Prix

Formula One F1 – Australian Grand Prix – Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne, Australia – April 9, 2022 Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc qualifies first place at REUTERS / Loren Elliott

MELBOURNE – Charles Leclerc took a pole position for Ferrari to qualify for the Australian Grand Prix in a crash-loaded qualifier on Saturday, losing to Red Bull World Champion Max Verstapen in an upgraded Albert Park circuit.

Leclerc saved his best for the end, his one-minute 16.6-second flying lap about three-tenths of a second faster than Verstapen, confusing the Dutchman for the performance of his RB18 car.

Verstappen ahead of third-quick teammate Sergio Perez, McLaren’s Lando Norris started fourth in the grid.

Setting another Sunday showdown with Leclerc’s 11th career pole and second Verstapen of the season, the pair’s rivalry dominated the preliminary race.

Leclerc says he was able to “put everything together” in the third and final round of qualifying.

“Excellent to drive the car … We were quite surprised at our speed in qualifying again,” Monegask said.

“We are very close to the Red Bull again. So tomorrow is going to be close racing. ”

Verstappen said he was having a “terrible” weekend, struggling with balance.

“So far this weekend I haven’t really felt good in the car … of course the second one is still a good result,” he added.

“As a team, we want more.”

The position of Perez’s grid is somewhat in doubt, he was summoned by the stewards for allegedly failing to slow down when a yellow flag came out.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who broke six poles in a row at Albert Park, will start fifth in a thrilling session for Mercedes over sixth-ranked teammate George Russell, who has struggled with a bouncy car this season.

However, they could fight McLaren to be the “best of the rest” after Ferrari and the Red Bull.

McLaren’s home protagonist Daniel Ricciardo will start seventh in the grid ahead of eighth-ranked Esteban Oaken of the Alpine.

It was a difficult afternoon for many drivers, with two red flags from a major accident and low sun in the sky, losing sight in the second round of qualification.

Adding to the complexity, race officials decided to remove one of the track’s four DRS zones for safety reasons after reviewing Friday’s practice, which encourages over-taking.

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso crashed early in the qualifying round, knocking his Alpine car against the wall at the age of 11.

“I lost the hydraulics and couldn’t change gears,” he lamented on the team radio before a crane pulled his car off the track.

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll first clashed with Williams’ Nicholas Latifi at the age of five, leaving both Canadians out of action.

Latifi, who has now collapsed in three of the last four race weekends, tried to overtake Stroll after letting him go but Stroll turned right and plowed into him.

Stroll was furious at an explosive-laden ront on Team Radio, but race stewards blamed him largely for the crash, eliminating him from three grid positions and giving him a two-point penalty.

He and teammate Sebastian Vettel crashed in the final practice session on Saturday.

Strolle’s qualifying accident gave his team extra time to fix Vettel’s car, and the four-time world champion finally emerged with two minutes left to post a second-slow lap.

The Germans will start on the 17th in the grid, knocked out of the first round by Stroll, Williams’ Alex Alban and Latifi and Kevin Magnusen of Haas.

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