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Leclerc beats Verstappen to Melbourne pole

Leclerc beats Verstappen to Melbourne pole

FORMULA ONE: Championship leader Charles Leclerc has snatched pole position from Max Verstappen at the first Australian Grand Prix in three years in Melbourne.

By Michael Lamonato

Saturday 9 April 2022, 06:07PM

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc celebrates after taking pole position in the qualifying session in Melbourne. Photo: AFP

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc celebrates after taking pole position in the qualifying session in Melbourne. Photo: AFP

Leclerc left his best lap late, having been usurped for provisional pole as the chequered flag dropped, but two purple sectors was more than enough to power him to the top of the time sheet, besting Verstappen’s best effort by more than a quarter of a second.

“It felt good,” he said. “In Q3 I managed to put everything together, so it feels great. Very happy to be starting on pole tomorrow

“The Red Bulls were very quick in FP2 during the long fuel runs, but to be honest we were again quite surprised by our pace in qualifying, so everything is possible tomorrow. We just need to do a good start and hopefully we can keep that first position.”

Verstappen had been unhappy all day after a difficult third practice session, and missing out on pole by a handy margin only compounded his disappointment.

“I didn’t really feel good in the car the whole weekend so far,” he said. “I think there’s not been one lap where I actually felt confident, so a bit of a struggle.

“Second is still a good result, but I’m not feeling that great going to the limit.

“Probably in the race pace everything stabilises a bit, but for me this weekend so far is all over the place.”

Sergio Perez slipped into third just behind his teammate but is under post-session investigation for speeding under yellow flags during Q2.

McLaren led an unexpectedly improved McLaren to fourth on the grid ahead of Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, the German marque stabilising after a difficult run of practice sessions this weekend. Daniel Ricciardo put the second McLaren in seventh for his home race after failing to improve on his second lap of the final shootout.

Esteban Ocon qualified eighth ahead of Carlos Sainz, while Fernando Alonso was 10th after crashing on his first flying lap attempt. The Spaniard had been on track for the top two early in Q3 when he oversteered into Turn 11 with what he described as a hydraulics problem over team radio. His car skidded over the gravel and into the barriers to put him out of qualifying and give his mechanics a long night of work before tomorrow’s race.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly qualified 11th ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, who failed to make the top-10 shootout for the first time since November 2016.

Their respective teammates, Yuki Tsunoda and Zhou Guanyu, follow on the grid ahead of Haas driver Mick Schumacher.

Thai driver Alex Albon qualified 16th but will drop three places on the grid with a post-race penalty from the previous race.

Kevin Magnussen was eliminated in Q1 for the first time this year, knocked out in 15th.

Sebastian Vettel will start 18th after a last-gasp repair job by his Aston Martin team after a big crash during Saturday practice.

Nicholas Latifi qualified 19th after being smashed into by Lance Stroll late in the segment. The two Canadians came together on a preparation lap exiting Turn 5 — Latifi attempted to pass Stroll on the run to Turn 6, but the Aston Martin driver moved to the right just as the Williams swept past, tipping his rival into a spin and causing himself session-ending damage.

Stroll hadn’t set a lap time before the crash and will start last.

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