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  • Writer's pictureBen Waterworth

Ricciardo's 'painful' qualifying error makes for tough Aus GP task as fellow Aussie sets six-year best

Just as Ferrari fans thought the Red Bull dominance was set to be broken, Max Verstappen did what Max Verstappen does best: finish first in a Formula 1 session.

This time around it was another pole position for the Dutchman, his fourth consecutive and 34th overall, as he prevented Carlos Sainz from taking a sensational pole on his return from appendix surgery.

Ferrari had looked in the best position to take pole around Albert Park, topping all but one of the practice sessions so far this weekend. However, when it came to qualifying Verstappen was once again in a class above the rest, beating Sainz by 0.270s.

Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez qualified third, but was given a three-place grid penalty for impeding the Haas of Nico Hulkenberg in Q1, dropping the Mexican driver to sixth on the grid.

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This now moves Lando Norris for McLaren, Charles Leclerc for Ferrari and home town hero Oscar Piastri all up a place to third, fourth and fifth respectively.

Speaking to The Roar after qualifying, before Perez’s penalty was handed down, Charles Leclerc admitted, while a win may be out of the equation tomorrow, a podium isn’t out of the question.

“Realistically I think it will be difficult to target the win because Max is going to be too strong,” he said.

“Checo (Perez) might be a target. But they (Red Bull) seem strong once again because they have more margin than what we initially thought they had yesterday.

“But all in all my target is obviously to try and come back and be on podium, and if that’s beating Checo, then we’ll try and do that.”

Meanwhile Piastri’s starting position is the highest starting position for an Aussie on the grid at Albert Park since Daniel Ricciardo also qualified fifth in 2018, putting himself in a solid position to challenge for a possible podium finish.

Ricciardo, however, will be at the opposite end of the grid tomorrow after having his final lap time in Q3 deleted for exceeding track limits. The mistake means he will start in 18th place and second last.

Despite the mistake, Ricciardo said he felt confident he can improve on his starting position tomorrow with the support of 130,000 Aussie fans behind him.

“I don’t think it has sunk in where I start. It’s certainly painful,” he told The Roar.

“Obviously the home crowd is great, but I think it’s probably a two stop race with tyre wear. So it opens up a bit more opportunity maybe if I can be a bit nicer on the tyres it could provide something.

“Hopefully some guys struggle with graining and a few things like that and maybe we can charge through the field. But I’m still kind of occupied where the lap time currently is in this car.”

Adding further salt to Ricciardo’s wounds is the performance of teammate Yuki Tsunoda, who emerged the star of qualifying by finishing in eighth place.

The Japanese driver told The Roar that he was extremely happy with his result.

“I think all throughout the week we had a very good, consistent car and were able to be in the top 10 all the time. So definitely big credit to the team. They’ve done a fantastic preparation and able to build up the confidence pretty smoothly for me. I’m pretty happy with my performance as well.”

Lewis Hamilton was another shock early exit in qualifying, with the seven times World Champion eliminated in Q2 and will start in 11th position.

Teammate George Russell was more fortunate in finding more pace in the car after their struggles on Friday, lining up seventh ahead of both the Aston Martins of Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso.

The biggest talking point of the day in the lead up to qualifying was that of Williams decision to put Alex Albon in Logan Sargeant’s car after the Thai driver destroyed his chassis in a crash during the first practice on Friday.

With no spare chassis in Melbourne, the team was left with one car, and the tough decision was made to bench Sargeant and swap Albon into his car as he was perceived as the best hope of points on Sunday.

That chance was boosted by Albon qualifying in 12th place, one spot behind Hamilton, and he said he found the transition into Sargeant’s car a fairly smooth one.

“To be honest with you they (the cars) feel very similar,” he told The Roar. “Almost identical. It was more just about getting my confidence back up and getting back into the rhythm of the circuit.”

He also added that Sargeant had provided helpful assistance to him ahead of third practice and qualifying on Saturday.

“I was helping him in FP2 and then when the decision was made, he was helping me,” Albon explained. “He’s been a true gentleman. He’s been a true team player in this whole situation. We were talking about FP2, the things he liked and didn’t like with the car. We have similar feedback. So we can kind of trust him straight away on it and start FP3 kind of where he left off.”

There was a slight boost to Alpine’s fortunes in 2024, with Esteban Ocon escaping Q1 for the first time and will start 15th on the grid, behind honorary Aussie Valtteri Bottas for Kick Sauber and Kevin Magnussen for Haas.

Ocon said that minor upgrades from Friday through to Saturday helped add slightly to the car’s performance.

“The car was much better today than it was on Friday,” Ocon told The Roar. “We to be honest didn’t really change it from FP3 to qualifying because we thought okay, that’s the best car we have since the first three races, so let’s keep it there for quali. Let’s be safe. And today it has paid off.”

Ocon’s teammate Pierre Gasly however wasn’t able to find the same pace and will start in 17th place, behind the second Haas of Nico Hulkenberg and ahead of Ricciardo and the second Kick Sauber of Zhou Guanyu.

While many will look at the grid and think all things are set for the status quo of another Max Verstappen win, there has been enough variety this weekend to potentially see a different winner in 2024 for the first time.

At 3pm tomorrow we will find out.


1 Max VERSTAPPEN 1:15.915

2 Carlos SAINZ +0.270

3 Sergio PEREZ +0.359

4 Lando NORRIS +0.400

5 Charles LECLERC +0.520

6 Oscar PIASTRI +0.657

7 George RUSSELL +0.809

8 Yuki TSUNODA +0.873

9 Lance STROLL +1.157

10 Fernando ALONSO +1.637

11 Lewis HAMILTON 1:16.960

12 Alexander ALBON 1:17.167

13 Valtteri BOTTAS 1:17.340

14 Kevin MAGNUSSEN 1:17.427

15 Esteban OCON 1:17.697

16 Nico HULKENBERG 1:17.976

17 Pierre GASLY 1:17.982

18 Daniel RICCIARDO 1:18.085

19 Guanyu ZHOU 1:18.435

This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here


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