The Saturday in F1 Australian GP saw a mixed bag situation where Red Bull managed to fend off Ferrari pressure despite scrappy run.

It was Red Bull bounce back show on Saturday of F1 Australian GP as Max Verstappen finally turned up to take pole by a decent margin as his main rival Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc abandoned his lap, having made an error on his final run.

Leclerc noted about struggling slightly since FP3 to get a lap together while teammate Carlos Sainz managed to do so with a front-row finish despite not being 100% on the health side. He made it look easy in the end, but it was far from it.

Both Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris have gained a place due to penalty to Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, which leaves the Monegasque to clear only two cars to catch Verstappen. His teammate put in a good lap too, to finish in the Top 3 after stuff competition.

The Red Bull pair are aware of Ferrari’s race pace, but the Italian manufacturer along with others around feel Verstappen has the edge still. While the McLaren pair rejoiced, it wasn’t all clean for the likes of Aston Martin and Mercedes.

The former did manage to get both its cars in the Top 10 but both were beaten by Visa Cash App RB’s Yuki Tsunoda even, where Fernando Alonso’s gravel moment undone his whole of Q3, while Lance Stroll last lap mistake ruined his chance.

It wasn’t the best of days for Lewis Hamilton as he was knocked out in Q2 itself, when Mercedes F1 teammate George Russell made it in. The team doesn’t have supreme pace like Red Bull and Ferrari have and will have to fight hard for a Top 5 finish.

Verstappen: “I’m very happy with that. I think so far this weekend it’s been a bit tough to find a good balance in the car. And even throughout qualifying, Q1, Q2, I didn’t really feel like fighting for pole. But then we made some little tickles on the car and that seemed to help me in Q3 to really push it to the limit. And both of my laps I felt quite happy with it. I mean, there are always things that you can improve, but overall, yeah, very satisfied with the performance. I mean, we did quite a bit, even this morning. So from that side, I don’t think so. It’s just that it was a bit harder to find a good balance in the car. So we’ll find out tomorrow if it’s going to be good enough in the race because it looks like Ferrari is also very fast and quite comfortable the whole weekend already. So, yeah, hopefully it will be an interesting race tomorrow.”

Sainz: “It feels OK. I mean, as I said at the beginning of the weekend, I don’t feel 100%. I think it’s impossible to feel 100% after spending seven to 10 days in bed like I did just trying to recover. But the good thing, you know, is that I had no pain. I just have the discomfort, and obviously everything feels a bit weird inside, but I can push. Especially today, I could push flat out. Yesterday, I took it easy at the beginning, Had to do some tweaks to the seat, to the belts, to the brake pedal. But today, you know, when the adrenaline came up in quali and I could close the visor and go for it, I could go for it, which is a good thing. So yeah, hopefully tomorrow I still do another step of recovery, putting a lot of emphasis on physiotherapy and recovery, you know, these days. All of it is focused around it and hopefully tomorrow I can be OK. I think you can see it both ways. I think if you would have told me two weeks ago when I got the appendix removed that I would be in Australia ready to go again and fighting for pole position, I would have 100% taken it.

“After being P1 in Q1, P1 in Q2, and knowing that I left some time on the table in Q3, it’s obviously a bit disappointing, but it’s normal also. I didn’t do quali in Jeddah. I’m probably a bit out of shape also and I’m probably still learning this new car. I missed a qualifying session in Jeddah and a full race. So probably there were things there in Jeddah that I could have learned through quali that I could have applied today that I couldn’t apply in Q3. And the car surprised me in a couple of corners once we started to crank in the flap. And yeah, it wasn’t the cleanest of laps. But as I said, if you would have told me even five days ago that I travelled here still recovering, that I could be on the grid and fighting for pole, I would have taken it. As for the race, I haven’t thought about it, to be honest. I haven’t given it too much of a thought.

“I was just going through quali there in my head rather than going through tomorrow. But, well, first of all, it’s high degradation in Medium compound. obviously the Hard hasn’t been touched yet by many teams or by anyone really, so there’s a lot of unknowns going into tomorrow. The biggest thing we saw is that it’s very easy to grain the Medium tyre. So being in traffic behind the Red Bull might not be the best for that tyre. And then let’s see how the Hard behaves, if the Hard is a good tyre or not. But for sure, having two cars is always better than one. But the race pace today and yesterday has been good enough to make me believe that if I’m feeling good tomorrow, I can give it a run for the win. If not, we will have to keep learning and keep seeing how we can keep getting closer to Max, obviously leaving everything to see how I feel also during the race physical-wise.”

Perez: “Got my full lap in place. I think I messed up a bit in Sector 1. And I think there was a little bit more in it. I think it’s been a very tricky qualifying with the tyres, just getting the best out of them and through the lap.  In all different sectors the requirements seem to be very different, sector to sector. So I think overall, yeah, I think definitely P2 was achievable today, but I think Max, the lap he did was quite strong. But I’m not too concerned. I think it’s going to be a long race tomorrow. Degradation is going to be very high. So I think as long as we are able to have good pace in the race, we should be able to come through.”

Hamilton: “I’m used to it. I’m a bit used to it now, getting knocked out of Q2. Kind of just a flat feeling. It’s not great, but yeah. I don’t know if I’m dealing with it that great. [I’ve been] less consistent than George, he is doing a better job with our car. Three qualifyings in a row that he’s outqualified me. He just seems to get on a lot better than I do. So yeah, just trying to keep my head above water and continue to realise it could be way worse.”

Leclerc: “I think the issue started unfortunately quite a bit earlier [than qualifying]. Already in FP3 I started losing the feeling, but I was quite confident I would find it back in qualifying and I did not. The front, I struggled to rotate the car in the first two sectors, and then in the last run I decided to go very aggressive with the front wing and then I lost the rear massively. All in all, not a clean quali. I wasn’t really happy with the feeling of the car, but tomorrow it’s a long race. There are four DRS zones and from now on I’ll focus on that to try and maximise the result from where we start. First of all, I think they had more margin than what we thought, because from Turn 7 to Turn 9 today, when they went flat with the engine, it was much faster than what we expected. I think tomorrow they will have a very strong race pace. But we’ll focus on ourself, trying to maximise the points on our side is crucial. Today the car wasn’t deserving P5 and I didn’t do a good job enough.”

Norris: “I would say so. It’s probably better than I was expecting, honestly. [I thought] two Ferraris, two Red Bulls, I didn’t expect to be ahead of one of them. It was Charles, so probably even more of a surprise. But yeah, happy with today, honestly. I’ve not [felt] like I’ve done that well this weekend. I struggled to put things together and just to get comfortable with the car, knowing how to push on it. Normally when I feel like I push, it goes the opposite way of what I want. It’s something I’m still struggling with, I would say, and I’ve struggled with a bit this season, and as soon as I got a little bit more comfortable, like now and through qualifying especially, I felt like I could just unlock more from what I wanted and I could kind of control the car better. As soon as I do that I feel like I can get a lot more lap time out of it, but it’s just very difficult to do that. But yeah, I think a good day for us as a team, good starting position for tomorrow. It’s a long race with probably multiple pit stops, so something to look forward to.”

Alonso: “Getting both cars into Q3 was more or less what we expected today. My first lap in Q3 wasn’t great: I went off into the gravel at Turn Six. My mistake. So, on my final push-lap, I didn’t really have full confidence in the car. It was tricky. I feel we are a little bit less competitive than we were in Jeddah. The car was sliding; a little sensitive in the wind; lacking consistency. But it’s the same for everybody. Still, we need to find more pace. There will be lots going on tomorrow. It’s not going to be an easy race for the tyres – graining will be a concern for everybody – so let’s see if we can manage them better than the others. We want to get both cars home in the points tomorrow.”

Here’s video of former tennis player being hit by stones from Alonso:

As mentioned above, Tsunoda was surprised to make it in the Top 10, but his teammate Daniel Ricciardo was knocked out in Q1 itself. He had his lap deleted but even without that, the Australian conceded that he wouldn’t have beaten the Japanese F1 driver.

His knockout along with Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg gave Alpine’s Esteban Ocon a chance to make it inside Q2 for the first time in F1 2024 as the Frenchman celebrated the moment. His teammate Pierre Gasly reckoned he could have made it in as well.

But he had a downshift issue which hampered his lap. While Haas’ Kevin Magnussen made it in, his teammate was impeded by Perez which seemingly cost him time and a chance to make it in Q2. But both the teams are not certain how the race will go.

Even Stake F1 Team’s Valtteri Bottas thinks so considering how close they are. He made it in Q2 but his teammate Zhou Guanyu had a front wing damage which cost him. The Chinese driver maybe forced to start from the pitlane due to front wing change.

The team only has one set of the new spec and going back to the old spec means change of part outside the parc ferme. Among them, Williams’ Alexander Albon found himself in a decent position especially getting through qualifying without major dramas.

Albon: “No one wants to go racing like this, I don’t want to go racing like this. It’s one thing to make a mistake in FP1 and then back it up and try and deliver in Qualifying but to be in this situation, I take that responsibility on, and the significance is not lost on me. It’s tough but now the only thing I can do is focus on my job, put it behind me and treat it like a normal weekend. Obviously, I’m a session down, but that’s all I could do and so far, I think we’ve done a good job. The ultimate pay back I can give to the team and Logan is to now go fighting for points.”

Ocon: “We’re progressing in the right direction, but we cannot be satisfied with the result and where we are right now. The car was the best it’s felt since the start of the season and we extracted the most we could. I pushed the limits today – and more – clipping the wall at the final corner on my first run in Q1. I was fortunate not to pick up any damage and we could turn the car around quickly. We kept pushing to the end and managed to progress through to the next part of Qualifying. That was really the maximum today, but we’re aware we still need to find some performance to make that next step. We’ve seen that a lot can happen here in the race, and as we’ve seen in the past, if you stay out of trouble, you can seize opportunities to move up the field.”

Hulkenberg: “I got held up on my first run by Perez which wasn’t ideal, and then my second lap wasn’t clean. The lap was looking promising until the exit of Turn 7 when the wind changed and I lost a bunch of time just from that different wind direction. I then lost the front tyres for the rest of the lap and didn’t manage to improve enough. We’re all very close in the midfield so we’ll see, but the graining we’ve seen this weekend maybe offers some interesting options and potential tomorrow, so either way I’m looking forward to it.”

Ricciardo: “I knew at the time turn four I was fighting it and I remember taking more kerb than I usually am. So I knew I was wider than normal. But it’s funny, you do it and then already after turn five it’s… I forgot about it. So I did the lap. And then eventually when Pierre told me I honestly I forgot all about it. So I think it took a while for it to sink in. But then I saw that, like, so the lap itself I was happy with, from my side, I felt like I got everything out of it. And then when I saw it still wasn’t good enough, let’s say, compared to Yuki – that for me is, yeah, I’m still a bit puzzled, because I know what those laps normally mean. And I was… So, I crossed the line, being like, yeah, that was a good one. And those ones are normally enough, more than enough, if you know what I mean. And it’s still not [as fast as Tsunoda]. So, and then looking at the time he’s doing in Q2, I can tell you now I can’t… come get seven more tests out of it than what I got in Q1.

“And I’m sure there’s a bit of track evolution, but honestly, I think there’s still some things we’ve got to look at. Because it’s been definitely a struggle so far. That’s why like today, okay, obviously, the time got deleted, but the lap itself was… it was definitely the best qualy lap I’ve done this year. And, as I said, those ones are normally quite good. And you know, going into Q2, I don’t know where there was much more time. You obviously take a couple tenths from track evolution. But as I said, six, seven tenths. That’s not in it. And I think from a balance and everything, like so to be clear, with the car, I felt – like I feel confident in terms of braking and balance and all that – so it’s not like, say, [what I had with] McLaren where I was a bit unsure and all ‘I can’t really push the car here’. But yeah, you just… some corner speeds I see, I’m simply just not able to carry that speed.”

Guanyu: “Because I didn’t do a mistake on my lap. I was just driving like every single other lap I did, and now I get to last sector, I was like, suddenly I’m locking up, I’m missing this load and when I crossed the finish line I saw the left hand side was missing. And I have no idea when did that come from. Because everything was just normal? Yeah. And I watched the replay, it came from the vibration wherever from the kerb of turn 10, which is very frustrating to be happening in the most important session. Because yeah, I didn’t really go wide. So very disappointing, of course, otherwise would be a good lap. It was pretty good, the lap.

“It’s frustrating. Of course, from my side, I couldn’t really clear up the Saturday due to different issues. But yeah, today it’s just a very strange one, seems to be quite unlucky, I would say, because of that. And yeah, it was a weird one. I would probably be more accepted if I made a mistake, but having things like that, I think it just shows how aggressive the kerb is and need to be changed in the future. for the tace I tend to not take that kerb. But if you look, I think Max damaged his floor. But he went fully off, but I did’t really went off. So we need to see and making sure that whatever we do to making sure prevent this issues again.”

Here’s James Vowles explaining it all what happened

Here’s how F1 Australian GP qualifying panned out

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