Verstappen takes pole position for F1 Australian GP, ​​resurgent Carlos Sainz on front row

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — It was no surprise Max Verstappen won the pole position at Sunday's Australian Grand Prix. Even more surprising was the absence of 8-time Australian pole winner Lewis Hamilton in the final round of qualifying on Saturday.

Verstappen won both races to start the season Bahrain And Saudi ArabiaHis Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez will start on the front row for Sunday's 58-lap race, for the second time ever. Temporary Albert Park Street circuit.

It was Verstappen's 35th pole of his F1 career.

Carlos Sainz, returning from appendectomy surgery ahead of the last race in Saudi Arabia, was second fastest, with Perez third.

„It's a bit unexpected, but I'm very happy,” Verstappen said. „It's been a tricky weekend so far. (Ferrari) looks very quick, so it's a question mark for tomorrow.

“Even throughout qualifying, Q1, Q2, (I) didn't really feel like I was fighting for pole. Then we had some little tickles in the car that helped me really push to the limit in Q3; I was very happy with both my laps.

The biggest surprise of the day was Mercedes driver Hamilton. He failed to advance from the second qualifying round and finished 11th. It was his worst qualifying position at the Australian Grand Prix since 2010.

Ferrari's performance may have been compromised here after Sains announced he was ready to return to the cockpit, but didn't feel 100%. After surgery for appendicitis Ahead of the last race in Saudi Arabia.

But the Spanish driver, who is out of contract at the end of the season, returned to the front row of the grid in Australia this weekend from a hospital bed a few weeks ago.

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„It's been a tough couple of weeks, so I'm really happy about this weekend,” Sines said. „At the beginning I was a bit rusty, but I gained speed and I feel good in the car.”

Sainz said he is still feeling the effects of the surgery.

„I'm not going to lie, I'm not in the most comfortable position, but I can do it,” he said. „Obviously, a lot of discomfort and weird feelings, but no pain, so that allows me to push.”

Australian Daniel Ricciardo was sent off for the first time in the first qualifying round at Albert Park after the stewards canceled his fastest lap. Ricciardo moved into the top 10 by the end of the session and looked certain to continue his impressive run of qualifying in Melbourne with no less than 15th place.

But 34-year-old Ricciardo was deemed to have exceeded track limits and was forced to start from 18th in his first GP on home soil since 2022.

Alex Alban finished 12th, repaying the confidence shown by Williams after the British-born Thai driver sat in teammate Logan Sargent's car. Alban's vehicle crashed into the wall during practice on Friday and sustained extensive damage. The American driver, Sgt., steps aside The rest of the weekend.

It's already been an eventful week ahead of Saturday's qualifying round. FIA Ethics Committee It allowed its leader, Mohammed bin SulayemSusie Wolff, who is married to Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff and director of the all-female series F1 Academy, was quick to follow up with a social media post saying there was „no interference” at the two F1 events last year. She filed a criminal complaint in French courts against the sport's governing body for statements about her in December.

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This happened against the backdrop of Red Bull Racing and the ongoing hype around racing Its team leader is Christian Horner.

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AP Formula 1: https://apnews.com/hub/formula-one

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