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Leclerc Holds Off Red Bull Charge To Take Pole In Action-Packed Australian Grand Prix Qualifying

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc took the first Australian Grand Prix pole position since 2019 with a blistering performance at Albert Park – with Max Verstappen lining up second on the grid for Sunday’s race and Sergio Perez a provisional third.

The new layout relinquished a DRS zone ahead of FP3 – that session led by Lando Norris – on Saturday, with final practice seeing both Aston Martins crash and numerous drivers go off-track.

Verstappen topped Q1 and Red Bull team mate Perez led Q2 – the Mexican driver under investigation for not slowing for a caution in Q1 – but Ferrari regrouped and it was Leclerc who aced the top 10 shootout with a time of 1m 17.868s to keep Verstappen 0.286s at bay in P2.

Perez finished third by 0.372s while Lando Norris made use of his first Q3 appearance of the season in P4 – his team mate Daniel Ricciardo starting seventh at home.

In between the McLarens was Lewis Hamilton in P5 and George Russell in P6 – and behind Ricciardo was Esteban Ocon in P8.

Carlos Sainz was a shock P9 for Ferrari, 1.540s off his team mate in Q3.

Fernando Alonso crashed out in Q3, a suspected hydraulics issue ending his sterling run, and lines up a provisional P10 for Alpine.

Pierre Gasly missed out on the top 10 shootout in P11 but ahead of Valtteri Bottas, whose streak of 103 Q3 appearances ended with P12 for Alfa Romeo. Neither Yuki Tsunoda, Zhou Guanyu nor Mick Schumacher could make it out of Q2.

Williams' Alex Albon (P16, but with a three-place grid drop from Jeddah hanging over him for Sunday) and Haas driver Kevin Magnussen (P17) failed to leave Q1 after a red flag halted proceedings late in that session.

Adding insult to injury for Aston Martin after a difficult weekend so far, Lance Stroll collected Williams’ Nicholas Latifi at Turn 5 in Q1, sending both out of the first segment in awkward high-speed incident. They took a provisional 19th and 20th while stewards deliberate.

Sebastian Vettel’s mechanics managed to repair his Aston Martin after his FP3 crash and he emerged after that red flag with two minutes remaining in Q1, jumping to P18 on the provisional grid.

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WATCH: The 10 most jaw-dropping moments in Melbourne:


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