For this third round of the Formula 1 World Championship, the Dutchman will start ahead of the two Mercedes of Britons George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, delighted after a successful third part of qualifying.

Verstappen was only 236/1000 ahead of Russell, a smaller gap than expected, perhaps due to the fairly cool conditions in qualifying.

No smile on the other hand for the other Red Bull driver Sergio Perez, relegated to last position.

The Mexican went off the track in the first part of qualifying, symbolic of a catastrophic start to the weekend for the one who had won pole and the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix two weeks earlier.

Already during practice on Saturday, he had several outings due to braking problems, which were once again fatal on Saturday.

"It's always the same problem," he said shortly after his mistake.

Verstappen, who is ahead of him by a small point, could therefore take advantage of it to fly in the drivers' standings on Sunday on the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne (5.278 km).

The Dutchman has never won there and has only won one podium in 2019 (3rd). Last year he had to give up after the engine of his car caught fire.

Monegasque Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc takes part in the F1 Australian Grand Prix qualifying session, in Melbourne, April 1, 2023 © WILLIAM WEST / AFP

Alonso in the second row

The two-time world champion, winner of the first GP of the season in Bahrain, did not yet say he was at the top of his form. In Jeddah, he had suffered from stomach pain before and during the race, which did not prevent him from finishing 2nd after a fantastic comeback when he started 15th.

If Pérez does not emulate him on Sunday, this third GP of the season could allow another team to finally break Red Bull's total domination since the beginning of the season.

And so it could well be Mercedes. Russell and Hamilton confirmed the hopes left by the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix where they finished 4th and 5th respectively.

On Sunday, Spaniard Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin), who saw Verstappen equal his 22 career poles, will start from the second row, while the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc start in 5th and 7th position respectively.

Disappointment on the other hand for Esteban Ocon (Alpine). After a good final practice session on Saturday, the Frenchman will start in 11th position after failing in Q2, while his compatriot and teammate Pierre Gasly will be in 9th place on the grid. The local of the stage, the Australian Oscar Piastri, will start 16th.

Dutch Red Bull driver Max Verstappen (c.), who took pole position, poses with British Mercedes drivers George Russell (l.) and Lewis Hamilton (r.), after the F1 Australian Grand Prix qualifying session, in Melbourne, April 1, 2023 © WILLIAM WEST / AFP

Melbourne will then give way to a four-week break after the cancellation of the Chinese GP. Sunday Verstappen has the opportunity to send a message to the competition from the start of a marathon season.

© 2023 AFP