Verstappen predicts ‘interesting’ Sunday race in Melbourne

Max Verstappen continued Red Bull’s run of pole positions in 2023, claiming the front spot on the grid for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne for this first time in his F1 career.

Verstappen never appeared under much pressure as he topped all three rounds of qualifying at a chilly and gloomy Albert Park Circuit on Saturday.

But the margins were tighter than in previous outings, with Verstappen’s best time of 1:16.732s proving only 0.236s ahead of George Russell who secured second place ahead of his Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton in third.

Overall, just a fraction over one second covered all ten drivers to make it through to the final pole shoot-out round which means Sunday’s Grand Prix could be much more competitive than Bahrain or Saudi Arabia.

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“It is going to be an interesting race for sure,” predicted Verstappen, who currently leads the world championship standings by a single point.

“We will have a good race car, but again it is quite tricky on the tyres to keep them alive and stuff,” he said. “The whole weekend it has been pretty tough to get the tyres in the window to push straight away, but it worked out in Q3.

“The last run was very good,” he continued. “I’m very happy with the lap, and of course very happy to be on pole position and really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Verstappen did have one major scare during the session when he came close to collecting some waterfowl strutting around the circuit.

  • Read also: Verstappen on pole in Australia ahead of Russell and Hamilton

“I almost hit a bird,” he confirmed. “Luckily that didn’t happen, but that sometimes happens on a street circuit.”

Verstappen will have to manage tomorrow’s race without any support from his team mate Sergio Perez, who locked up and went off at the start of his first flying lap meaning he will start form the back of the grid.

Asked whether he was concerned about whether whatever issues Perez had experienced on Saturday could also affect his own car during tomorrow’s race, a relaxed Verstappen said there was nothing to worry about.

“No, we always try to fine-tune and we’ll continue to do that,” he told the media in the post-qualifying interviews in parc ferme.

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