Max Verstappen after finishing first in qualifying.
A delighted Max Verstappen has taken pole position for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS
  • Formula One

Superstar Verstappen secures pole for Australian GP

Oliver Caffrey March 23, 2024

Max Verstappen has his sights set on a third-straight win to open 2024, with the defending Formula One world champion claiming pole for the Australian Grand Prix.

The Red Bull superstar blitzed qualifying on Saturday as he aims to back up last year’s race victory at Albert Park.

Verstappen secured the 35th pole of his career, finishing in front of resurgent Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz and his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

Perez was subsequently demoted three positions having been found to have “unnecessarily impeded” Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg during Q1.

“So far this weekend, it’s been a bit tough to find a good balance in the car,” the 26-year-old Verstappen said.

“Even throughout qualifying, Q1, Q2, I didn’t really feel like (I was) fighting for pole.

“Then we made some little tickles on the car and that seemed to help me in Q3 to really push it to the limit; both of my laps I was quite happy with it.”

Oscar Piastri at Albert Park.
 Oscar Piastri will start fifth on the grid for McLaren at Albert Park. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

Sainz was forced to sit out of the Saudi Arabia race two weeks ago, replaced by British youngster Oliver Bearman, after having surgery for appendicitis.

As recently as Thursday, the Spaniard was no certainty to race in Melbourne but Sainz has made a seamless transition back into his Ferrari – despite admitting he was still dealing with the aftermath of going under the knife.

“It’s impossible to feel 100 per cent,” Sainz said.

“After spending seven to 10 days in bed just trying to recover. 

“But the good thing is that I had no pain, I just have the discomfort and everything feels a bit weird inside.”

Following Perez’s demotion, Australia’s rising star Oscar Piastri will start Sunday’s race from fifth after an impressive qualifying session for McLaren.

Piastri’s teammate Lando Norris left it late to record his best time. He will start from third on the grid.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton had his worst qualifying session in Melbourne since 2010, placing 11th.

In his final Australian GP before his move to Ferrari next year, the Mercedes legend was eliminated at the end of Q2 in dramatic fashion.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo was eliminated in Q1 for the first time at Albert Park after his fastest lap was deleted by stewards.

Daniel Ricciardo during practice at Albert Park.
 Daniel Ricciardo was relegated to start the Australian GP from 18th after exceeding track limits. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

Ricciardo surged into the top-10 near the end of the session and seemed certain to continue his impressive record of never qualifying lower than 15th in Melbourne.

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

Alex Albon qualified 12th, repaying some of the faith shown from Williams after the British-born Thai driver sat in teammate Logan Sargeant’s car.

Albon’s vehicle suffered extensive damage after he crashed into a wall during practice on Friday, with US driver Sargeant stepping aside for the rest of the weekend.

Sunday’s race will start at 3pm (AEDT).


1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

2. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)

3. Lando Norris (McLaren)

4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

5. Oscar Piastri (McLaren)

6. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)

7. George Russell (Mercedes)

8. Yuki Tsunoda (RB)

9. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)

10. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)