Max Verstappen on pole position at Formula 1 race in Australia

EFirst and last – Red Bull Racing covers the entire spectrum in the starting grid for the Australian Grand Prix this Sunday (7:00 a.m. CEST in the FAZ live ticker for Formula 1 and on Sky). Max Verstappen on pole position and his teammate Sergio Perez have one thing in common: they are concerned whether their superior Formula 1 car will survive the 58 laps of Melbourne.

Instead of a convoy ride in blue, red and yellow, there is a colorfully mixed start. Surprisingly, George Russell maneuvered the Mercedes into second on the front row of the grid, with his team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso lurking behind him, thereby underlining the trend at Aston Martin.

“It was really hard”

Nico Hülkenberg from Emmerich started from tenth place after a solid performance with the Haas-Ferrari. This is also a prestige success: The returnee is now leading 3-0 in the internal qualifying duel against Kevin Magnussen from Denmark. “Our car feels good again,” rejoiced the man who replaced Mick Schumacher in the Ferrari customer team.

Max Verstappen and Melbourne have always been at war, and the Dutchman is still missing a win in Albert Park. “I’m happy with where I’m at,” said the 25-year-old, who is still struggling with the after-effects of an ominous viral disease. But his racing car also seemed ailing at times, just before he was able to drive his decisive lap, he radioed with slight panic to the pits: “The shifting is getting worse, it’s the same again…” Man and machine at the limit, which is why Verstappen after his second pole position of the season, the first ever down underalso admitted: “It was really hard.”

The circuit’s proximity to Port Phillip Bay and the onset of autumn provided an additional foe for all Formula 1 racing teams. In Melbourne, locals claim, you can experience all seasons in one day. This had already proved to be the case on the practice day for the Australian Grand Prix with heavy rainfall, and the very cool qualifying Saturday once again made it difficult for all teams to get the tires to the right temperature.

To our own surprise, the Mercedes was one of the best. As rain clouds rolled in again just before the end of the qualifying hour, Russell and Hamilton squeezed out everything they and the car had to offer, which will be given a general overhaul before the start of Europe in May. “Maybe it’s because of our special jet lag program,” joked Russell, who managed a bit better than the record world champion. Hamilton was still happy about the “huge surprise” and of course he’ll go for victory. Ten years ago, the Briton had in Melbourne made his debut in the Mercedes works team Opponent Verstappen admitted: “I’m at least as surprised as they are.”

The early big excitement seemed almost rehearsed. During the final practice session at lunchtime in Albert Park, Sergio Perez involuntarily left the track three times in his Red Bull racing car, and it was probably not due to the Mexican’s driving errors. In the first qualifying lap it happened again in the rather harmless turn three. The car shot over the curbs, rumbled through the gravel bed and after a small jerk came to a stop in a puddle just in front of the tire stacks.

Immediately the fight for the starting places was interrupted, everyone watched as Verstappen’s big internal challenger with hanging head escorted his car hanging on the hook. His starting position for the Australian Grand Prix is ​​cemented, he has to be the last to go into the third World Championship race.

After the accident, he complained about his suffering over the pit radio: “It’s the same problem again.” After Verstappen’s driveshaft problem in Saudi Arabia, the superior team is starting the race with a handicap for the second time in a row.

It is questionable whether the Mexican can make it onto the podium on the track, which is not exactly overtaking-friendly, as Verstappen did in Jeddah from 15th place. The answer to whether the technical unreliability will not also spread to the sister car is even more open. Red Bull can only seem to beat itself.


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