Mercedes sneaks into the fight between Verstappen and Alonso for pole position in Australia

There’s nothing more dangerous than a hungry wild animal, and it’s clear that Mercedes is. The German team, old dictator of Formula 1, got into the middle of the fight between Max Verstappen, who starts this Sunday from pole position, and Fernando Alonso who will start fourth. The Spaniard, who was in constant battle with the Red Bull man, got the best out of an Aston Martin that is once again one of the cars to beat this weekend.

The best thing for Alonso and for Sainz, who will start 5th, is that they will have one less rival. Sergio Pérez, the other Red Bull, went off the track as soon as qualifying for this Australian GP began and will start from the end of the grid. Will he climb back or will he see the noose tighten a little more around his neck?

Perez is ruled out of the fight

The session began one of the favorites out of the fight. The difficult track conditions took their toll from the outset and Sergio Pérez was stuck in the complex turn 3, which had already caused him a serious problem in the previous free practice sessions. Without the Mexican, the fight for pole position opened slightly (not much more than before), since one of the Red Bulls was already ruled out.

Mechanical problem or pilot failure? As they later pointed out from Pérez’s environment, already in the third free practice he noticed an ‘over-acceleration’, as if the engine brake was not working, which would explain this apparent error for which he went too long when trying to draw the curve.

In this way, with one less rival for Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen (although for him it never was), Q1 ended with the Dutchman marking territory, but with three surprising followers or, at least, not so common: George Russell, Lewis Hamilton and an Esteban Ocon who slipped his Alpine ahead of the Aston Martins of Alonso and Stroll.

Those who were left out, the local Oscar Piastri, Zhou Guanyu, Logan Sargeant, Valtteri Bottas and the aforementioned Pérez.

Alonso forces Verstappen to push

The ‘run-run’ that there could be a fight to the limit between the old two-time champion and the new two-time champion was already evident in a Q2 that was decided by a blow of authority from the Dutchman. On a track that was improving by the minute, as the clouds escaped, Verstappen was the fastest followed by Fernando Alonso who got to his tenth position moments before the checkered flag.

The Red Bull man had to grit his teeth to break away and take two tenths of a second from the Aston Martin, with Carlos Sainz trying to snatch something up in an excellent third place. The news of this round was Nico Hulkenberg, who put the Haas in a huge fifth ahead of the Mercedes and, in addition, putting 8 tenths on his teammate.

Eliminated: Esteban Ocon, who promised to be very happy in Q1 and ended up out of the last batch by 7 thousandths, Yuki Tsunoda, Lando Norris, Kevin Magnussen and Nyck de Vries.

Verstappen, to a world

In the first attempt of Q3 in the fight for pole, a new script hit: Verstappen could not turn around. He had to force an extra turn to achieve a provisional pole that was only 9 thousandths over a Lewis Hamilton who slipped ‘in extremis’ and just 41 over an Alonso who immediately realized that he was facing a golden opportunity. And it is that the great ‘coconut’ made a mistake in the first fast lap that he was attempting, which together with the threatening rain that was already looming on one side of the circuit, meant that the fight for pole position was not decided before the final moments.

In the last attempt, the championship leader and current king of Formula 1 showed that he also knows how to cook his victories since Saturday. He lowered his time to an impossible 1: 16.732, adding one more pole to his record (and there are 22, the same as Alonso).

But the news was who got behind. After a hesitant start to the campaign, Mercedes showed that the tweaks to the W14 and its adaptation to Australian conditions have worked, to the point that George Russell took second time and Lewis Hamilton, third. The black cars will be the first rivals to beat for a Fernando Alonso who will start in fourth position, in a second row of the grid that once again leaves him as a firm candidate, at least, to achieve a new podium.

Carlos Sainz recovered after the doubts at the start of the weekend and achieved a great fifth time ahead of Lance Stroll and Charles Leclerc, which is a blow to morale for the man from Madrid in the internecine fight at Ferrari.


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