Australian GP | Max Verstappen on Pole Position: “Looking forward to tomorrow”

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Championship leader Max Verstappen took his second pole position of the year in Australia. After leading two out of the three practise sessions of the weekend, the Red Bull driver looked extreamely fast in the early qualifying rounds as well, in spite of his teammate Sergio Perez’s issues which caused him to collide with the wall and thus start the Australian GP from P20.

Although Verstappen had mentioned downshift and battery issues as well, neither the reigning World Champion’s qualifying today, nor tomorrow’s race appear to be endangered by such issues.

He said in the post-qualifying press conference, asked if reliability could be a concern: “No, normally not. I think we always try to fine tune and we’ll continue to do that.”

The Dutch driver was pleased with his final pole attempt, which put him 0.236s ahead of George Russell in P2, especially as he had had issues with tyre preparation:

“The last run was very good. I mean, the whole weekend has been very tough to get the tyres in the right window, to push straight away. But it all worked out in Q3.”

“So yeah, very happy with the lap. And of course, very happy to be in pole position. And yeah, already looking forward to tomorrow, really.”

A rather peculiar moment happened in Q2, when a bird calmly walked on track in front of Verstappen while he was on a flying lap. Luckily for the bird, Verstappen managed to avoid it, moving on to get the top spot.

“Yeah, almost hit a bird! Luckily, that didn’t happen. Yeah, that happens sometimes on the street circuit, but I think tomorrow we will have a good race car. But again, it’s quite tricky on the tyres to keep them alive and stuff. So it’s going to be an interesting race for sure.”

The Red Bull driver has never won at Albert Park so far, but he will do his best to change the statistic tomorrow: “I have been on the podium once but I want to be on a different step this time.”

A key factor will be tyre preparation and tyre management, especially as the second practise session, when drivers should have gone for test long runs in conditions similar to those to be found in the race tomorrow.

However Verstappen, always on the podium in 2023, is satisfied with the amount of time he had to practise:

“I did a long run in in FP3. So I had a bit of a read on the tyres. And yeah, I don’t think it’s a straightforward race with the tyres. But I think what we’ve shown so far this year, I think the car normally is good in the race.”

The pole sitter also summed up the qualifying session, and especially going into the fast session with such a refuced running time in practise:

“Overall, it [Qualifying] was going quite well. You know, Q1, Q2, Q3. But like I said, just very tough to get the tyres to work in Turn 1, you know, to get that comfortable feeling through that corner. I think that has been a bit the story again the whole week.

“And I also think it wouldn’t have mattered if we had full running in FP1 and FP2, just on the performance lap, but it seems very tricky with this new tarmac around here since last year.”

Unexpectedly, the remaining podium positions went to the Mercedes drivers, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, for the first time in 2023 on the front row, which surprised Verstappen:

“I’m a little bit surprised, maybe they are also a little bit surprised! But I guess it’s a good thing. But again, it’s all about just having the tyres in the right window, and I guess they did a good job with that as well,” he concluded.

Photo credits: Red Bull Racing