Max Verstappen will line up in fourth place at the start of tomorrow’s F1 season opener in Melbourne after a strong qualifying performance saw him post a time of 1:21.320.
This leaves him behind only the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton, who took pole, and Valtteri Bottas on the front row of the grid, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in third.
However, in a mixed session for Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, Pierre Gasly was eliminated in Q1 after registering a best time of 1:23.020 early on.
The team elected to hold their drivers in the garage after their run, and a strong set of final times posted on a rapidly evolving track saw Gasly pushed down to 17th. He’ll start Sunday's race behind Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon and Daniil Kvyat in 13th and 15th places respectively.
Max Verstappen said "I am pretty happy with the way qualifying went. After some of the difficulties we’ve had this weekend, especially this morning, I was a bit worried, but the guys here and back at the factory have been working really well together to find a good set-up and I think we can be pleased with the second row. It was really tight in Q1 and on a street circuit like this you really have to nail the first run. I was lucky to have that second lap on the board where I improved, but it was really tight, especially as we only used one set of tyres, unlike many others. I definitely felt the extra performance coming from the qualifying mode, which is also very pleasing. It has been tricky finding a good balance and we are of course not where we want to be in terms of the gap, but we also have to be realistic and happy with this grid position. Fourth is better than we expected going into qualifying. It’s difficult to say where we will be tomorrow and I didn’t get to do a full long run on Friday, but it looks like the tyres are holding on quite well, so as long as we get a clean start, we will find out what we an really do.”
Pierre Gasly said: “I had a bit of traffic in Turn 1 but apart from that, I was quite happy with my Q1 lap. We went for one run whilst most others went for two and it cost us. I think we’ve been quite optimistic as we didn’t expect such track evolution and the pack to be so close. We’re not exactly where we’d like to be, but session after session we’re going in the right direction. There weren’t many overtakes at last year’s race, so starting from where we are, it’s going to be difficult but we will of course try and make it into the points. It’s a tough day today, but we need to stay positive. For me, tomorrow will be all about gaining experience in the car and recovering positions.”