Max Verstappen beat Mercedes pair George Russell and Lewis Hamilton to top qualifying for Formula 1's 2023 Australian Grand Prix, where Sergio Perez slid off and was eliminated in Q1.
After a light rain shower had hit the Albert Park track just ahead of the one-hour session getting underway and with the C4 softs holding on for multiple laps but requiring multiple warm-ups to be at their best, the Melbourne crowd was treated to an action-packed session.
After being fuelled to run for huge chunks of laps at a time in Q1 and Q3, most of the Q3 runners opted for two new tyre runs of five tours, with two fliers.
Verstappen had led the way throughout but was reporting possible issues with his RB19's battery and transmission when he blasted in a 1m16.732s to secure pole with a few seconds left on the clock.
That knocked back Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso, who was shuffled back to fourth by the last-gasp efforts of Russell and Hamilton.
The younger Briton slotted in a 1m7.968s as the only other driver to join Verstappen under the 1m17s bracket, with his team-mate slightly adrift having had to jockey for position with Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg through the final corners on their last warm-up tours.
Behind Alonso came his compatriot Carlos Sainz for Ferrari, with Lance Stroll sixth in the other Aston Martin and Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari.
Leclerc put in his best time well ahead of the chequered flag and with enough time to complete a final run in Q3 and although he set a personal best 1m17.369s he could not climb further ahead.
Alex Albon gave Williams its best qualifying of 2023 so far in eighth – pitting ahead of his Q3 rivals completing the last laps in the final minutes – with Pierre Gasly and Hulkenberg completing the top 10.
Esteban Ocon missed a personal best on his final Q2 flier after encountering traffic late on in the final sector and was knocked out behind Albon by just 0.007s, the Williams driver abandoning his final lap in the middle segment after clipping the Turn 11 apex kerb and nearly losing the rear of his car.
Also knocked out in Q2 were Yuki Tsunoda, Lando Norris and Kevin Magnussen, who all set their best laps at the end.
Nyck de Vries did not do likewise as he was eliminated in 15th for AlphaTauri, after he had escaped Q1 for the first time in his debut season with the Red Bull sister squad.
In Q1, Perez locked up heading into the tight, Turn 3 right-hander on his first flying lap and slid straight off the road and into the gravel trap he had also visited in FP1 and FP3.
Perez skated across the gravel but as he turned right and tried to manoeuvre his way out he became stuck at the edge next to a muddy access road close to the barrier, where the Mexican driver fumed he had suffered the "same issue" as earlier in the weekend.
This is possibly referring to the braking problem Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said both of his charges were grappling with earlier in the weekend.
After an eight-minute delay, the opening segment resumed, with the pack fuelled to run throughout.
Eliminated alongside Perez were home hero Oscar Piastri, who set a personal best on his final flier but it was not good enough to dislodge Tsunoda ahead, Zhou Guanyu, Logan Sargeant and Valtteri Bottas.
Sargeant had a spin at the start of Q1 when he put his right-side wheels on the still slippery exiting the final corner and he pirouetted around diving back into the pits.
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||Red Bull||1'16.732|
|4||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin||Mercedes||1'17.139||0.407|
|6||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||Mercedes||1'17.308||0.576|
|12||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||Red Bull||1'18.099||1.367|
|15||Nyck de Vries||AlphaTauri||Red Bull||1'18.335||1.603|
|17||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo||Ferrari||1'18.540||1.808|
|19||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||Ferrari||1'18.714||1.982|
|20||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||Red Bull|
|View full results|