Max Verstappen claimed his second pole position of the season in Australia after Sergio Perez crashed out of Q1.
But unlike in Saudi Arabia — where Charles Leclerc and Fernando Alonso were his closest challengers — the Dutchman will be joined on the front row of the grid by George Russell, with Lewis Hamilton third as Mercedes got within 0.3s of pole.
“I’m a little bit surprised, maybe they are also a little bit surprised!” Verstappen said of Mercedes’ challenge. “But I guess it’s a good thing. But it’s all about just having the tires in the right window, and I guess they did a good job with that as well.”
Verstappen himself admits he struggled to get fully comfortable with the Pirelli tires during qualifying, as cool temperatures saw drivers completing consecutive laps rather than one-off runs throughout the session.
“I think the last run was very good. I mean, the whole weekend has been very tough to get the tires 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. Already looking forward to tomorrow.
“I did a long run in in FP3. So I had a bit of a read on the tires. I don’t think it’s a straightforward race with the tires. But I think what we’ve shown so far this year, I think the car normally is good in the race.”
Having climbed through the field from 15th on the grid to second in Jeddah, Verstappen’s teammate Perez will face a similar task from the back on Sunday and believes it could be a challenge for him to make progress.
“I think this track is a bit tricky to pass but that extra DRS zone will help, for sure. But again, it’s just really difficult to say. I mean, it depends also on how the pace of the other cars are in the race, if they have tire deg, or if you’re better on deg. A lot of factors come into play.”