Second start row for Max in P4 in qualifying Melbourne: 'We cannot complain'

Published on 16 March 2019 by Kees-Jan Koster

Max Verstappen will start the Grand Prix of Australia tomorrow from the second row. The Dutchman managed a 1:21.320 during his last run of Q3, leaving the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc behind. Lewis Hamilton starts on pole position, just in front of his teammate Valtteri Bottas. Sebastian Vettel ended on P3, but the gap in relation to the fastest time is as much as seven tenths.

“In the end we start in P4, so we cannot complain about that after the trouble we had”, says Max after qualifying. “Of course we would like to be closer, but at least it went a lot better than during free practice. It was very close and when you do not have a good balance in the third practice, you never know what is going to happen. In the end it went reasonably well. I am very happy to start on the second row.”

Max also looks back at the third free practice in which he did not get any further than P9: “We tried some other things on the car, but that did not work out, so we completely changed the car’s setup. You try to get a better setup, but unfortunately that did not work.”

What can we expect from the race? “That is hard to say”, explains Max. “I have not been able to make a long run. Only this morning, but that was with a setup that did not work so well. We have to make sure to have a trouble-free start. From there we will see how things will go. It is the first race of the season, so the most important thing is that we score points.”

Under a clear blue sky, the first qualifying of the season starts. Lando Norris is the first to come out on track and set a time. Eight minutes later Max Verstappen comes out also. The Dutchman starts his first run on the soft tyre and sets a time of 1:23.188, which puts him in P6. However, teammate Pierre Gasly quickly takes over, by being two tenths faster.

With five minutes to go Verstappen improves his time to 1:22.876, ending in P3. Lewis Hamilton (1:22.043) and Valtteri Bottos (1:22.377) account for the first two positions. Sebastian Vettel sets a 1:22.885 in P4, even though that was on the harder compound.

Multiple teams report that the track is improving during the session. In the final phase of Q1 we see the times come down significantly. Pierre Gasly becomes victim of this, as the Frenchman does not come out for another run ending in seventeenth position. He forms together with Lance Stroll, Carlos Sainz, George Russell and Robert Kubica the first group of drop-offs.

Lewis Hamilton sets the first time (1:21.861) at the start of Q2. However, the five-time world champion goes a bit wide in the turn before last, through which team mate Valtteri Bottas (1:21.241) and Ferrari-debut Charles Leclerc (1:21.739) set faster times. We have to wait a bit for Verstappen to come out, but in his first flying lap he sets a 1:21.712, taking over P2 from Leclerc. However, the gap between him and Bottas is almost half a second.

A bit further to the back the margins are very small. With only five minutes to go, P7 to P13 are all within half a second. Because of that it is exciting to the end for the last positions for Q3. In the end it is Nico Hülkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Alexander Albon, Antonio Giovinazzi and Daniil Kvyat who drop off. Max improves his time with about half a tenth, putting him in P3 to continue through to Q3.

After the first run in the ten minutes of third qualifying, it is Valtteri Bottas who sets a super time of 1:20.598 putting him in P1. Lewis Hamilton (+0.457), Sebastian Vettel (+0.652), Charles Leclerc (+0.844), Max Verstappen (+1.058) and Romain Grosjean (+1.385) form the top six at the time.

During the last minutes everyone comes out again for a second and last flying lap. Hamilton improves his time to 1:20.486, leaving team mate Bottas behind with just over a tenth of a second. Max does a great job setting a time of 1:21.320, putting him between the Ferrari’s of Vettel and Leclerc. In fourth position, the Dutchman will start the race tomorrow from the second row. Haas does very well, ending in P6 and P7. Also Lando Norris makes a great debut for McLaren ending in P8.

Australian GP contest: win a RBR Driver Cap 2019 and 1:8 2016 Verstappen helmet!

Results qualifying Australia:

1Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes1:22.0431:21.0141:20.486
2Valtteri BottasBOTMercedes1:22.3671:21.1931:20.598
3Sebastian VettelVETFerrari1:22.8851:21.9121:21.190
4Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda1:22.8761:21.6781:21.320
5Charles LeclercLECFerrari1:22.0171:21.7391:21.442
6Romain GrosjeanGROHaas Ferrari1:22.9591:21.8701:21.826
7Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari1:22.5191:22.2211:22.099
8Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Renault1:22.7021:22.4231:22.304
9Kimi RäikkönenRAIAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:22.9661:22.3491:22.314
10Sergio PerezPERRacing Point BWT Mercedes1:22.9081:22.5321:22.781
11Nico HulkenbergHULRenault1:22.5401:22.562
12Daniel RicciardoRICRenault1:22.9211:22.570
13Alexander AlbonALBScuderia Toro Rosso Honda1:22.7571:22.636
14Antonio GiovinazziGIOAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:22.4311:22.714
15Daniil KvyatKVYScuderia Toro Rosso Honda1:22.5111:22.774
16Lance StrollSTRRacing Point BWT Mercedes1:23.017
17Pierre GaslyGASRed Bull Racing Honda1:23.020
18Carlos SainzSAIMcLaren Renault1:23.084
19George RussellRUSWilliams Mercedes1:24.360
20Robert KubicaKUBWilliams Mercedes1:26.067