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Verstappen takes pole for Australian GP ahead of Sainz

Max Verstappen took his third consecutive pole position, pinching top spot from Carlos Sainz at the Australian Grand Prix.

Verstappen struggled to string together a clean lap in any of the three practice sessions ahead of qualifying, but he banished those bad memories to extinguish hopes of a Ferrari upset.

The reigning champion and 2023 Melbourne polesitter and winner was flawless when it counted. Both his laps in Q3 were quick enough to secure pole, with his fastest time of 1m 15.915s getting the job done with a healthy 0.27s margin.

“It was a bit unexpected,” he said. “But I’m very happy with Q3.

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“I think both of those laps felt very, very nice, very enjoyable.

“It’s been tricky this weekend so far, but we managed to be there in the end, so I’m happy with that.”

Sainz was Verstappen’s closest challenger, recovering from appendix surgery two weeks ago, to qualify on the front row at a race in which the majority of winners have come from the first two places on the grid.

“It’s been a tough couple of weeks,” he said. “A lot of days in bed waiting for this moment to see if I could be here today.

“To make it to this weekend and to put it on the front row after leading through qualifying I was almost not believing it.”

Sergio Perez completed the top three for Red Bull, but the Mexican is under threat of a post-race investigation into impeding Nico Hulkenberg in Q1.

Second in the championship, Perez said he was way of Ferrari’s race pace around Albert Park and predicted a varied race.