Verstappen Takes Pole While Mercedes Takes Advantage Of Sergio Perez’s Nightmare Day In Australia

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For the second time this season, Max Verstappen will start on pole, this time for the Australian Grand Prix.

Still, don’t think that things were easy for a Red Bull Team that has dominated this season. That’s because it’ll be next to impossible for the Red Bulls to play the team game because Sergio Perez is at the complete ass end of the field in P20.

Perez’s Saturday was one of the worst he and the team have had in quite some time. His FP3 session was essentially a write-off as he nearly spent more time skidding through grass and gravel traps than he did with four tires firmly on the circuit in Melbourne.

Judging by Perez’s reaction to the lockup that took him out of qualifying and the amount of work the team was going to the car ahead of Q1, it looks like Perez is dealing with h some kind of mechanical gremlin.

Between Perez’s issues in Australia, and Verstappen’s driveshaft failure in Saudi Arabia reliability is shaping up to be Red Bull’s biggest threat.

I expect to see Verstappen cruise away with this one unless he encounters a reliability issue. However, this is the first weekend where the Red Bull didn’t seem like a breeze to drive. Verstappen had a spin during a practice session earlier in the weekend, and the car hasn’t been on rails the way it was in the first two races of the season.

To make matters marginally worse, Verstappen will steam into Turn 1 with a pair of Mercedes for company. George Russell will start to his left in P2 while his old 2021 title-be nemesis will start with the race with a great view of his gearbox in P3.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell capitalized on a brutal day for Red Bull Sergio Perez. (Getty Images)

Mercedes Were The Big Winners On Saturday

Melbourne’s Albert Park Circuit is historically a great one for Mercedes and especially Lewis Hamilton.

However, it was George Russell who will lead the charge for the Silver Arrows as he was the only driver not named Max Verstappen to crack into the 1:16s.

I think this is the jolt that team needs, even if that spot on the front row was probably a gift from the qualifying gods, which were clearly pissed off at Perez. A win is possible but they’ll probably need some rain or a well-timed safety car to make it happen.

A double-podium is doable, but it won’t be easy. They’ll have Fernando Alonso for company in the Aston Martin in P5 with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainze and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll in P6 and P7 respectively. Mercedes knows they don’t have the pace to beat Red Bull outright, so their biggest competition will be coming from behind.

Early Sunday morning (for us in the states. This time difference is brutal) could be a big day for Mercedes in the Constructors’ Standings as they’re tied with Aston Martin at the moment and are starting ahead of the British Racing Green cars.

Williams’ Alex Albon put on a strong performance while Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz seems to have forgotten his terrible trip Down Under in 2022. (Getty Images)

Other Standouts, Both Good And Bad

First of all. shout out to Carlos Sainz. The bad luck that befell Sergio Perez this weekend belonged to him last season. He qualified P9 then spun out and retired on the opening lap. He qualified P5 between the Aston martins. Not great, but still better than his P9 last year, while his teammate, Charles Leclerc, took pole. Sainz out-qualified Leclerc for the first time this season. The Monagasque will start in P7.

Alex Albon was arguably the star of the session. The outright speed of the Williams was impressive. For most of qualifying, Albon had the fastest time in the high-speed second sector. That was until his old teammate, Verstappen, took it from him.

C’mon, Max. Just let him have that.

I thought one of the bigger disappointments disqualifying, yet again, this season, was Kevin Magnussen. I expected to have the edge on his teammate Nico Hulkenberg earlier this season given his familiarity with Haas’ cart. That just hasn’t happened. Magnussen has the edge in the standings having picked up the team’s lone point so far. Still, he’s not helping his Sundays by underperforming on Saturdays.

Whether you plan on guzzling coffee to stay up or you plan on watching the race in the morning, we should be in for an interesting Australian Grand Prix.

Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle

Written by Matt Reigle

Matt is a University of Central Florida graduate and a long-suffering Philadelphia Flyers fan living in Orlando, Florida. He can usually be heard playing guitar, shoe-horning obscure quotes from The Simpsons into conversations, or giving dissertations to captive audiences on why Iron Maiden is the greatest band of all time.

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