Formula One champion Max Verstappen took pole position for Red Bull at the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday after teammate Sergio Perez came crashing back to earth with a brake failure that left him last on the grid.
Mercedes driver George Russell will join Verstappen on the front row for Sunday’s race at Albert Park after qualifying second ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton.
Verstappen struggled for grip through qualifying but it all came together in his last effort as he roared around the lakeside circuit in one minute and 16.732 seconds, over two-tenths of a second quicker than Russell.
“Up until then it was just really tricky to find a grip,” the Dutchman told reporters after celebrating his first pole at Albert Park and 22nd of his career. “I only had time in the last run to go out and just go for it. This time it worked out, so very happy with that.”
Red Bull have dominated the new season, with Verstappen claiming the first race in Bahrain and Perez the second in Saudi Arabia.
Perez, however, was eliminated in the first qualifying session on Saturday when he locked up braking into turn three during his first out lap and beached himself in gravel.
That came after a horror show for the Mexican in the third and final free practice as he skidded off repeatedly after spending much of the session confined to the garage as engineers worked on his car.
Mercedes took huge encouragement from qualifying. “I’m so happy with this,” said Hamilton.