Verstappen quickest when it really counts

Max Verstappen continues on his masterful way with a third consecutive pole position this season in the Red Bull, the fourth if one also takes into account the final race of 2023 in Abu Dhabi. This is the Dutchman’s 35th career pole, the second in a row in Melbourne. Up until Q3, Max had not topped the time sheet in a single session this weekend, three times second fastest (once behind Norris and twice behind Leclerc) followed by a third in Q1 and another second in Q2. But when the decisive moment arrived, he strung together two quick laps which put him out of reach of the rest of the field, his final lap even dipping below the 1’16” barrier. Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari (1’16”185) will start alongside the Red Bull driver. On the second row we have McLaren’s Lando Norris (1’16”315) and the other Ferrari of Charles Leclerc (1’16”435) after Sergio Perez, who was third quickest in the other Red Bull in 1’16”274, was given a three-place grid penalty for obstructing Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas in Q1.


Free Practice 3 confirmed the indications seen yesterday in terms of tyre usage for the race. In fact, the Hard was barely used, with only the Aston Martin, McLaren and Kick F1 drivers scrubbing in the C3 (two sets for Aston Martin and McLaren and one for Kick F1). It means this will be the most used compound tomorrow, irrespective of which sets the teams decide to return tonight.

The graph of tyre use in qualifying is a solid red line, as 19 drivers, (Logan Sargeant was retired from the event by Williams last night as the team does not have a spare chassis) used the C5. Worth noting that the pole position time was over four tenths quicker than the simulation time of 1’16”350 predicted going into this event and over seven quicker than last year’s pole of 1’16”732, although that was set on the C4 which was chosen as the Soft in 2023. Of interest is the various approaches from the teams when it came to preparing for the timed lap, with the aim of getting the most out of the softest compound. Apart from the classic out-push-in, some drivers went for two preparation laps while others did two cool-down laps after a timed one, before then going for another attempt.

The Pirelli Pole Position Award was presented to Verstappen by Dude Perfect, a sports and comedy group, based in Frisco, Texas. Tyler "The Beard" Toney, "The Twins" Cory and Coby Cotton, Garrett "The Purple Hoser" Hilbert and Cody "The Tall Guy" Jones are all friends from their college days at the Texas A&M University. Their YouTube channel has over 60 million subscribers.


“It looked for a while as though everything was in place to produce a surprise, at least in qualifying, but in the end, Max Verstappen laid down the law once again. Well done to him for what was really a great performance in Q3. Clearly, he is yet again favourite to win tomorrow, but it will be interesting to see how the teams manage a race that still has some unknowns, especially in terms of strategy. In fact, from the data gathered over the past two days, it is highly likely to be a two-stop race with the Medium-Hard-Hard combination being the quickest. However, no one has run the hardest compound so far, so that’s another unknown, even if the C3 is the best understood of all five compounds homologated for this year. Managing graining will certainly be a key factor given that, at this track, the phenomenon does not improve much as the track gradually rubbers-in, as is the case at other circuits. Finally, one has to take into account the high probability of seeing the Safety Car on track, or even a red flag to mix things up. It means all the ingredients are there to make for an interesting and spectacular Grand Prix.”



The result of the Melbourne Sprint Race was overturned later in the evening. On track, Isack Hadjar was first past the chequered flag, Campos Racing’s French driver dominating the race that required two Safety Car periods, keeping the lead from start to finish. But then came a ten second penalty for causing the spectacular collision that, right from the start, eliminated Gabriel Bortoleto and Josep Maria Marti who had been second and fourth on the grid. Hadjar thus dropped to sixth, with the win now going to the Czech driver Ivan Stanek (Trident) who had started from pole. Second was Norway’s Dennis Hauger (MP Motorsport) who will start tomorrow’s Feature Race from the number one slot on the grid, while third went to India’s Kush Maini (Invicta).

As for tyre behaviour, the Medium was obviously the preferred compound: its thermal degradation was significant but it was evident that it could be managed. A handful of drivers gambled on the Supersoft, but they paid a high price in terms of performance drop-off, so it’s likely that its use in the Feature Race will be limited to just seven or eight laps.



Norway also made the headlines in this category, with Martinius Stenshorne (Hitech) taking his maiden Formula 3 win in today’s Sprint Race, crossing the finish line ahead of Englishman Arvid Lindblad (Prema) and Dutchman Laurens Van Hoepen (Art Grand Prix).

In terms of tyre performance, here too graining played its part, making life very complicated for the young drivers. Performance drop-off was high and those who dealt with it best enjoyed a significant advantage over their rivals and the same will apply in tomorrow morning’s race.


Founded in 1872, Pirelli is a company with deep Italian roots now recognised all over the world for its cutting-edge technology, capacity for innovation, and the quality of its products. Motorsport has always played an important part in Pirelli’s strategy, following the ‘race to road’ philosophy. The company has been engaged in motorsport for 117 years and today supplies tyres to more than 350 championships on both two and four wheels. Pirelli pays constant attention to the most efficient use of natural resources and energy, aiming to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.
Pirelli has been Global Tyre Partner of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 2011. The company also supplies championships including FIA Formula 2, FIA Formula 3, Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine, FIA World Rally Championship and GT World Challenge, alongside numerous national series.