Lewis Hamilton has work to do in the first race of the season after finishing fifth in qualifying while Charles Leclerc took pole. Mercedes’ rivals were all suspicious that they were sandbagging in pre-season testing last week but coming into practice this weekend it was clear that they were not up to speed compared to Ferrari and Red Bull.
Both Ferrari and Red Bull were showing brilliant pace through practice and that carried over into qualifying. But the biggest surprise of the day came from Haas as both Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher showed good pace with the Feerrari-powered engine.
At the other end of the grid, it was a disaster for Aston Martin as both cars were knocked out in Q1. McLaren, after impressive displays in pre-season, had been suffering more issues this weekend and Daniel Ricciardo couldn’t find the right setup as he qualified 18th.
Nicholas Latifi will start 20th while Yuki Tsunoda just missed out on making it through to Q2 but Alex Albon, on his return to F1 for the 2022 season, just pipped the AlphaTauri to the second session. Lando Norris failed to make his way into Q3 as McLaren’s woes continued but the biggest talking point was Magnussen finishing seventh-fastest to progress to the final shoot-out.
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It appeared to be a shoot-out between Verstappen and the two Ferrari drivers for pole with Mercedes just behind and that proved to be the case with both Russell and Hamilton a 1.5 seconds off pole after the first run. Sainz was on provisional pole after every driver finishing their first run, ahead of team-mate Leclerc but Verstappen was just five-thousandths behind the Ferrari pair.
More to come