Red Bull’s Max Verstappen will start the new Formula One season on pole for the first time with Lewis Hamilton on the front row, finishing in a time of 1:28.997.
Verstappen, who was fastest in all three practices, carried Red Bull’s hopes for pole after Sergio Perez’s surprise exit in Q2. He went ahead of Hamilton by 0.388 seconds in a stellar final lap.
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas finished third with a time of +0.589 seconds.
Charles Leclerc managed to put Ferrari on the second row of the grid, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo also performing strongly in the first qualifying session of the season.
It was the first time in the sport’s V6 turbo hybrid era that began in 2013 that Mercedes, winners of the drivers’ and constructors’ championships for the past seven years, had not taken pole for the first race.
“We had a great testing week but there are no guarantees it translates to race weekends,” Verstappen said afterwards.
“The car has been working really well and of course I’m happy with pole. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. We need to get a clean start and take it from there.”
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was surprisingly knocked out of Q2 along with Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo), Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri), Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) and George Russell (Williams).
In Q1 Verstappen finished ahead of Yuku Tsunoda as Sebastian Vettel – on his Aston Martin debut – and Estevan Ocon (Alpine) were knocked out.