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Verstappen claims 1st Australian GP pole, Mercedes qualify 2nd, 3rd

Peter Fox / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Red Bull star Max Verstappen claimed pole position at the Australian Grand Prix for the first time in his career.

"Very happy with the lap, and very happy to be on pole position," Verstappen said.

Verstappen, who only has one podium finish in Australia, has never won at the Albert Park Circuit. It marks Red Bull's third straight pole position on the season. The team is looking for its first win in Australia since 2011.

Mercedes was the biggest surprise of the day, as George Russell and Lewis Hamilton will start second and third on the grid, respectively.

It's the seventh career front-row start for Russell.

"We weren't expecting this that's for sure," Russell said.

Hamilton, who last won the Australian GP in 2015, was ecstatic with the team's qualifying result.

"I'm so happy with this. Really proud of the team. For us to be on the two front rows is a dream," Hamilton said. "I hope tomorrow we can give (Red Bull) a run for their money."

Sergio Perez, who started on the front row in the first two races, caused a red flag in Q1 after locking up on Turn 3 and beaching his car. Red Bull mechanics had been working on his car in the moments leading into qualifying, but didn't appear to address the problem.

"We need to fix that issue, man," Perez said over team radio after retiring from qualifying.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc topped qualifying last year before going on to win the race ahead of Perez and Russell.

It's just the second Australian GP in four years because of the pandemic.

Melbourne's Oscar Piastri qualified 16th in his home race.

Verstappen claims 1st Australian GP pole, Mercedes qualify 2nd, 3rd
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