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Australian Grand Prix, F1 live: Latest updates from Melbourne as Verstappen starts ahead of Russell

Welcome to our coverage for the 2023 Australian Grand Prix from Albert Park in Melbourne, which kicks off in a little over an hour at 6am BST. 

Yesterday’s qualifying session was certainly an interesting one. Even though the final result was the one we expected – Max Verstappen on pole for Red Bull – it also threw up a few surprises throughout the field.

Perhaps the biggest of them all was the failure of Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate to even set a lap time. Sergio Perez, fresh off an encouraging pole-to-flag victory in Saudi Arabia a fortnight ago, crashed at turn three, beaching his car in the gravel. He will start from the pit lane for today’s race after changing some parts on his car and incurring a penalty.  

There were a few other surprises at the front, too. Mercedes put in their best qualifying performance of the season by some margin, with George Russell a little more than a couple of tenths away from Verstappen and team-mate Lewis Hamilton  behind in third. Aston Martin and Ferrari, their immediate rivals, were a little further adrift. 

Does this give them hope that they may be able to fight closer to the front this season? Well it, sensibly, did not really seem that way though both drivers were buoyant as soon as they stepped out of their cars. The conditions being colder than usual and tyre warm-up difficult and tyre wear low meant the set of circumstances are atypical. Red Bull, on a more usual day, would have been a bit further away. 

There was also a decent showing from Williams in the form of Alexander Albon. He took a point here last year for the team but had his best qualifying for Williams, regularly challenging the top-end of the time sheets early on and finishing eighth overall. 

What can we expect from today’s race? Well, the Red Bull has realistically been somewhere close to a second a lap faster than its rivals in race trim so far this year. But if the conditions are like they were yesterday, and say, Russell or Hamilton get their nose in front at the start, then it could make life a little more tricky for Verstappen.

It is hard to see his job being all that difficult for very long at all, though…

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