Defending Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen says he expects a straight fight between Ferrari and Red Bull for pole position at the Australian Grand Prix.
It has been a mightily impressive start to the season for the Scuderia, who lead the constructors’ standings after the opening two races of 2022 in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Charles Leclerc also leads a Ferrari one-two in the drivers’ championship, courtesy of victory in the opening race of the season and a second-placed finish in Jeddah two weeks ago.
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Although Verstappen reigned supreme at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, the Dutchman has seen his early-season rivals reassert their dominance in the opening two practice sessions in Melbourne.
Carlos Sainz was quickest in first practice, with Leclerc replicating the success of his team-mate hours later.
However, Verstappen was able to split the two Ferrari’s in second practice, and he believes the Red Bull car is in a healthy position to challenge for pole position tomorrow.
“I think in FP1 and at the beginning of FP2, we were lacking a bit of balance,” the 24-year-old said.
“For the final run, we changed the car around a bit and I felt a lot happier. I do think that [over] the weekend, [we can] maybe make it a little bit closer.
“They are quick again, but in the long run everything looked quite stable and quite nice, so I’m quite happy about that and we definitely made some improvements.
“We are going in a good direction, so we need to try and build. Hopefully we can make some tiny adjustments for tomorrow.”

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Asked whether he thought it would be a Ferrari-Red Bull shoot-out for pole position, he added: “I think so, yeah. You never know, but they seem very strong. We have a bit of work to do, but we are more or less there.”
Ferrari driver Sainz, who has stood on the podium in each of the opening two races of the season, believes the Scuderia car has adapted well to the new-look Albert Park circuit.
“It has been an interesting Friday as we had to deal with a lot of new things compared to the last time that we raced here,” he said.
“The track is completely different from what it used to be. It’s definitely faster and the new tarmac feels totally different in terms of grip as far as I can remember.
“We need to keep working on understanding how the tyres behave, but in general, I think we have a good baseline to start preparing for tomorrow’s qualifying.”
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