Verstappen had sat the initial benchmark pace in his Red Bull on the final runs in Q3 but Leclerc responded with his final lap to beat the reigning world champion and claim his second pole of the season by 0.286s. 

It marks the Monegasque’s 11th career pole in F1 as he became the first non-Mercedes driver to top qualifying in Melbourne since 2013 to continue his fantastic start to 2022. 

Sergio Perez was third-quickest and nearly four-tenths off the pace but the Red Bull driver faces an investigation for allegedly failing to slow under yellow flags during the second part of qualifying. 

Lando Norris took a brilliant fourth for an improved Ferrari, while Mercedes also enjoyed a more competitive showing at Albert Park as Lewis Hamilton headed teammate George Russell in fifth, albeit almost a full second down on Leclerc. 

Home hero Daniel Ricciardo ended up seventh in the second McLaren, ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who endured a nightmare session on his way to taking a lowly ninth. 

Sainz had looked to be in the fight for pole but was forced to abort his first flying lap due to the unfortunate timing of a red flag, which was caused when Fernando Alonso crashed his Alpine at Turn 11 during the opening salvos. 

An issue delayed Sainz from rejoining the track for his final run and the Spaniard blamed “freezing” tyres for his failure to improve in the final moments of Q3. 

Pierre Gasly was 11th as he missed out on a spot in Q3 by a tenth, while Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas’ long-running streak of Q3 appearances finally came to an end as he could only set a lap good enough for 12th. 

AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda was 13th, ahead of F1’s sole rookie Guanyu Zhou and Mick Schumacher, who ended up 15th-quickest as the only Haas driver to progress into Q2.

Alex Albon qualified 16th but the Williams driver will drop to 19th for Sunday’s grand prix because he is carrying a three-place grid penalty for his crash with Lance Stroll in Saudi Arabia. 

Following his starring displays in the first two rounds, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen was eliminated in Q1 in 17th, ahead of the returning Sebastian Vettel in 18th. 

The four-time world champion was able to set one timed-lap in qualifying after his Aston Martin team worked wonders to fix his car in time to take part in qualifying following his high-speed crash in final practice. 

Williams’ Nicholas Latifi had a big crash after being involved in a dramatic collision with Stroll’s Aston Martin after apparent confusion between the pair in Q1. 

Both drivers were on warm-up laps and connected when Stroll moved across on Latifi as his compatriot tried to get ahead on the run to Turn 6. Latifi was sent spinning into the barriers at high-speed, causing significant damage to his FW44 and bringing out a red flag. 

Latifi and Stroll subsequently rounded out the order with the slowest lap times set in Q1.