The third race weekend of the 2022 Formula 1 season is starting to come together and Scuderia Ferrari is slowly but surely proving that they are definitely the team to beat this year. Red Bull Racing are also showing their strength, with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez lining up behind pole sitter Charles Leclerc at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. Unfortunately for the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, he won't be able to help defend his teammate at the start as he only managed to qualify in ninth place.

The Monegasque put his Ferrari on top with a scorching lap at the end of Q3, but the Red Bulls have been strong throughout the qualifying session with both Perez and Verstappen taking turns at the top. In fact, it looked like Perez had a strong chance to take a second consecutive pole, but the Ferrari driver was simply able to squeeze more out of his car in the closing stages.

"The free practice sessions were quite messy for me, but in Q3 I managed to put everything together, so it feels great," said Leclerc.

Verstappen was surprisingly competitive after struggling to get comfortable with his car throughout all three practice sessions. The defending world champion is happy to make it to the front row, but no one can blame him for being disappointed after missing out on the top spot. "For me, this weekend so far has been all over the place. I'm happy to be second, but as a team we want more," he said.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia pole sitter Sergio Perez only managed third, but as he knows full well, anything can still happen. "P3 is a decent start for tomorrow. Hopefully we can give the fans a nice race," he said.

Indeed, the fans in Melbourne came out in droves, with the grandstands full to the brim after missing out on F1 action throughout the pandemic. Home hero Daniel Ricciardo managed to qualify in 7th place, which is decent considering his recent performances for McLaren. Teammate Lando Norris outqualified him once more, managing to be the best of the rest in 4th place.

Sainz really should have had the pace to be up there with his teammate and the Red Bulls, but his first fast lap in Q3 was abandoned after Fernando Alonso crashed his Alpine and caused a red flag. The younger Spaniard was no longer able to record a faster attempt at the restart and had to settle for ninth ahead of Alonso and behind the other Alpine of Esteban Ocon.

Meanwhile, seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton and teammate George Russel could only place their Mercedes cars up in fifth and sixth, respectively. Toto Wolff and his team are continuing to fail to find a way to put themselves in the same league as the Ferraris and Red Bulls. In fact, the Mercedes powered Aston Martin and Williams cars are bringing up the rear once more. However, that is due in part to a misunderstanding that led to a big shunt between Latifi and Stroll in Q1.

Charles Leclerc
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc arrives at Albert Park leading the drivers' championship AFP / William WEST