BWT Alpine F1 Team’s Pierre Gasly secured his first ever Q3 appearance around Albert Park, Melbourne as he qualified ninth for the Australian Grand Prix with Esteban Ocon narrowly missing out on a third top ten appearance of the year by the barest of margins.
Ocon looked strong throughout the afternoon and could count himself unfortunate as he exited Q2 in eleventh place and missed out on Q3 by just 0.007secs after encountering traffic in the last sector of his final push lap.
After qualifying Ocon, who will start in eleventh with a time of 1:17.768 said: “Unfortunately, what was shaping up to be a good day ended in some frustration. We had the pace for a strong Q3 showing but unfortunately met some traffic in the final two corners on my last Q2 push lap and that meant I lost some time.
“It’s on me for losing a couple of tenths in that case, after what was an otherwise good session for us. There are plenty of positives to take, though, as the performance is there, and we are starting just outside the top ten.
“It’s all very close between cars at the moment so it should be an exciting race. It’s definitely still all to play for and I’m now focused on maximising tomorrow’s race.”
For Gasly, he made it back-to-back visits to the top ten shootout, as he built up his afternoon in strong style, progressing through Q1 and Q2 comfortably.
Gasly out qualified his teammate taking ninth with 1:17.675 said: “I would say it wasn’t a bad outcome to take ninth place in Qualifying today even if I felt there was a tenth or two left on the table. We did a good job to improve lap after lap and to reach Q3 – the first time for me in Melbourne – which is pleasing.
“It was very difficult to get the tyres into a good enough window and we had to keep improving on each lap. Tomorrow’s race will be interesting as most teams won’t have much knowledge on long run pace.
“We’ll see what we can do starting from ninth and we’ll give it our best to score as many points as we can.”
Conditions were cool and tricky at Albert Park making tyre warm-up particularly challenging with rain a constant threat throughout the one-hour session.
An early red flag for Sergio Perez’s stricken Red Bull at Turn 3 halted proceedings before the session resumed midway through Q1.
Both drivers ran a second new set of Softs in Q1 on two push laps advancing to Q2 with Ocon fourth and Gasly thirteenth.
Gasly then reached Q3 and opted to run a single new set of Softs for the final segment on three push laps with his best lap on his second effort, a 1min 17.675secs, was enough for ninth place.
The race is an early start for UK views with it starting at 6am GMT.