Latest updates and lap times from Melbourne

Welcome to our live coverage of qualifying for the 2023 Australian Grand Prix from Albert Park in Melbourne. Formula 1 has visited this circuit for 27 years now, but to me it doesn’t seem that long ago that Damon Hill took victory here for Williams in his championship season in 1996.

It’s fair to say that the races held here in those days were mixed. It’s not exactly a classic circuit – although it has improved in recent years – as overtaking is difficult, if not uncommon. Quite often early season reliability issues were the cause of much drama in Melbourne.

That said, there have been some decent rounds, with Safety Cars and the occasional wet weather throwing some spunk and unpredictability into the equation. There was a little rain during yesterday’s second training session, but unfortunately the chance of heavy rain showers is slightly smaller on Saturday and Sunday. That said, there was a shower during final practice earlier today, so you never know.

Anyway, heading into this weekend, the story is the same as it was two weeks ago for Saudi Arabia. The big question we probably all know the answer to is “can anyone stop Red Bull”? The answer is probably not. Not without some intervention from above.

Max Verstappen enters this race with a one-point lead over team-mate Sergio Perez, with the pair taking one win each this year. Verstappen had a more difficult weekend in Jeddah two weeks ago and had to work his way through the field. His second place finish was a bit surprising as he came within about five seconds of leader Perez with about 20 laps to go. Yet for some reason he couldn’t manage it and he didn’t make a big deal of being disappointed to finish second. That’s the kind of driver he is.

When it comes to challenging Verstappen, it seems Perez is our only hope. The problem is that he had a pretty bad final practice session in a few days of intermittent running for most teams. Overall, Ferrari and Mercedes are further ahead than last season and with Aston Martin now at the front of the equation – they are second in the standings – the chances of competition for either championship seem slim.

Still, we are only two races into the season and it is probably not healthy to get too pessimistic now. Although I would advise you to cross all your fingers and toes…