Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz fire Mercedes accusation in Melbourne

Mercedes managed to secure a front row start for the first time in the 2023 season, with George Russell almost matching Red Bull’s pace.

George Russell dazzled the Australian crowd at the Albert Park Circuit with a P2 performance only 0.23 seconds behind Max Verstappen’s Red Bull as Mercedes target a comeback down under.

In the run up to the Australian Grand Prix, Mercedes had seemed to suggest that they wouldn’t be able to compete with their rivals, having only secured a best finish of P4 in Jeddah, far behind Red Bull and Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin.

However, with Mercedes in P2 and in P3, the Aston Martin driver has accused his rivals of hiding their true ability on the track.

“They were really fast in Jeddah already and they were fast in FP2. They are always fast,” Alonso said in a post-qualifying interview. “If you read their comments, it seems that they have a car that is out of Q3.”

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Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz agreed with Alonso that Mercedes “are a lot faster than what people think, especially in the race.”

“They had a pace that was close to Fernando in Jeddah. They were flat out and [Ferrari] couldn’t keep up with them.

“That car is quick. It’s clearly not as quick as the Red Bull is, no one is. 

“If they put qualifying together, they can actually be a very strong package too,” he added

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Alonso lines up behind Russell’s teammate Hamilton in P4, while Sainz is in P5.

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Aston Martin’s Stroll is in sixth, while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is in seventh.

The Williams of Alex Albon is in eighth, with Alpine’s Pierre Gasly in ninth and the Haas of Nico Hulkenberg rounding out the top ten. 

The whole field was relatively evenly matched during qualifying in Melbourne, with very tight margins coming into play in Q1, Q2 and Q3.