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Qualifying report

F1 Qatar GP: Piastri beats Norris to sprint pole as McLaren sweeps shootout

Oscar Piastri topped sprint shootout qualifying at Formula 1's 2023 Qatar Grand Prix, which became an intra-McLaren battle as a track limits issue hampered Max Verstappen’s run to third.

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60

Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Lando Norris seemed to be on course to beat his team-mate before blowing his final lap with an error at the final corner.

The session was again dominated by the focus on track limits following the issues in Friday’s grand prix qualifying and changes to the Losail track prompted by Pirelli's discovery that repeated high-speed kerb impacts was damaging its tyres.

In Q3 – where all drivers ran soft tyres having progressed on mediums in both Q1 and Q2 – Verstappen lost his first flier for going too wide out of Turn 5, where wind was causing issues for the drivers.

That 1m24.453s lap, completed when the Red Bull driver’s soft tyres were at their freshest, still would not have been good enough to get ahead of the McLaren drivers when they completed their opening efforts later in the final segment.

Unlike at other sprint qualifying events this year, the Losail circuit's smooth new track surface meant the drivers were able to push on for multiple laps throughout the segment, with the cars also fuelled to run throughout in anticipation of possible extra runs being needed in case of times being lost due to track limits.

Piastri’s opening time was shaded by Norris’s 1m24.536s, which Verstappen failed to pip on his second attempt to end up behind the McLaren pair.

On their final runs, Piastri stole ahead with a 1m24.454s and the focus switched to Norris behind, as he had led his team-mate in the opening two sectors.

But when Norris ran very wide out of the final turn he abandoned his lap, which meant Piastri went one better than the second place he took in Spa sprint shootout qualifying earlier this year.

Behind the top three came George Russell, Carlos Sainz, Charles Leclerc, Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, with all bar Russell boosted by Fernando Alonso losing his final Q3 time for a track limits off at Turn 13 and dropping him from fifth to ninth.

Esteban Ocon rounded out the Q3 top 10 for Alpine.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

In Q2, Hulkenberg’s last-gasp improvement with the then quickest time in the middle sector knocked out Pierre Gasly.

Behind, Lewis Hamilton was the shock faller, losing two laps to track limits violations – including his final effort, which would not have been faster enough to progress in any case – as he ended up 12th ahead of Valtteri Bottas, Liam Lawson and Zhou Guanyu.

In Q1, Lance Stroll was eliminated in 16th – boosted by several drivers having their final times deleted, which included Alex Albon and Yuki Tsunoda, while behind this pair Kevin Magnussen and Logan Saregant also lost their final laps and ended up 19th and 20th.

Sargeant ended up without a representative time on the board at the foot of the pack in the second Williams after his initial efforts were also excluded for track limits violations at Turn 13, with a similar situation also impacting Zhou in Q2.

The session was preceded by a 10-minute effective warm-up session so the drivers could sample the new track limits at Turns 12 and 13 – painted kerbing lines onto the asphalt that reduce the track width by 80cm for the length of the kerbs at those points.

Verstappen topped the running, with a best time of 1m27.085s, which he concluded with another verbal joust with his engineer Gianpiero Lambiase, who had wanted the Dutchman to finish a lap after he had gone so wide out of Turn 5 he found one of the few gravel traps at this venue.

Russell, Hamilton, Gasly, Lawson, Tsunoda, Stroll and Albon face a post-session investigation for failing to follow the race director’s instructions regarding the maximum laptime rule introduced for qualifying sessions in a bid to improve traffic issues.

Similar investigations at Monza and after yesterday’s grand prix qualifying session resulted in no further action as the drivers involved were found to have gone slowly to avoid impeding others.

Russell and Gasly were pinged over this issue twice – each with incidents in Q1 and Q2.

F1 Qatar Grand Prix Sprint Shootout Results:

 
 
     
Driver Info
 
 
 
   
Cla Driver # Chassis Engine Time km/h
1 Australia O. Piastri McLaren 81 McLaren Mercedes 1'24.454 229.331
2 United Kingdom L. Norris McLaren 4 McLaren Mercedes +0.082 229.109
3 Netherlands M. Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1 Red Bull Red Bull +0.192 228.811
4 United Kingdom G. Russell Mercedes 63 Mercedes Mercedes +0.387 228.285
5 Spain C. Sainz Ferrari 55 Ferrari Ferrari +0.701 227.444
6 Monaco C. Leclerc Ferrari 16 Ferrari Ferrari +0.793 227.198
7 Germany N. Hulkenberg Haas F1 Team 27 Haas Ferrari +0.866 227.004
8 Mexico S. Perez Red Bull Racing 11 Red Bull Red Bull +0.928 226.839
9 Spain F. Alonso Aston Martin Racing 14 Aston Martin Mercedes    
10 France E. Ocon Alpine 31 Alpine Renault    
11 France P. Gasly Alpine 10 Alpine Renault +1.232 226.034
12 United Kingdom L. Hamilton Mercedes 44 Mercedes Mercedes +1.508 225.308
13 Finland V. Bottas Alfa Romeo 77 Alfa Romeo Ferrari +1.782 224.592
14 New Zealand L. Lawson AlphaTauri 40 AlphaTauri Red Bull +2.130 223.690
15 China Z. Guanyu Alfa Romeo 24 Alfa Romeo Ferrari +30.092 169.084
16 Canada L. Stroll Aston Martin Racing 18 Aston Martin Mercedes +2.395 223.007
17 Thailand A. Albon Williams 23 Williams Mercedes +2.408 222.974
18 Japan Y. Tsunoda AlphaTauri 22 AlphaTauri Red Bull +2.472 222.810
19 Denmark K. Magnussen Haas F1 Team 20 Haas Ferrari +2.984 221.505
20 United States L. Sargeant Williams 2 Williams Mercedes +41.287 154.030

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