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F1 Qatar GP: Verstappen seals third world title as Piastri wins sprint

Max Verstappen clinched the 2023 Formula 1 world title with second place in the Qatar Grand Prix sprint race – a heavily disrupted affair won by McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, celebrates in Parc Ferme after winning the 2023 drivers world champion

Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

The 19-lap event featured three safety car periods and was characterised by the drivers opting to use soft tyres making big gains early on and the safety car restarts, before falling back as the race wore on with their rubber graining.

A three-way crash that triggered the third safety car period eliminated Sergio Perez and sealed Verstappen’s title.

At the start, Piastri held the lead off the line from pole while his fellow front row and medium tyre starter Lando Norris and Verstappen, also on the yellow-walled rubber from third, were swamped by the cars starting on the softs – Russell, Sainz and Leclerc.

The race was then neutralised by the safety car being called into action soon after Liam Lawson spun off from the back of the pack at Turn 2, where he appeared to lose the rear of his AlphaTauri solo at the long left-hander and spun off into the gravel.

When the race restarted on lap three, Piastri aced the drive back to full racing speed but lost the lead when Russell made a late dive to the inside of the Turn 6 hairpin – getting ahead as Piastri slid a touch and lost momentum exiting the corner.

Proceedings were then neutralised again by another safety car period – required because Logan Sargeant had spun off by himself running through the Turn 9 right-hand kink midway through the second sector.

The race restarted again at the start of lap seven, with the drivers on the mediums being told the cars running the softs were already seeing rubber graining up and the expectation being the event would swing back towards those on the more durable compound.

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, the rest of the field at the start

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, the rest of the field at the start

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Russell was even better than Piastri on the second restart – shooting clear well before the track’s final turns once the safety car had run ahead to the pits to lead by 1.4s as lap seven commenced.

The Mercedes driver was able to hold Piastri at bay and out of DRS range for the first few laps after the second restart, during which Verstappen climbed back to third with DRS-assisted runs passes on the Ferrari pair on consecutive tours.

On lap 11, Russell was finally in DRS range for Piastri as the soft tyre swing turned out as many engineers had predicted and the McLaren driver surged back to the lead with a DRS run to the first corner.

A few seconds later, a third safety car intervention was required when a three-way battle involving Esteban Ocon, Nico Hulkenberg and Perez in the lower reaches of the top 10 resulted in all three cars off the road at Turn 2.

Ocon was under pressure as a soft tyre runner versus the other two on medium tyres and as he fended off Hulkenberg’s attentions in and out of Turn 1, Perez got a run on both into Turn 2, where Ocon moving right and the Haas being sandwiched triggered the contact and put Ocon and Perez out on the spot – with Hulkenberg able to escape the scene before retiring in the pits.

The race resume again on lap 15, with Russell having argued hard with his Mercedes engineer in favour of pitting during the final safety car as he felt his tyres were gone – a suggestion his team rebuffed.

Piastri duly romped clear of Russell, with Verstappen taking second with a DRS blast into Turn 1 the next time by, with the leader having established a 2.6s lead over the recovering Red Bull.

Stefano Domenicali, CEO, Formula 1, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position and 2023 drivers world champion, Oscar Piastri, McLaren, 1st position, Lando Norris, McLaren, 3rd position, Mohammed bin Sulayem, President, FIA, after the Sprint race

Stefano Domenicali, CEO, Formula 1, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position and 2023 drivers world champion, Oscar Piastri, McLaren, 1st position, Lando Norris, McLaren, 3rd position, Mohammed bin Sulayem, President, FIA, after the Sprint race

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Verstappen set two fastest laps during first two tours of the remaining three, but he could not eat into Piastri’s lead enough to make a move.

Piastri had the legs on the final lap to cap Verstappen’s charge to finish 1.8s back, with Norris recovering to third having passed the Ferrari pair in the first two laps after the third safety car ended, then getting Russell with a move around the outside of Turn 1 on the final tour.

Russell ended up fourth – ahead of his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who rose up the order after his shock Q2 sprint qualifying elimination and lowly 12th place grid spot thanks to the Ocon-Hulkenberg-Perez shunt happening just in front of him and the Ferrari drivers fading in the final laps.

Of the pair in red, Leclerc had jumped Norris to run fifth just after the third restart before the McLaren driver’s medium tyre life advantage came to bear, with Sainz then under pressure from his team-mate after Norris had gone through.

Leclerc locking up ahead of Hamilton at the Turn 6 hairpin on the final lap gave Sainz some breathing room, but it was not enough as the Mercedes driver carved his way by both Ferraris on the last lap.

With Sainz and Leclerc sixth and seventh, Alex Albon made late gains to rise to eighth, with soft starters Fernando Alonso and Pierre Gasly falling back to ninth and 10th having led Hamilton in the period immediately after the third restart.

At the rear of the field, Lance Stroll, Kevin Magnussen and Zhou Guanyu made pitstops during the final safety car, but could not use their fresh rubber to make an impact.

Leclerc and Stroll face a post-race investigation over apparent repeated track limits infractions.

F1 Qatar GP - Sprint race results

 
 
         
Driver Info
 
 
 
   
Cla Driver # Laps Time Interval km/h Pits Points Retirement Chassis Engine
1 Australia O. Piastri McLaren 81 19 -       8   McLaren Mercedes
2 Netherlands M. Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1 19 +1.871 1.871     7   Red Bull Red Bull
3 United Kingdom L. Norris McLaren 4 19 +8.497 6.626     6   McLaren Mercedes
4 United Kingdom G. Russell Mercedes 63 19 +11.036 2.539     5   Mercedes Mercedes
5 United Kingdom L. Hamilton Mercedes 44 19 +17.314 6.278     4   Mercedes Mercedes
6 Spain C. Sainz Ferrari 55 19 +18.806 1.492     3   Ferrari Ferrari
7 Monaco C. Leclerc Ferrari 16 19 +19.860 1.054     2   Ferrari Ferrari
8 Thailand A. Albon Williams 23 19 +19.864 0.004     1   Williams Mercedes
9 Spain F. Alonso Aston Martin Racing 14 19 +21.180 1.316         Aston Martin Mercedes
10 France P. Gasly Alpine 10 19 +21.742 0.562         Alpine Renault
11 Finland V. Bottas Alfa Romeo 77 19 +22.208 0.466         Alfa Romeo Ferrari
12 Japan Y. Tsunoda AlphaTauri 22 19 +22.863 0.655         AlphaTauri Red Bull
13 Canada L. Stroll Aston Martin Racing 18 19 +24.523 1.660   1     Aston Martin Mercedes
14 Denmark K. Magnussen Haas F1 Team 20 19 +24.970 0.447   1     Haas Ferrari
15 China Z. Guanyu Alfa Romeo 24 19 +26.868 1.898   1     Alfa Romeo Ferrari
dnf Germany N. Hulkenberg Haas F1 Team 27 11       1   Collision Haas Ferrari
dnf France E. Ocon Alpine 31 10           Collision Alpine Renault
dnf Mexico S. Perez Red Bull Racing 11 10           Collision Red Bull Red Bull
dnf United States L. Sargeant Williams 2 2           Spun off Williams Mercedes
dnf New Zealand L. Lawson AlphaTauri 40 0           Spun off AlphaTauri Red Bull

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