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Verstappen: Qatar shows F1 shouldn't be guinea pig for changed circuits

Max Verstappen believes Formula 1 should not be the first category to race at heavily revised and resurfaced circuits, otherwise the championship risks looking “a bit silly”.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Verstappen, who was crowned a three-time world champion over the weekend, led the Qatar Grand Prix from lights-to-flag.

But the weekend's main talking point was Pirelli mandating 18-lap stints for tyres after tears were found in the sidewall from drivers running over kerbs.

While the kerbs were built to FIA standard, with their 50mm raised ‘pyramid’ outer edge, they were new for 2023 and the track was also resurfaced as part of investment in the Losail Circuit now that Qatar has commenced a 10-year hosting contract with F1.

The re-laid asphalt, which oozes oils to make the track surface slippery, led to drivers struggling to control the rear of the cars throughout practice, qualifying, the sprint race and GP.

Asked about the new surface, Red Bull driver Verstappen said: “I think it did grip up a little bit. Probably if we come back next year, it will be again a bit better but it depends on how much it will be driven.

“I think it's important that other kinds of categories come back or come here and race a little bit more because you have to take a bit that oil out of the Tarmac when it's new, and also a bit more like a wider grip line.

“At the moment, I think it's still too much like one line. But it seemed to really ramp up.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, the rest of the field at the start

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, the rest of the field at the start

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Given the public struggles for drivers plus the tyre fiasco, Verstappen reckons F1 should not be the guinea pig when it comes to being the first series to race at altered venues.

He continued: “Next time that we get into a situation like this, I don't think F1 should be the first one to drive because it looks a bit silly.

“[In] FP1 with cars sliding around having no grip, I think it is important when we go to a track where they’ve put new Tarmac that at least it’s run in a little. That will then help a lot.

“Also, for understanding the tyres, for example, what we had now. That's why we had these forced, limited laps. So, a few things I think to learn out of this this weekend as a whole.”

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Verstappen called the imposed stint lengths, which forced teams into three-stop strategies to cover the 57-lap race, “a shame”.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner reckoned they stifled strategic creativity.

He said: “I think from a safety point of view, I fully understand why they did it.

“Maybe strategically, it wasn't the optimum strategy for this race… but it was a different race, and it tested the strategists in a different way.

“The thing is, it made it a lot more predictable because you know what the maximum stint length for each car was.”

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