Verstappen completes champion weekend with win at Qatar

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Qatar, Losail International Circuitqa

Max Verstappen took victory after leading virtually the entire race in Qatar. Oscar Piastri enjoyed another solid race to finished second while his team mate Lando Norris ensured another great result for McLaren.

One could say the Qatar Grand Prix started before the actual start was given with so many things going on in the run up to the race. First of all there was the decision by Pirelli to limit the stints to maximum 18 laps due to the risk of tyre cuts. For Sainz it was hardly of any interest as a technical issue ruled him out of the race.

The race therefore started with Verstappen on pole, followed by Russell, Hamilton, Alonso, Leclerc, Piastri Ocon, Gasly.

When the pack left the starting grid Verstappen made a solid start and maintained the lead. Both Mercedes were however challenging him with Hamilton clearly enjoyed the best getaway of the three. Hamilton was on the outside on soft tyres and got ahead of Russell during breaking but then turned into the corner a bit early, leaving Russell nowhere to go and resulting in both ending up off track. Hamilton was eliminated immediately with the right rear tyre gone while Russell returned to the pits and ended up in 14th position during the subsequent safety car period, thanks to some pitstops from others as well.

The race restarted on lap 5 with Verstappen immediately pushing hard to get away from the pack. Piastri followed up in second place after gaining 4 positions at the start. Alonso as up next, then Leclerc, Ocon, Norris, Gasly, Hulkenberg, Tsunoda and Albon.

Russell went on to show strong pace on his medium compound tyres and soon moved ahead of Perez.

The high number of pitstop during this race made positions change quickly. Norris for instance found himself in second place by lap 14 but then got pitted, just like Hulkenberg and Sargeant. This in turn moved Russell into second place, 17s behind race leader Max Verstappen. Albon, Zhou, Perez and Bottas.

Alonso meanwhile passed Leclerc for 11th place after he had fallen behind the Ferrari during the pitstops. Norris followed them at 2 seconds with behind him the two Alpines. Alonso soon moved past Lawson and Magnussen as well to return into the path of Piastri who he had been chasing in the early part of the race.

Russell then pitted on lap 15 and returned to the track in 15th position, 3 seconds behind Gasly.

At the end of lap 17 it was about time for the remaining drivers to pit if they didn't want to be black flagged for driving under unsafe conditions, as was agreed between Pirelli and F1. Interstingly the tyres were clearly not dead yet at this time with both Verstappen and Perez doing purple sectors.

Verstappen pitted at the end of that lap and returned to the track in second place, behind Albon with the Williams driver pitting a single lap later.

Stroll meanwhile was told to let Alonso by as soon as possible as the Spaniard was on a different strategy. Alonso was let by on the straight and less then a lap later he moved up in third place by passing Valtteri Bottas. The latter had done a very early stop during the safety car and stopped a second time two laps after losing that position.

Stroll was soon also surpassed by Norris who himself had cleared Charles Leclerc.

By lap 24 most top 10 drivers had pitted one time, except for Russell. In that situation Verstappen was leading Piastri by 8 seconds with Alonso third, a further 6 seconds behind. Norris followed closely in 4th place, then Leclerc, Ocon, Russell, Gasly, Perez and Albon.

Piastri was the first to pit next on lap 26. This promoted Alonso to second until he stopped too and dropped down to 8th with Zhou in between Piastri and himself. George Russell on the other hand made his way past Gasly, then Ocon and also Perez to move up into second place when Norris pitted on lap 28. The stop got Norris out ahead of Zhou and Alonso. The Spaniard seemed to struggle to get up to speed on his hard tyres and only cleared Zhou on lap 33.

One lap later Alonso made a rare mistake and got surprised by the rear stepping out, leaving him do some gravel running and lose three positions in the event. Not that it's related but the Spaniard had earlier complained about his seat being "burning" and asking his engineer whether anything could be done about that.

The stewards were meanwhile also busy as penalties were flying around for drivers exceeding track limits. By lap 44 Perez had actually managed to get two penalties. Gasly and Albon got one as well.

Around lap 44 the final series of pitstops started with Piastri and Norris switching to hard tyres for their final stint. Norris pitted one lap after Piastri and returned to the track just behind him. McLaren soon went on the radio to tell Norris to hold position.

Logan Sargeant meanwhile retired from the race after feeling unwell. Having reported to not feeling well the team told him he could retire if needed as "there is no shame in retiring in such conditions". The American was clearly grasping for air and holding fast to his car after stepping out of it in the box.

He was clearly not the only one struggling with the heat as Russell for instance was seen putting his hands up into the wind on the straight to get some extra cooling. Other images showed Russell and Norris slightly opening their visor at times for the very same reason.

5 laps from the end Gasly gets past Stroll for P9 but not without leaving the track on the exit of Turn 1. The stewards therefore decided that Gasly would have to return the position. By the time he did though Perez was right behind and moved past Gasly as well. Moments later Stroll is handed a 5s time penalty and another lap later Gasly takes 10th away again from Perez. Funny how things turn around for the final point scoring positions.

In front Verstappen went to win in what seemed like a straightforward race for him. Piastri and Norris completed the podium while Russell saved the day for Mercedes after a troubling collision with Hamilton on the first lap.


11Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda Rbpt571:27:39.16826
281Oscar PiastriMclaren Mercedes57+4.833s18
34Lando NorrisMclaren Mercedes57+5.969s15
463George RussellMercedes57+34.119s12
516Charles LeclercFerrari57+38.976s10
614Fernando AlonsoAston Martin Aramco Mercedes57+49.032s8
731Esteban OconAlpine Renault57+62.390s6
877Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo Ferrari57+66.563s4
924Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo Ferrari57+76.127s2
1011Sergio PerezRed Bull Racing Honda Rbpt57+80.181s1
1118Lance StrollAston Martin Aramco Mercedes57+81.652s0
1210Pierre GaslyAlpine Renault57+82.300s0
1323Alexander AlbonWilliams Mercedes57+91.014s0
1420Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari56+1 lap0
1522Yuki TsunodaAlphatauri Honda Rbpt56+1 lap0
1627Nico HulkenbergHaas Ferrari56+1 lap0
1740Liam LawsonAlphatauri Honda Rbpt56+1 lap0
NC2Logan SargeantWilliams Mercedes40DNF0
NC44Lewis HamiltonMercedes0DNF0
NC55Carlos SainzFerrari0DNS0

Note - Verstappen scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.
Stroll, Gasly, Albon and Perez (3) received five-second time penalties for track limits infringements.