Max Verstappen Clinches 3rd Straight Drivers Championship
Formula 1 traveled to the Middle East for the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix at the Lusail International Circuit, and all eyes were on Max Verstappen. Verstappen has ascended to incredible heights and clinched his third straight driver’s championship on Saturday by finishing in second place during the Sprint Race. Verstappen and Red Bull have dominated the season, claiming both titles even with six more races to go. It is an impressive feat that will be remembered for a long time and will also motivate their rivals at Ferrari, McLaren, and Mercedes to step up their game if they hope to contend in 2024. Let’s dive into the first corner and take a look at how this historic weekend unfolded at the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix, which also featured a sprint shootout and race.
Strong winds posed a unique challenge to the drivers and their respective teams during qualifying, forcing them to contend with a slew of deleted lap times due to exceeding track limits. Nearly every lap had the potential to have an extraordinary lap time or be forced to start from scratch. Verstappen, who sat on nine pole positions during the season, matched his personal best of 10 by the end of Q3, setting up an optimal chance of clinching his title on Sunday if disaster would strike during the Sprint race on Saturday. Lap times that were deleted forced Lando Norris, Oscar Piastri, and their Mclaren out of second and fourth place, which allowed Mercedes to get Russel and Hamilton in P2 and P3.
Sprint Shoot and Race
The Sprint Shootout faced similar issues in Qualifying on Saturday, with gusts of winds forcing drivers outside the enforced limit on the track. To everyone’s surprise and Mclaren’s excitement, Oscar Piastri claimed the top spot of the grid for the Sprint Race, giving him his first pole position of his career. In his mirror, he would have his teammate Norris in P2, followed by Verstappen in P3. Verstappen needs to finish the race in at least 6th place to mathematically claim the title, eliminating any chance for his closest rival, Sergio Perez of winning the title. At this point, it was a foregone conclusion that the F1 Championship would be beaten on a Saturday for the first time in history.
The Sprint Race was highly entertaining, with battles taking place all over the track, which also led to three safety cars being deployed throughout the race. Ultimately, it was a battle between who had soft tires versus mediums. Medium tires ruled the day and handled the desert heat that plagued drivers on the soft tires. Ultimately, Piastri ruled Saturday and claimed his first victory in Formula 1. Verstappen finished in second place and could celebrate his 3rd consecutive title. Mclaren also saw Norris claim third place after a solid race.
Although the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix takes place at night, extreme heat was on the agenda for the drivers to deal with the entire race. The heat also meant that tire wear would occur much faster than in other conditions, which forced the stewards and Pirelli to mandate that surpassing 18 laps on a set of tires would result in penalties. This ruling meant that at least three pit stops would be needed to complete the race. This newly added element to the race helped create chaos and constant reshuffling of the standings throughout the race. Ferrari made a dismal announcement that Carlos Sainz Jr. would not start the race due to a fuel system failure in his Ferrari.
The start of the race had plenty of drama that had all the mechanics and engineers in the Mercedes garage collectively holding their breath and frustrations when Hamilton and Russel tangled, heading into the opening turns of the race. Hamilton, who later accepted responsibility for the incident, was out of the race, while Russel was lucky to survive and could return on track. Russel put on a solid performance despite falling back to last place. Russel managed to fight all the back to P4.
Verstappen, who just celebrated clinching his third straight driver’s championship on Saturday, had a clean start to the race and never faced any challenges to the chequered flag. Verstappen claimed his 14th win of the season, followed by the two McLarens of Oscar Piastri in P2 and Lando Norris in P3. All the drivers, after crossing the finish lines, had symptoms of heat stroke and were drained by the extreme heat on the track. The 2023 Qatar Grand Prix was fascinating, with many factors adding uncertainty and drama despite Red Bull’s dominance.
Formula 1 will be heading to Austin, Texas, at the Circuit of the Americas for the United States Grand Prix, where everyone other than Red Bull will scrap it out to elevate themselves in the standings.
|1||MAX VERSTAPPEN||NETHERLANDS||RED BULL||1:24.319|
|6||FERNANDO ALONSO||SPAIN||ASTON MARTIN|
|7||ESTEBAN OCON-LAP 9||FRANCE||ALPINE|
|8||VALTERRI BOTTAS||FINLAND||ALFA ROMEO|
|9||ZHOU GUANYU||CHINA||ALFA ROMEO|
|10||SERGIO PEREZ||MEXICO||RED BULL|
|11||LANCE STROLL||CANADA||ASTON MARTIN|
|15||YUKI TSUNODA||JAPAN||ALPHA TAURI|
|17||LIAM LAWSON||NEW ZEALAND||ALPHA TAURI|
|RETIRED||LOGAN SARGEANT-LAP 40||UNITED STATES||WILLIAMS|
|RETIRED||LEWIS HAMILTON-LAP 0||BRITAIN||MERCEDES|
|DNS||CARLOS SAINZ JR||SPAIN||FERRARI|