The Friday in F1 Qatar GP was tricky overall due to the conditions and fresh tarmac as track limits played a big role throughout qualifying.
It wasn’t as straight Friday as it normally is in F1 Qatar GP at Lusail circuit. The combination of track resurfacing along with sandy conditions, it was a challenge for all the drivers to find their way and also the limit of the car.
It led to track limits situation which certainly hampered both the McLaren F1 drivers along with Sergio Perez. The Mexican was knocked out in Q2 itself as he anyhow struggled with balance, and he was not alone as he took Carlos Sainz along too.
The Spaniard just couldn’t switch on and get the tyres running to progress. His Ferrari F1 teammate Charles Leclerc made it in the Top 10 but was lowly after facing some issues on his final lap. Max Verstappen, meanwhile, also had a moment on his final lap.
But his first lap was enough to hand him F1 Qatar GP pole for Sunday’s race in a sprint weekend. He will have the Mercedes pair for company after the McLaren duo dropped out. Lando Norris was visibly upset after both his laps were deleted.
He was second actually but now sits 10th, while Oscar Piastri was promoted to third but now slips to sixth. But both are still contenders for podium as George Russell notes. He is aiming for podium as his his teammate Lewis Hamilton in third.
Verstappen: “I mean, I think it was difficult for everyone out there, you know, with the new tarmac, there was not a lot of grip. And as soon as you, I wouldn’t even say overstep it, but you tried to just carry a little bit more speed into the corner, the rear really wants to step out and that made it very tricky to find the limit in qualifying run after run, to see how much the track was improving, but then not overdo it. I tried to carry a little bit more speed into the corner and it just gave up on me. I knew, of course, I had that lap already. So I was like, I’ll just try to push a little bit more and really, you know, try to give it everything I have. But it’s the track surface. At the moment it doesn’t let you push a tiny bit more. As soon as you stress a little bit too much it really snaps at you and you can’t correct it. So that’s a bit of a bit of a shame. But yeah, it was nothing major. We tried to just follow the track as best as we could. And yeah, my first run in Q3 was good. I was happy with the balance of the car, considering the track conditions. Overall, a good day and more than I could have hoped for really, because it’s always a bit hectic, you know, the Sprint format, to after one session optimise the car. And then especially with this new tarmac as well, it’s probably even more difficult, but it was good.”
Russell: “I think it’s been interesting, the second half of the season. The quali pace has been really quite exceptional compared to the start of this year. And I’m feeling really confident in the car. But this weekend, we definitely weren’t expecting to be lining up P2 and P3 on the grid for Sunday. So that is a real pleasant surprise. Of course, Lando was ahead of us and his marginal off wasn’t the different for his pace advantage. So, we know that we’re half a step behind McLaren. But equally, our fight is with Ferrari at the moment. That’s our aim for the remainder of the season. And we just need to secure as many points as possible to seal that off. On Sunday, I’ll probably waving Max goodbye, I think, after Turn 1. I think we see that the pace converges a little bit come Sunday. Lando was exceptionally fast in Suzuka, so he’s really going to be the biggest threat. But there’s no reason why we can’t both fight for a podium. But there’s a lot of unknowns. We don’t know how the tyre degradation is going to be, the tyre wear, if it’s a one-stop or two-stop. And the track is just constantly changing. And you know, the very first lap in qualifying was, I think, two seconds quicker than the quickest lap in FP1, which was probably the biggest jump I think I’ve ever experienced in Formula 1, so we don’t know what tomorrow and Sunday are going to bring.”
Hamilton: “I mean, it’s always confusing, because obviously in P1, you now I was nearly out of Q1, sorry. Which is incredibly frustrating in that moment. But then we get into Q2 and all of a sudden, we’re right up there. So it’s very, very strange. But it’s great for all the team for us to be up there. And George did a great job today. So for us to be so close, it’s pretty awesome. I mean, for me, it was a relatively average qualifying session, Q1 and Q3 particularly. Yeah, if I was able to find that, put together the lap that I did in… That came too early, in Q2. I wish I had that for Q3. On Sunday, I’m battling the guy to the right of me for sure. I think, yeah, I’ll give it everything to try and fight him. Maybe like George said, maybe he will just disappear like he does in most of the other races, but maybe we’ll be able to fight.”
Norris: “P***ed off… I just had a correction on oversteer on my final lap and I went off. The pace has been mint, the team have done a good job, but I just messed it up. I know but I don’t think like that; I just think of the job I’m meant to do, which is put in good laps and not make mistakes, and that’s all I did today, so not a good day for me.”
Piastri: “Obviously a shame… I just pushed a little bit hard on the last lap. A shame because the car looked quick. We obviously get another crack at it tomorrow in the Sprint Shootout and then the Sprint too, so we’ll see what we can do. It’s very tight and it’s so easy to make mistakes. The track’s very slippery too, so not making things easy for us. But we’ll try again obviously. It’s a shame that we’re a bit further back now for the main race where the most points are, but there’s definitely points up for grabs tomorrow.
Leclerc: “We had an issue in the high-speed on the fast lap, which made me downshift when I was flat-out, which wasn’t great. We lost quite a bit there, and then we struggled a lot basically with the first timed lap. I had to abort my first run in Q3 after running wide in a corner in the first sector and so I only had one lap left to set a competitive time. It was quite tough to get the tyres to work today: on the first flying lap the rears were not working as expected and the situation only improved when you continued to push, which is not ideal in qualifying. All in all we maximised with what we had, we just need to work tomorrow to try and find the pace straight away.”
Perez: “It was quite difficult. We struggled a lot for balance. We had so many issues that I just couldn’t fit any of them. Every corner was pretty much different, I think the conditions are very difficult, but [I] just struggled a lot today in qualifying. It’s not over. It’s obviously going to be very difficult to pass, especially with the track conditions that we currently have. But we will see what we are able to do and recover from there.”
Sainz: “I had a very difficult quali, right from the beginning. Just struggling with the balance. The rear was very, very loose, while in FP1, I managed to switch on the tyres and get decent grip on this new surface. When the track temperature dropped this afternoon, I just couldn’t find any grip out there, so I just struggled quite heavily, so I’m not surprised to be out in Q2. Hopefully we can turn it around for tomorrow, the Sprint, and have a better Saturday. But definitely Sunday’s going to be tricky, starting from so far back in a difficult track to overtake. But my main focus now is to try and see what we can do better tomorrow.”
The Top 10 had the likes of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso along with Alpine pair of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon and also Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas. The Spaniard was happy to be up in fourth as teammate Lance Stroll was quite angry at his Q1 exit.
The Alpine F1 pair surprised with Q3 ending and hope for points results, while Bottas felt solid even though he slightly lucked into Top 10 after Perez’s lap deletion. His teammate Zhou Guanyu rued being held up by Logan Sargeant who passed him on his fast lap.
The American’s Williams teammate Alexander Albon conceded of struggle at Lusail circuit. They simply didn’t have enough pace as did the Haas F1 duo where Nico Hulkenberg did manage to get into Q2 but for Kevin Magnussen, he just couldn’t get the car to work. It was two havles for AlphaTauri where Yuki Tsunoda did well in 11th.
Alonso: “I am very happy with qualifying in fourth position for Sunday’s race, after a few weekends where we weren’t as competitive. It was very tricky to manage with the slippery track and windy conditions. The car felt fast in FP1 and it felt good again later in Qualifying. It’s only the first step and we have the Sprint tomorrow, so let’s see what we can do as there are points available on both days.”
Gasly: “I am very happy to be back in Q3. Right from the start of the day, I have had a good feeling with the car and felt in a good place where I feel I could push the car to the limit straight away. I put in a strong lap in Q2, same in Q3 and in the end it’s put us in a solid spot on the grid for Sunday. It’s been a strong Friday for the team overall and hopefully we can convert it into points over the next two days. The field is tight, much tighter than I thought it would be, so we will see what we can do to close down some of the cars ahead. It’s the Sprint tomorrow and the aim is to have another solid day right from the get-go here in Qatar.”
Bottas: “I am happy to have made it back into Q3 after a while, and I felt really confident in the car today. This result is a good reward for the whole team, for the job done over the past few weeks. It has been a positive surprise to be in the top ten but it shows how we hit the ground running, right from the only practice session – as we intended to – and made all the right calls. Of course, tomorrow will be a new, standalone day, with the Shootout and the Sprint, but we have definitely kicked things off the right way and, most importantly, we’ll be lining up on the grid in the top 10 on Sunday, right in the fight for points.”
Tsunoda: “I’m pleased with my performance. On such a high-speed corner track, it’s easy to exceed track limits, but so far, I haven’t, so I’m happy. It would’ve been good to be in Q3, so it’s not exactly the qualifying we wanted, but it’s still close to the points, so it’s okay. There are places I can improve on, but the car’s upgrades are working, so we’re feeling optimistic. There’s margin for improvement, and tomorrow is another day for qualifying, so I’m looking forward to it because it’s another chance to do better than today. The conditions were tricky today because the wind in FP1 was extreme but calmed down for qualifying, and the temperature dropped, so it was slightly easier to drive. The car turns differently in some corners from one lap to the next because of the wind, but it’s one of the track’s characteristics that makes it interesting and fun to drive.”
Albon: “Retracing it, we only did one practice session in which we really struggled with the wind and balance, just finding it difficult to find that sweet spot. It happens with these short weekends; you’ve got to be prepared early and we just struggled, so it’s a bit frustrating. There might be some small changes we can make overnight but nothing that’s going to help us with the wind, which is obviously bad for everyone, but it impacts some cars more than others and we’re one of them unfortunately. Every corner feels different with no rhyme or rhythm, so it’s instinctive driving which is fun but difficult.”
Magnussen: “On my side, it’s a new track and I found it a little more difficult to learn than I had hoped. It’s actually a pretty tricky circuit to drive and not having been to it before, it’s taken me a while to get on top of it. So, there’s a lot more lap time to find from me. It’s a long weekend ahead still, but of course disappointed with P19, but we’ll try and do better in the next session.”
Here’s how F1 Qatar GP qualifying panned out