Max Verstappen cruised to F1 Qatar GP win after 2023 title win ahead of McLaren pair of Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris.
Already before the start of F1 Qatar GP, Carlos Sainz was ruled out due to fuel leak on his Ferrari car. With the parts changed by Red Bull, Sergio Perez was forced to start from the pitlane as there was an extra challenge for the drivers due to FIA’s stint restriction.
Due to the kerbs, they were mandated to do 18 laps per stint which more or less made it certain for drivers to stop three times. It was a clean start from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to lead F1 Qatar GP but there was a Mercedes collision beside him.
Lewis Hamilton started on the soft tyre and was on the outside when he turned at Turn 1. The move meant his rear touched with George Russell as the two spun off onto the gravel. Hamilton retired immediately , while Russell continued on to pit.
The safety car was deployed as Verstappen led McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, McLaren’s Lando Norris, Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg in the Top 10.
The German was put under investigation for incorrect starting position and was subsequently handed a 10s penalty as he put himself in empty Sainz’s slot. The safety car helped Russell to make up places after some drivers pitted under safety car.
It was Verstappen still in the lead from Piastri and Alonso on re-start. After Bottas pitted, Hulkenberg gained a place to ninth and he managed to pass Tsunoda for eighth too. Russell, meanwhile, climbed back up to the Top 10 after early collision.
The pit stop started to kick in as per the FIA regulation but Verstappen retained his lead from Piastri and Alonso. The gainer was Norris who passed Ocon by stopping late and eventually passing Leclerc on track in the fight for a podium place.
Another round of pit stops started to rumble in and Norris was another gainer as he passed Alonso for net third. The Spaniard complained of a hot seat as he had a gravel moment to lose track position to Leclerc after his moment at Turn 2.
He was noted for unsafe rejoining too as Perez was handed a 5s time penalty for track limits amid many who were pinged with a last warning. Verstappen was still in lead from Piastri and Norris, as Russell climbed up to fourth from Leclerc.
Williams’, meanwhile, asked Logan Sargeant to retire amid complains of sickness. The American driver insisted on continuing on despite the illness. But eventually he pitted to retire on Lap 42 as he couldn’t continue on for longer.
The misery for Perez continued on as he was handed a 5s penalty for track limits, while Gasly too had two track limit penalties too in a quick space. Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Albon got their first 5s penalty too for track limits.
As the final run of pit stops started to kick in, Verstappen continued to lead from Piastri in net second amid McLaren team orders of wanting to hold position with Norris in third. But the Brit didn’t want to do that as he started to get the quick laps in.
Russell slotted in fourth after his four stops in a mighty recovery ahead of Leclerc in the Top 5. It was getting tasty at the fag end of the Top 10 where Gasly passed Stroll by going off and forced to give the place back which brought Perez in.
The process saw Gasly lose to both Stroll and Perez but the Frenchman got past him where the Mexican was told not to push considering both Stroll and Gasly had 5s time penalty against their names. At the front, Verstappen cruised to F1 Qatar GP win.
The newly crowned 2023 F1 champion was ahead of Piastri and Norris on the podium with the Brit ending up close behind the Australian. Russell hung onto fourth despite the soft degrading faster as Leclerc was fifth from Alonso and Ocon.
Bottas was eighth as Alfa Romeo had double points with Zhou Guanyu in 10th behind Perez after penalties to Stroll and Gasly dropped them to 11th and 12th. Post-race, Perez was handed another 5s penalty which dropped him to 10th with Guanyu in ninth.
Albon was 13th from Haas’ Kevin Magnussen with Tsunoda in 15th from Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg and AlphaTauri’s Liam Lawson.
DNF: Sargeant, Hamilton. DNS: Sainz
UPDATE: Post-race, Hamilton was cleared of any penalty for his collision with Russell even though there was a scope of him being at fault. The stewards took into the account of it being a typical Lap 1 and Turn 1 incident and let him go.
But Hamilton was handed a non-driving reprimand and a fine of €50,000 where €25,000 is suspended provided he doesn’t commit another offence like this in 2023. This was for him crossing a live track after the collision and he was inches away from Russell.
Alonso, meanwhile, was reprimanded for unsafe rejoining after his off in front of Leclerc. Here: https://www.fia.com/sites/default/files/decision-document/2023%20Qatar%20Grand%20Prix%20-%20Infringement%20-%20Car%2014%20-%20Leaving%20the%20track%20and%20rejoining%20unsafely.pdf
The FIA has also shared the list of 51 laps that were deleted during the course of F1 Qatar GP: https://www.fia.com/sites/default/files/decision-document/2023%20Qatar%20Grand%20Prix%20-%20Race%20Deleted%20Lap%20Times.pdf