Max Verstappen took F1 Qatar GP pole for Sunday’s race in sprint weekend ahead of Mercedes pair of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton.
The floodlights were on for F1 Qatar GP qualifying at Lusail circuit as the twitches for the drivers continued on throughout the session. It led to multiple lap times deletion for a lot of drivers as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen set the pace with a 1m25.007s time.
He led McLaren’s Lando Norris and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso in the Top 3. Replays showed a moment at the main straight between the Spaniard and Charles Leclerc where the Monegasque passed him at Turn 1 which the Aston Martin driver felt was undone.
While the Spaniard had a good lap time, teammate Lance Stroll was knocked out in Q1 in 17th with a 1m26.345s lap behind Williams’ Logan Sargeant (1m26.210s), who was bumped out by teammate Alexander Albon after the chequered flag by just 0.092s.
AlphaTauri’s Liam Lawson (1m26.635s) was in the drop list in 18th, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen (1m27.045s) in 19th and Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu (1m27.432s) 20th. The FIA noted Lewis Hamilton, Oscar Piastri, Yuki Tsunoda and Lawson for failing to follow race directors’ note.
The second part of F1 Qatar GP qualifying was tight in the end as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton led the way with a 1m24.381s lap ahead of Verstappen and Norris in the Top 3. It was a late lap from the 7-time world champion which got him the top spot.
The lap deletions continued on and it eventually caught out Red Bull’s Sergio Perez who was in the Top 10 but the lap deletion dropped him to 13th with a 1m25.462s lap. He was not alone as Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz (1m25.328s) was with him in 12th.
The Spaniard had a moment with Verstappen when he was on a slow lap and the latter on his out lap. AlphaTauri’s Tsunoda (1m25.301s), meanwhile, missed out on the Top 10 in 11th by 0.004s as Perez’s moment helped Valtteri Bottas to make it in Q3.
Williams’ Albon (1m25.707s) ended up 14th as he had to abort his final lap with a big moment onto the kerb, while Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg (1m25.783s) was 15th after his quick lap was deleted as well.
The final part in F1 Qatar GP qualifying saw Verstappen in the lead with a 1m23.778s lap from the Mercedes pair of Hamilton and George Russell in the Top 3 after the first run, as McLaren’s Norris had his quick lap deleted to leave him with no laps initially.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc had his lap deleted too but he went for another run in fifth as replays showed a possible impeding from Norris on him. For the final run, Verstappen went wide and couldn’t improve on his lap to take F1 pole in Qatar GP.
Norris was second on the line but seemingly went off the white line at Turn 10. His lap was eventually deleted to drop him to 10th with no time as Russell (1m24.219s) got a front-row start to Sunday’s race and Piastri landing in third but not for long.
Mid-interview, Piastri’s lap was deleted as well after Turn 5 off which promoted Hamilton (1m24.305s) to third from Alonso (1m24.369s) and Leclerc (1m24.424s), while Piastri (1m24.540s) was sixth from Alpine pair of Pierre Gasly (1m24.553s) & Esteban Ocon (1m24.763s), with Bottas (1m25.058s) slotting in ninth.
UPDATE: Sainz was handed a warning by the stewards for his erratic driving against Verstappen in qualifying. The Spaniard noted that he was defending to maintain the lap time on his cool down lap. While the stewards accepted the argument but felt it was still a dangerous way to do so.
In another investigation for multiple drivers including Hamilton, Tsunoda, Piastri and Lawson, the FIA cleared them of no further action for failing to adhere to Race Director’s note about drivers exceeding the 1m46.000s time limit.
The FIA, meanwhile, released that details of the 22 laps that were deleted for track limits: https://www.fia.com/sites/default/files/decision-document/2023%20Qatar%20Grand%20Prix%20-%20Qualifying%20Deleted%20Lap%20Times.pdf