Oscar Piastri won the Safety Car-enhanced Sprint during the Qatar Grand Prix, while Max Verstappen successfully defended his championship title in P2.
Oscar Piastri will get to start his first Formula 1 race from P1 after locking down the front row a little while ago. When the lights go out, Lando Norris and Max Verstappen will both be attempting to unseat him from that position. Verstappen only needs three points to win the 2023 Championship and become a three-time World Champion.
Results of the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix in sprints
The choice of medium and soft compound tyres for the Sprint was fairly evenly distributed; twelve cars, including the top three, opted for the former, while Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz, Charles Leclerc, Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly, Lance Stroll, and Logan Sargeant chose the latter.
Piastri got off to a strong start as the Sprint got off, managing to maintain his position at the front of the pack as Norris and Verstappen were surrounded by Russell and the Ferraris, lowering them to P6 and P5, respectively. Before the first lap was completed, the race was stopped when the Safety Car was dispatched to cover the AlphaTauri of Liam Lawson being rescued from the gravel at T2.
Piastri held off Russell at the restart and for the first few bends of lap 3 before the soft tyres lit up more quickly than the mediums and the Mercedes took up the lead. Norris and Alonso fought hard for P6 at the restart; the McLaren driver won the battle, and the Aston Martin driver ultimately lost to Ocon for P7.
Logan Sargeant’s Williams got beached between Turns 9 and 10, thus the Safety Car returned before the end of Lap 3. The race wasn’t back on for long, though. While some soft-shod drivers were reporting graining, medium-tyre runners were being reassured that the race would come to them.
On the seventh lap of racing, Russell won the restart to open up a gap of two seconds while Piastri had to fend off Sainz’s challenge for second place. Verstappen was starting to retake the lead behind them on lap 9, effortlessly disposing of Leclerc at the first corner.
Verstappen moved into P3 on the next lap as the runners on soft tires began to struggle. At the beginning of lap 11, Piastri had overtaken Russell, and the McLaren driver was once again in the lead as his teammate also passed Leclerc for fifth place.
Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg, and Ocon got into a collision. When Perez attempted to pass the Alpine and Haas for P8, they ended up three wide on the track and Hulkenberg was forced to squeeze between the other two vehicles. The other cars were beached, however the Haas vehicle did manage to navigate the gravel and return to the pits to withdraw. On lap 11, that prompted the third Safety Car of the contest to emerge.
Russell wanted to pit, knowing that he’d be a sitting duck for the medium runners on the next few circuits, but Mercedes encouraged him to stay out because they wouldn’t have any chance of earning points if they did.
On lap 15, the 19-lap Sprint began going again. Verstappen passed Russell for second place and turned his attention to Piastri, who was little over two seconds ahead of him. On the soft runners, Norris was also making progress. The McLaren driver had dropped to P6 following the restart, but in the opening turns of lap 17, he passed Leclerc and then Sainz.
Verstappen’s speed was unable to close the deficit, and Piastri won the Sprint by more than a second and a half by taking the chequered flag first for the first time in his Formula One career. Verstappen was crowned a three-time champion after finishing in second place, while Norris finished third.
Russell managed to hang on to P4, but Lewis Hamilton overtook both of the Ferrari in the closing circuits thanks to the medium tyres that had let him move up from P12 to P5. The final point of the Sprint went to Alex Albon, who overtook the soft-shod Alonso on the final lap. Sainz was P6 ahead of Leclerc.