Max Verstappen won the Qatar Grand Prix from pole position, with the McLarens as his main competitors after a start-off collision involving the Mercedes two.
The circuit was narrowed at T12-T13 in the hopes that keeping the drivers off the pyramid kerbs in that section would at least assist to prevent the problem after Pirelli detected sidewall concerns with the tires following Friday’s practice session. There will be a limit on the number of laps that drivers are allowed to race on the tyres – 18 for new tyres and it will depend on how many laps they had already been used for for used tyres – because Pirelli felt the changes weren’t doing enough to combat the issue after yesterday’s 19-lap Sprint. The 57-lap race will therefore be highly busy in the pits.
Ferrari won’t be as busy as other teams, though, since Carlos Sainz won’t be competing and his P12 will be left empty due to a fuel system issue. There will be 18 cars starting on the grid as a result, with Sergio Perez starting in the pit lane because Red Bull started assembling the spare chassis for him before receiving the go-ahead from the Technical Delegate. After his collision in the Sprint with Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg, Perez’s chassis from yesterday was too badly damaged to utilize.
2023 race results Grand Prix of Qatar
The medium tyres were undoubtedly the favorites today after a very evenly distributed start to the Sprint, but Lewis Hamilton will start in third place, Valtteri Bottas will start in ninth, Liam Lawson will start in seventeenth, and Kevin Magnussen will start in eighteenth, while Perez will start on the hard tyres from the pit lane.
The only drivers starting on fresh tires are Lawson, Magnussen, Zhou Guanyu, P.11 Yuki Tsunoda, Alex Albon, P.13 Sergeant, P.15 Lawson, and P.19 Perez. As a result, they will only be able to complete up to 18 laps before they must pit.
The 2023 champion and polesitter Max Verstappen had a strong start, but Mercedes had a terrible race. At the first corner, Hamilton, who was running on the faster soft tyres, battled George Russell for P2. Verstappen, the seven-time champion, spun out and wound up beached in the gravel because Hamilton, who was on the outside, wedged Russell between himself and Verstappen, who was on the inside. Russell experienced a spinning incident as well but was able to dodge the gravel trap and was forced to stop at the end of the lap. After the race, the stewards will review the incident and look into Hamilton’s decision to cross the track after getting out of his car.
Verstappen was followed by Oscar Piastri, yesterday’s Sprint winner, and Fernando Alonso when the Safety Car was summoned to let the Mercedes to be removed.
On lap 5, after Bottas, Magnussen, Lance Stroll, and Lawson had all made their initial pit stops the previous lap, Russell had climbed up to P14 and was now directly behind Perez who had begun from the pit lane.
As soon as the race got underway again, Nico Hulkenberg was given a 10 second penalty for starting in the wrong place on the starting grid. The Haas driver had forgotten to leave Sainz’ P12 empty and had instead intended to start in P14.
By lap 10, Verstppen and Piastri had a margin of little over two seconds, with Alonso trailing by another two seconds. However, Charles Leclerc replaced Alonso in the final podium position on lap 12 when the Aston Martin driver made his first pit stop, returning in P13.
Alonso was passed by Piastri and Leclerc early in the next lap, but the Spaniard did catch up to them a few turns later. In order to maintain the same order, Lando Norris, who had climbed into P2, stopped on lap 14 and then restarted right behind Leclerc. Russell had assumed P2 at that time, but he only held it for one lap before handing it back to Albon when he made his second pit stop of the race, dropping him to P15.
Verstappen had a 23-second advantage over Albon when he entered the pit lane and emerged close behind the Williams driver when the race leader conducted his pit stop at the conclusion of lap 17. Perez had advanced to P3 but slipped back to P16 after following his colleague into the pits.
Albon slipped into the pits at the end of the lap, so he didn’t get to take advantage of the view from the front for too long. Norris defeated Leclerc at the start of the race to move up to P6, however it was actually net P4 because the drivers in front, Bottas and Stroll, would be making their second pit stop of the race in a few laps.
Albon and Perez both earned black and white warning flags, which meant that the next time they go outside the track boundaries, they would be handed a penalty. It was also looking like track constraints will be a factor in the race.
The second round of pit stops began on lap 26 with Piastri and Leclerc scurrying into the garage, lowering them from positions two and five to positions eight and fourteen. Leclerc then switched to the hard tires while Piastri continued to use the mediums.
Alonso sent a message to his team informing them that his seat was on fire and asking if anything could be done at his stop. The Spaniard stopped on lap 27 and nothing appeared to have happened in the cockpit, so the answer appeared to be no. Alonso’s situation didn’t improve, however, as Norris overtook him in the pits to take P3 instead of him.
Before their subsequent tyre changes, Russell and Perez had once more climbed to positions P2 and P3, but the Red Bull driver hadn’t been able to stay inside the white lines and would now have to serve a 5-second penalty. Russell had a chance to finish P4 in the eyes of Mercedes. With 22 seconds separating Verstappen from P2 at the front, he was instructed to gradually and sustainably pick up the pace.
The McLarens were able to move back into P2 and P3 almost 34 seconds behind Verstappen as a result of the Mercedes pit stop on lap 33, rejoining in P5 on hards; Perez had already stopped a lap or so earlier. Alonso got out of shape at P2 and took a bumpy gravel path while that was going on. The stewards may be investigating it as an unsafe rejoin when he managed to go onto an escape lane and sped back out onto the track in front of Leclerc.
At the conclusion of lap 34, Verstappen switched to the hard tires and maintained his lead with a six second margin. Sargeant, who was in position 18, was not feeling well at the same time. Sky F1 analysts were informed by James Vowles that the rookie had been well before to the race but had reported feeling sick to his stomach. Vowels offered to retire the car over the radio to his driver, but the American replied that he would want to keep driving. Unfortunately, Sargeant’s situation didn’t improve, and on lap 41, he was forced to retire.
While Stroll was shown the black and white flag and given his own 5 second penalty on lap 4X, Perez, who was currently in P11, was given another 5 second penalty for track limitations on lap 40.
On lap 44, Piastri was signaled for his last stop and re-joined in P4 on the hards. Norris was only a few seconds behind his colleague when the Australian pitted, and he was setting fast times before the Australian’s stop for hards on the next lap. The Brit and his teammate started together, but Piastri had the momentum that allowed him to maintain his lead through T1. Though the hard compound did take some time to warm up, the difference between them by the end of the outlap was back to 2 seconds.
After a few circuits, Norris was informed that the team wanted them to maintain their places and finish the race. The British driver claimed he was quicker and proved it by setting the fastest lap of the competition. He wasn’t particularly pleased with the statement. Norris believed that McLaren’s justification, that they were concerned about Russell catching them, was accurate
Verstappen made his final stop the next lap, staying in the lead after switching back to medium tyres, albeit the margin over P2 had shrunk to only three seconds due to the front left tire’s sluggish removal at the stop. Russell made his final stop on lap 51, staying in P4 after switching to soft tyres.
Perez wasn’t afraid to try to get the better of Stroll and Pierre Gasly as the Alpine driver was attempting to give the Aston Martin driver P9 back after he had made the overtake off track, even though Perez was disqualified from the Sprint for doing so. Stroll maintained his lead while Perez tried to pass both of them; however, there was no collision, and the Mexican was able to go on, which was an improvement over yesterday.
Verstappen ultimately won the race by 4.8 seconds over Piastri, who was followed by Norris in third place by little over a second. Piastri responded that he thought Coulthard was going to say he’d been given a 5 second penalty (as it was during the post-qualifying interviews on Friday that he was told he’d lost his fastest time) when Coulthard said he believed the Australian had been given Driver of the Day.
The drivers all appeared to be in a terrible state; Verstappen sat on the floor before relocating to one of the seats while Piastri was lying down in the cooldown area.
Russell’s soft tires didn’t bring him as close to the podium contenders as McLaren had anticipated, but Leclerc finished in fifth place and Mercedes were right to predict P4. Alonso finished sixth for Aston Martin ahead of Ocon and the two Alfa Romeo drivers, and Bottas finished eighth ahead of Zhou. Perez received the last point, while Verstappen earned the fastest lap point with a 1:24.319. Stroll and Gasly took the checkered flag in positions 9 and 10, however due to individual time penalties, they were relegated to positions 11 and 12.