Verstappen on pole in Qatar as track limits bite McLaren drivers
Russell 2nd, Hamilton 3rd
Max Verstappen took his 10th pole position of 2023 with his opening lap of Q3 in a tough qualifying session for the 2023 FIA Formula 1 Qatar Grand Prix in which McLaren’s Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri both had their final lap times deleted for track infringements. Norris’ fall from P2 to P10 meant that George Russell claimed a front-row start, while the Mercedes’ driver’s team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, inherited third when Piastri then dropped from third to sixth.
At the start of the opening session, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc set the pace with a lap of 1:26.444. Versatappen then slotted into P2, just 0.044s off the Monegasque driver, but both were soon beaten by Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso who stole top spot with a lap of 1:25.685.
With four minutes to go, Leclerc vaulted from sixth back to P1 with a lap of 1:25.452, a little over two tenths of a second clear of Alonso. The final flyers were starting to come in, however, and a flurry of improvement saw Verstappen jump back to P1 with a final lap of 1:25.007 ahead of Norris, Alonso and the second McLaren of Piastri.
At the bottom of the order, there was no room in the second session for 16th-placed Logan Sargeant, who was denied a Q2 spot by Williams team-mate Alex Albon, who was less than a tenth of a second quicker than the American. Also ruled out at the end of the session were Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, AlphaTauri’s Liam Lawson, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu.
At the start of Q2, Verstappen was quickly into gear and he claimed top sport with a lap of 1:24.758 on used Soft tyres that out him four tenths of a second ahead of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly.
In the final runs, Norris was first across the line and he set the P1 pace at 1:24.685. Piastri then slotted into second place, 0.039s off his team-mate. However, Verstappen was just starting his final flyer and the Red Bull bypassed both to once again take top spot, this time with a lap of 1:24.483.
Further back, though, two expected front runners were in trouble. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz couldn’t find pace on new softs late in the session and he was eliminated in P12 behind AlhaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda. Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez looked safe in P10 thanks to a lap of 1:25.275, but soon after crossing the line his time was deleted for a track limits transgression at Turn 5. He slid to P13 behind Sainz and was eliminated ahead of Williams’ Alex Albon and Haas’ Nico Hülkenberg.
When the top-10 shootout got underway, it was Piastri who took the initiative, setting a lap of 1:24.540, as Leclerc and Norris had their first flyers deleted for track limits, Leclerc due to a lurid snap at Turn 5.
Verstappen was flying on his first run, however, and the Dutchman set a tough target time of 1:23.778 as Hamilton took second place, over half a second adrift of the champion. Russell took third after the opening runs, ahead of Piastri and Leclerc.
And there was no getting close to that time in the final runs – even for Verstappen. The champion had a moment of oversteer early in his final flyer and was forced to abandon his lap. But it was a similar story elsewhere, as Norris and Leclerc had their final laps deleted for track limits, while Hamilton also had a slide midway through his lap. It meant that the Dutch driver’s opener was enough to hand him his 10th pole of 2023, over four tenths of a second clear of Russell.
Elsewhere, Hamilton finished third ahead of Alonso, with Leclerc in fifth place. Sixth place went to Piastri, who also had a lap time deleted, with Gasly in seventh ahead of team-mate Esteban Ocon and Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas.
|Pos.||Driver||Team||Q1 time||Q2 time||Q3 time|
|01||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Honda RBPT RB19||1:25.007||1:24.483||1:23.778|
|02||George Russell||Mercedes W14||1:25.334||1:24.827||1:24.219|
|03||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes W14||1:26.076||1:24.381||1:24.305|
|04||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin Mercedes AMR23||1:25.223||1:25.214||1:24.369|
|05||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari SF-23||1:25.452||1:25.079||1:24.424|
|06||Oscar Piastri||McLaren Mercedes MCL60||1:25.266||1:24.724||1:24.540|
|07||Pierre Gasly||Alpine Renault A523||1:25.566||1:24.918||1:24.553|
|08||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault A523||1:25.711||1:24.928||1:24.763|
|09||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari C43||1:26.038||1:25.297||1:25.058|
|10||Lando Norris||McLaren Mercedes MCL60||1:25.131||1:24.685||-:—.---|
|11||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri Honda RBPT AT04||1:26.058||1:25.301|
|12||Carlos Sainz||Ferrari SF-23||1:25.808||1:25.328|
|13||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull Honda RBPT RB19||1:25.991||1:25.432|
|14||Alex Albon||Williams Mercedes FW45||1:26.118||1:25.707|
|15||Nico Hülkenberg||Haas Ferrari VF-23||1:25.904||1:25.783|
|16||Logan Sargeant||Williams Mercedes FW45||1:26.210|
|17||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Mercedes AMR23||1:26.345|
|18||Liam Lawson||AlphaTauri Honda RBPT AT04||1:26.635|
|19||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari VF-23||1:27.046|
|20||Guanyu Zhou||Alfa Romeo Ferrari C43||1:27.432|