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#1096 2023 Qatar Grand Prix

2022-12-07 23:00

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#2023, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Nicola Carriero, Nicole Masi, Valentina Bossi, Maria Cira Vitiello,

#1096 2023 Qatar Grand Prix

We are right in the middle of the second half of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship, two weeks after the Japanese Grand Prix, and everyone is back

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We are right in the middle of the second half of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship, two weeks after the Japanese Grand Prix, and everyone is back to the Middle East, for the Qatar Grand Prix. This weekend includes qualifying on Friday - the order of arrival will be the same as the start on Sunday - and Sprint Shootout and Sprint Race on Saturday. On the eve of the Grand Prix it seems that this edition will be attended by 120.000 spectators during the weekend, which represents the absolute record for the Grand Prix. The previous record belongs to the inaugural edition in 2021, characterized by 80.000 spectators over the weekend. Grandstand capacity has seen an increase from 8.000 to 52.000 after the track underwent redevelopment work. On the Lusail circuit, Max Verstappen has the chance to win his third consecutive title. The reigning world champion has a lead of 177 points in the standings over the second-placed teammate Sergio Pérez. The title will come if Verstappen will finish sixth in the Sprint Race, with Pérez winning the short race. If Verstappen scores no points in the fast race and Pérez wins, the Dutch driver would need at least the eighth place in the race, regardless of Pérez' result. Verstappen could win the title as his advantage would be equal to the number of points still obtainable in the season, 146. He could become the first driver in the history of the category to obtain the world title during a Sprint Race and, for the seventh time in the history of Formula 1, a title would be awarded before Sunday. Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing's top driver, on one hand is calm because the constructors' world title is in the drawer, on the other he hopes to be able to win the world title here in Qatar: 

 

"It feels good to be heading to Qatar with the Constructors' Championship secured. The track there is really fun to drive, although it's going to be a tough weekend for all of us as it's so hot there. The temperatures will definitely make it interesting. This weekend is also a Sprint race so we need to make sure we learn as much as we can from the practice session on Friday. The Drivers' Championship can also be won during the Sprint race on Saturday so that is our main aim. Hopefully it will be a weekend to remember".

 

For this Grand Prix, Pirelli, the sole tire supplier, offers, in light of the technical characteristics of the circuit, the choice between C1, C2 and C3 compound tyres, the type of tires that characterizes the central range of the type of tires made available from the Italian company. The Italian manufacturer opts for these compounds as asphalt is abrasive. Grip can be compromised by the sand that comes from the desert where the track is located. This is a highly demanding circuit with regards to tires from a layout point of view and the new asphalt. As in Japan, in Qatar Pirelli will bring the C1 as P Zero White hard, the C2 as P Zero Yellow medium and the C3 as P Zero Red soft. Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, comments on the choice of tires for the Qatar race. The circuit has been left for a good two years, so it's like returning to a completely new track, which has also undergone extensive structural and track interventions, and everyone needs to understand how the tires will react:

 

"Formula 1 now returns to Qatar, two years after its debut there in 2021. But in many ways, it's another new beginning, as the cars are now very different to the ones we saw a couple of years ago and the Losail circuit has been completely resurfaced, with modified kerbs as well. On paper, the track's main features remain the same - with a main straight just over a kilometer long and 16 corners - but it's clear that the changes made over the last two years mean that the data collected from the first grand prix is only relatively useful. In terms of severity, Losail is a very challenging circuit for tyres, similar to Silverstone and Suzuka. So it's no coincidence that the compounds chosen are the same: C1, C2, and C3. There's quite a variety of corners, most of them medium speed and high speed. The series of corners between Turns 12 and 14 is quite reminiscent of the famous Turn 8 at Istanbul: one of the most demanding corners for tires in the recent history of Formula 1. This sequence is also one of the most influential factors to a good lap time. The fact that 11 of the 16 corners are right-handers puts particular stress on the left of the car, especially at the front, but the energy levels seen going through the tires in 2021 were still quite well-balanced between the two axles. Another factor making the Qatar Grand Prix even more challenging for us as well as the drivers and the teams is the return of the Sprint format".

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And adds:

 

"Just one hour of free practice will be available on Friday to determine the set-up and assess tyre behavior over long runs; furthermore that session happens in the heat of the day - which will warm up the asphalt - as opposed to qualifying and the two races, which take place at night. So everything is in place for an interesting weekend as well as perhaps a few surprises; the ability to adapt quickly and well to the track could deliver a significant advantage".

 

Regarding the cars, the sixth unit relating to the exhaust system is installed on the car of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Yuki Tsunoda, and the seventh unit of the same component is installed on the cars of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly. All drivers are not penalized on the starting grid as the new components installed are among those that can be used within the maximum number established by the technical regulations. The fourth gearbox and fourth transmission are installed on the cars of Oscar Piastri, Lando Norris, Liam Lawson and Tsunoda. All drivers are not penalized on the starting grid as the new components installed are among those that can be used within the maximum number established by the technical regulations. Lando Norris, McLaren driver, arrives in Qatar with excellent results. Both in Japan and Singapore he climbed to the second step of the podium. The objective in Qatar is to maximize the potential of his car: 

 

"We're back racing after a week off. We had a very successful race in Japan with another P2 for me and a double podium for the team. The car had strong pace, which is encouraging as we go into the final seven races of the season. Qatar up next. It's another Sprint race weekend, so more opportunity for points. This is only the second time we're racing at the Lusail International Circuit, so we will have to learn as much as we can from the Friday practice session. I've been back at the MTC with the engineers in preparation over the last two weeks. We'll look to extract the maximum from the car and hopefully bring home some more points".

 

Even Oscar Piastri can feel strong, after the excellent third place in Japan, his first podium in the top category:

 

"After a great week away from racing taking in my first podium, it 's time to head to Qatar. This is another new track for me, but of course that makes it all the more interesting. I spent some time last week with my engineers going over what we learned in Japan and what we can take forward to Qatar. It's a Sprint weekend, which I do enjoy. Hopefully, we can hit the ground running as there are more chances for points. I'm excited and can't wait to get going".

 

Andrea Stella, McLaren’s Team Principal, can consider himself satisfied. As he anticipated at the beginning of the season, McLaren's project would start to bear fruit around the middle of the year; thus, their riders can play for a lot, not only the podium but also the victory: 

 

"As we head into Qatar GP week, it's important to acknowledge how far we have come in the season. Achieving a P2 and P3 in Japan was not an easy task, but it was made possible by the quality of the work of the teams' work at the factory and trackside. We're more determined than ever to continue improving, as we work towards being consistent in fighting at the top of the field. The Qatar race is fairly new to F1, as we have only visited the Lusail International Circuit once before back in 2021. However, this is the first time we will be bringing the new generation of cars here, so everyone will be trying to do the most of the practice sessions, and the Sprint format only adds to that challenge. always, we aim to come away with as many points as possible as we look to maximize our performance in the Constructors' Championship".

 

Toto Wolff, Mercedes' Team Principal, arrives in Qatar with a certain bitterness regarding the Japanese results: 

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"We knew our peace in Japan wouldn't match what we had been able to show in Singapore. They are very different circuits and the characteristics of Suzuka highlighted the weaknesses of the W14. It was therefore important that we limited the damage to Ferrari in the Championship. With six races to go, we are relishing the fight and will be giving it all to stay ahead, starting this weekend in Qatar. We return to Lusail for the first time since 2021. The inaugural Grand Prix there was a successful one for us, so we are looking forward to going back. With its sweeping turns, it's a demanding circuit and one the drivers also enjoy. Since our last visit, there have been changes both on and off track. A key feature of FP1 therefore will be understanding the effect of the track resurfacing. As it is a Sprint weekend, we will have limited time to get on top of this and find a solid set-up for the rest of the event. It will be an interesting task and one we are excited for".

 

For Sergio Perez Japan was undoubtedly the worst race of his career. In qualifying he placed fifth, but the race was a succession of errors that forced him to retire twice. Qatar, therefore, must represent the moment to put everything behind: 

 

"Qatar is a chance to get back to racing for me with two opportunities to win across the weekend. The Sprint format always throws up challenges when it comes to setting the car up, so we will work hard together to ensure we are ready for qualifying on Friday night. The track there can be tricky, as we learned in 2021, grip is affected by the sand on the surface, so you must be alert. A night race is always fun though and this might be the hottest event we have all season, so it will involve a lot of management across all three days to get the most out of the car. We are coming into this race as World Champions, and for me personally, I would like to show that out on track".

 

Frédéric Vasseur, Ferrari’s Team Principal , is certainly not satisfied with what this year's car is bringing home. Fluctuating results, which its two drivers manage to achieve by maximizing the capabilities of the cars. The only way to tackle this second part of the championship is to test the car to the limit, the skills of the drivers and understand what's wrong and what to improve: 

 

"On paper, the Lusail track looks like being another stern test for the SF-23. Ever since Zandvoort , we have learned a lot about how best to manage our package and once again in Qatar, we will do our best to give Charles and Carlos a car with which they can fight in the very close battles we have seen at every race, fought out to the nearest thousandths, behind the championship leaders. This will be the first time we race in Qatar with the current generation of ground effect cars and we have just one free practice session, as this is another Sprint weekend. It means that the preparation work carried out back in the factory and in the simulator takes on even greater importance and we feel well prepared. Once again, the aim is to bring home as many points as possible as we continue to fight for second place in the Constructors' classification".

 

Charles Leclerc is looking very carefully at the temperatures that will be experienced in Qatar: 

 

"Two years ago, it was definitely note this hot (Note: the 2021 race was held in mid-November). The temperatures are higher than in Singapore, although especially in the evening, the humidity is similar so I'd say we're heading for the most extreme race of the season from a physical point of view. It's no secret that I like this type of weekend, because every day you go out on track for something important, from qualifying on Friday to the whole of Saturday given over to the short race, before the Grand Prix itself on Sunday. Having said that, I don't think the fact I've always gone well on weekends with this format automatically means we will be competitive here too. As usual, we will have to work hard, making the most of the one hour of free practice and then give it our best shot for qualifying tomorrow night. The competition among the teams fighting for second place in the championship is very close and starting positions could make a big difference. In recent races, whatever the track characteristics, we have always been competitive compared to our closest rivals and we will do all we can to continue this trend, relying on the better understanding we now have of our current car package".

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Carlos Sainz Jr. first talks about the Ryder Cup and then expresses his concerns about the humidity that can also be felt at night in Qatar, an aspect that alarms the drivers in view of the long race in very close contact with the hot asphalt: 

 

"I had a lot of fun, I love golf and to be able to meet so many of its stars was very special. It helped me recharge my batteries after the Singapore-Japan double-header and now I'm ready to do my best here in Qatar. I remembered very hot days and cooler evenings, but at this time of year, it stays hot even at night and the humidity level is very high. But it's the same for everyone and we are set to fight on equal terms from a physical point of view. I like the format. Even if undoubtedly, in this case it's an added challenge given that we only have one hour of free practice to get to grips with a track where we have only raced once before and which has been resurfaced and the kerbs have been changed. There are many unknowns and not much time to prepare, so teamwork will make the difference. In recent races, we managed to have pretty consistent performance, making no mistakes and with a great execution. We must continue like that this weekend, even if, on paper, this track does not seem that well suited to our package. Let's see how it goes once we hit the track".

 

Alex Albon has demonstrated his great talent in every race despite having a complicated car to manage: 

 

"I'm looking forward to heading to Qatar this week , as it's a circuit I'm yet to race at, so I'm looking forward to the experience. It's been quite a fun circuit to drive when I've been practicing on the simulator and after watching the previous race here in 2021, it looks like there's opportunity for some good racing, especially with it being another sprint format. With these hot conditions and another night race, we'll be preparing for these conditions, so let's see how we get on" .

 

On Friday, October 6, 2023, the Qatar Grand Prix weekend officially starts. Only one free practice session will be held, as well as the qualifying session for the main race. As the season is already going towards an end, only few teams are still bringing upgrades for this race, as Alpine, Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri. Among the news of the day, the most relevant is the possible entry of a new team in the Circus, that is Andretti Formula Racing LLC, a name that evokes many memories from the history of Formula 1. The entry has been approved by the FIA, and now it is up to the FOM to evaluate its status. Mario Andretti is a former Italo-American, Croatia-born driver, who won the Formula 1 World Championship in 1978 with Lotus, and dedicated all his life to motorsports, creating a legacy in many categories, as some of his children and grandchildren also became professional drivers, and his son, Michael, after his racing career started to run the Andretti Green Racing team (now Andretti Autosport) in IndyCar, Formula E, CART, Extreme E and many other series. It will be the second American team on the grid, as long as Haas stays, but it is still not known in which year it will debut, provided that it will be definitely greenlit, as the 2026 season with its new rules is approaching. Back to the Grand Prix, Liam Lawson is still replacing Daniel Ricciardo in AlphaTauri, while the Australian promises to come back for the Americas Grand Prix. The New Zealander is still looking for a seat for the next season, while officially the only one left is at Williams, with Sargeant who has not been confirmed yet and whose contract expires at the end of the year. The weather is predicted to be fine, with temperatures up to 36 °C, so there might not be many obstacles to the two sessions of the day, except for the chance of gusts of wind bringing sand on track that may disrupt the course of action. FP1 will be the only session for testing the setup and feeling the track before the qualifying, and in one hour the teams have to make sure that everything works out, or the rest of the weekend will be compromised. At the end of a well-fought free practice session, without incidents or interruptions, the fastest one is still Max Verstappen with the time of 1'27"428, obtained in the very last few minutes, while Sainz closes second (1'27"762) and his teammate Leclerc is third (1'27"909). Fernando Alonso is fourth and Perez is fifth, while the biggest surprise comes from Yuki Tsunoda who is sixth, and from Nico Hulkenberg, seventh. The Mercedes occupy eight place with Russell and thirteenth place with Lewis Hamilton.

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Piastri and Norris with McLaren close the top ten. The track is very slippery due to the sand, and handling could be an issue, especially in qualifying and in the race. Carlos Sainz jokes about this, saying in a team radio that his father would have been quick in these conditions. As the night falls on Doha and the lights are turned on, the qualifying session starts. The main enemy of drivers here, apart from the sand, are the track limits, which can be very tricky, especially in Turn 5 and Turns 12, 13 and 14, a very fast sequence of right-handers that can be dealt with on a single racing line among the three apexes, but in which the temptation of placing all wheels on the kerb, so beyond the white line, as well as understeer forcing to move away from the ideal racing line, might be costly. In Q1, Lando Norris  is the first one to have his fast lap deleted due to track limits violation. The track evolves very quickly, and if Leclerc is the fastest in the first few minutes of the session with 1'26"4, Alonso immediately sets the bar at 1'25"6, a very huge difference in a matter of minutes. Leclerc also had its fastest lap at 1'26"0 deleted, then it is Albon’s turn to be denied its fastest lap, and now, together with Lando Norris, he has only one chance to qualify to Q2, when only four minutes remain. Lando eventually makes it, setting the best time at 1'25"1, then Verstappen beats him with a lap of 1'25"0. Albon, at the end of Q1, manages to snatch a late fifteenth place, excluding his teammate Logan Sargeant, sixteenth. The other eliminated drivers are, from seventeenth to twentieth, Stroll, Lawson, Magnussen and Zhou. In Q2, Sainz struggles a lot while completing a fast lap and barely reaches the top ten, so is out of Q3 after two consecutive pole positions in Monza and Singapore. Sergio Perez, who was on the brink of elimination, had his fastest time deleted, so closes Q2 behind Carlos Sainz Jr., with the Spaniard placing twelfth and the Mexican thirteenth. 

 

Yuki Tsunoda is the first of the excluded from Q3, eleventh, while Albon is fourteenth and Hulkenberg is fifteenth. Valtteri Bottas manages to bring back an Alfa Romeo to the top ten, which has not happened since the Hungary Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton is the fastest in Q2, with the time of 1'24"381. Q3 is another track limits carnage. Max Verstappen is still the fastest with a lap in 1'23"77, the two McLarens follow him closely but both Norris’ and Piastri’s best attempts are cancelled for track limits violations, so Norris has to move down to tenth place on the grid, with no time set, and Piastri goes back to sixth place, after he had already celebrated his third place in the parc fermé. Russell rises up to the front row with a time of 1'24"219, followed by Hamilton (1'24"305) and Alonso (1'24"369). Leclerc is fifth (1'24"424), a sigh of relief for Ferrari, which seems to experience a very difficult weekend. Gasly and Ocon with Alpine occupy seventh and eighth place, while Bottas closes in ninth place. It is the thirtieth pole position in career for the Dutchman, who is very close to winning his third world championship in a row, equalling Jackie Stewart, Jack Brabham, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna. This has been certainly a session that will start not a few discussions, especially on the question of feasibility of running on a circuit that not every driver on the grid knows well (for some like Zhou, Sargeant and Lawson it is an absolute debut) and about on which the teams have gathered not enough data, and, what’s more, organising a sprint weekend on it, at a very frenetic pace and with cars that do not behave well due to the presence of wind, sand and high temperature, let alone all the talk on track limits, which in recent years have never been so prominent and decisive. Max Verstappen is still the man of the day, and despite the tricky conditions he found a good balance and enough speed to dominate again:

 

"I’m very happy to be on pole. The tarmac was quite slippery so I was really having to build up lap after lap, but I think we were in a good window and we were improving quite nicely through each run. I think we also made the right calls after FP1 heading into qualifying. Tomorrow will be interesting, with the different session times and temperatures, but let’s see what we can do. Overall though, I think we can all be happy with the performance of the car today".

 

Sergio Perez, instead, found more difficulties and the deleted lap in Q2 made his weekend even worse:

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"It was quite difficult out there today, we struggled for balance a lot and we had so many issues that I couldn’t really fix any of them. Every corner was different and the conditions here made it tricky. It is not over, it is obviously going to be very difficult to pass in the race here, especially with the track conditions we currently have but we will see what we are able to do and recover from there on Sunday. Tomorrow is a new day and we have the chance to put in a better performance across the Sprint format".

 

Christian Horner, Red Bull’s Team Principal, comments on track evolution and track limits. He is still confident about having a well-performing car:

 

"A session of exceeded track limits for many drivers today, not least Checo. He drove well and was through to Q3, but then unfortunately removed from Q3 after having his lap time deleted. It has been a challenge but it has been the same for everyone, the circuit is evolving quickly and of course the teams have only had one session to sort the cars out, but now the set ups are locked in for the rest of the weekend. For Max the first run was such a strong lap he nailed it in the first sector, if not the first corner. He then tried to take a little bit more out on the next lap and made a mistake but with that banker, it was enough today to see him through. We have had a very strong race car all year and I would expect a strong race car again on both Saturday evening and Sunday evening".

 

A fairly positive day for Mercedes, as Lewis Hamilton is placed third on the grid. He declares himself surprised by the pace of the car and also compliments his teammate:

 

"Qualifying is always difficult and today was a pretty average session for me. It was quite windy out there and difficult at the beginning. We nearly didn’t get out of Q1 but fortunately we managed it. We were then right up there in Q2 which was encouraging. We’ve been a little bit surprised by our pace here today. It’s a good surprise and positive for the team. Being on the front two rows of the grid is clearly a good result. It’s important that we are ahead of both Ferraris and that is really key. George also did a great job today. I’m going to be giving it everything to try and bag the most points we can on Sunday".

 

George Russell can be even happier since he will start on front row on Sunday. He complains about the tricky conditions on track, even if they improved during qualifying. He is confident about the race:

 

"I am very happy with P2 today. FP1 was really challenging. The grip was low, and it was really windy. It was very dusty and sandy on the track. When we went out in qualifying, the track temperature had dropped, and the wind had calmed. The lap times had improved massively. The car felt good throughout the session, and I’m pleased with where we finished. It’s great to have Lewis behind me in P3 now. We can be strategic and work together. We’ve got our sights set on a strong result on Sunday, especially with both the McLarens and the Ferraris behind us. We know we’re going to have a fight on our hands as they will be quick. It’s fair to say that the Grand Prix will be a completely different story if this track evolution continues. We’re going to have to learn on the job, but the F1 Sprint will give us a good indication of tyre wear and what the likely best strategy will be. We’re looking forward to tomorrow".

 

Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director, is of course satisfied, even if he acknowledges that the team has been lucky:

 

"We’re very pleased with P2 and P3 on the grid for Sunday. Especially after a tough weekend in Japan. Of course we benefited from McLaren’s misfortune. However, neither George or Lewis lost a lap to track limits throughout the entire qualifying session and that is important. We have to give them credit for keeping it clean". 

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And adds:

 

"The sprint races are always a challenge and is made a lot easier by hitting the ground running with a good balance. We’ve struggled with the format so far this year, so it was really pleasing to see both cars running well at the start of first practice. The track is evolving so rapidly here that we were constantly adapting plans through the qualifying sessions. We had a bit of a scare with Lewis in the Q1 where we were closer to the cut-off than was comfortable. Q2 and Q3 were well handled by both the team and drivers though. We’ve got another qualifying to get through tomorrow, but it’s good that the drivers are happy with the cars. We just need to get the tyres in the right place for the hotter conditions, but hopefully we can have another good session".

 

In Aston Martin, Fernando Alonso will start fourth, after a positive free practice session too. The Spaniard thinks that the car recovered the competitiveness lost in the last few races:

 

"I am very happy with qualifying in fourth position for Sunday's race, after a few weekends where we weren't as competitive. It was very tricky to manage with the slippery track and windy conditions. The car felt fast in FP1 and it felt good again later in Qualifying. It's only the first step and we have the Sprint tomorrow, so let's see what we can do as there are points available on both days".

 

A bittersweet day for Ferrari, as Charles Leclerc will start fifth, but he had a lot of issues with grip and staying inside track limits:

 

"I had to abort my first run in Q3, after running wide in a corner in the first sector and so I only had one lap left to set a competitive time. It was quite tough to get the tyres to work today: on the first flying lap the rears were not working as expected and the situation only improved when you continued to push, which is not ideal in qualifying. Now, we’ll give it our all for tomorrow to get on the pace that we lacked today".

 

Carlos Sainz Jr. suffered even more, since he did not even make it to top ten, and he hopes for a good Sprint Race:

 

"Overall, it’s been a difficult Friday. I struggled with the car balance and couldn’t find decent grip out there in qualifying. I’m obviously not happy but we’ll see what we can do for tomorrow. Hopefully we can turn it around for the Sprint and we’ll fight hard to recover on Sunday".

 

Frédéric Vasseur, Ferrari’s Team Principal, acknowledges the difficulties that the drivers had, especially in terms of tyre wear:

 

"Unfortunately, today’s result was not too much of a surprise as we knew this track would not suit our car that well. On top of that, we also had problems managing the package we had as we didn’t manage to get the tyres working well, especially the Softs in the first sector. On his only run in Q3, Charles did his best after Carlos missed the cut out of Q2 by the smallest of margins, also having a few problems with track limits which made life more complicated than expected. This could turn out to be an issue in the race too, especially if the wind is gusty. Tomorrow, we have another qualifying session, which takes place at the hottest time of day, while the Sprint will allow us to gather information about our race pace with the track in similar conditions to the ones we will encounter in the Grand Prix itself".

 

An eventful day for McLaren, with Lando Norris starting tenth due to a cancelled lap that could have brought him to second place. He is still happy about the car:

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"A disappointing day, I had a correction and oversteer, went off and the lap time was deleted. I should have been much higher up today. The pace of the car has been amazing, the team have done a great job. I made too many mistakes and paid the price. There are definitely opportunities to recover across the weekend, but right now I'm frustrated that I didn’t get the job done in quali, which is to put in good laps. We’ll work hard to prepare for the Sprint tomorrow and try and make up for it on Sunday".

 

Oscar Piastri also had his lap cancelled, so will start sixth. He is confident about the performance of his McLaren anyway:

 

"P6. It's a bit of a shame to get my lap time deleted at the end. It makes life slightly trickier on Sunday, but the pace in the car was decent. It's a shame we both overstepped the mark a little bit on our laps. We'll try again tomorrow and hopefully we can do a bit better".

 

Andrea Stella, McLaren’s Team Principal, states that the qualifying results do not do justice to the car and hopes that the rest of the weekend will be better:

 

"Sixth and 10th is a disappointing result as it doesn’t reflect the potential of the car. Our pace today was, again, quite strong which in itself is encouraging. While it’s a tough result to accept today, the weekend is quite long. We have a Sprint Shootout and a Sprint race to come and the race itself will be quite interesting from a tyre point of view. So, there are plenty of opportunities to recover and score good points. We now turn our attention to maximising the Sprint tomorrow and the Grand Prix on Sunday".

 

Alex Albon will start fourteenth. A bit of a downgrade compared to his recent results, but it is still positive for Williams. He blames the wind for such a difficult session:

 

"Retracing it, we only did one practice session in which we really struggled with the wind and balance, just finding it difficult to find that sweet spot. It happens with these short weekends; you’ve got to be prepared early and we just struggled, so it’s a bit frustrating. There might be some small changes we can make overnight but nothing that’s going to help us with the wind, which is obviously bad for everyone, but it impacts some cars more than others and we’re one of them unfortunately. Every corner feels different with no rhyme or rhythm, so it’s instinctive driving which is fun but difficult".

 

Simone Berra, Pirelli Chief Engineer, explains the difficulties that the tyres had in order to adapt to this circuit:

 

"Wind, sand and a brand-new surface: this combination made it very difficult to decipher the first day at the Lusail circuit. The conditions were predictable, but they certainly made life more complicated for everyone because very little of the acquired data was useful to prepare for the rest of the weekend. That is even more the case for ourselves, because with only 60 minutes of free practice there was very little time for long runs, with few laps completed and few drivers attempting it. In fact, it’s tomorrow’s Sprint race that will provide some indication on tyre behaviour over a long run, although we need to keep in mind that the wind could once again blow a lot of sand onto the track in the coming hours, which would effectively reverse its condition to the way it was when the drivers tackled it this afternoon. We will therefore have to rely on the simulations we have received from the teams to give our assessment of how the tyres might behave on a track that is certainly one of the most severe tests they face".

 

On Saturday, October 7, 2023, will be entirely dedicated to the Sprint Shootout and the Sprint Race, and with locked set-ups the teams have to rely on the work done in the free practice in order to carry out good results. 

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It may be another day in which drivers have to fight with the environment and the track limits, so it may be a race full of unknowns. Saturday in Qatar starts in an unexpected way: since the track layout has been changed in order to guarantee more safety, there’ll be another small free practice session. A 10 minutes long session to get to know the new track conditions before the start of the Sprint Shootout. Since this change, there are new track limits: the pyramid curbs that used to cause irreparable damage to the tyres are now out of reach for the F1 cars, since the marshalls have painted a part of asphalt to make it a track limits zone. After the quick practice session, it’s time to get ready for what’s up next: the Sprint Shootout. When the lights are green, the Ferrari duo is the first one to hit the track, followed by Verstappen, Russell, Gasly and Norris. Remember: everyone has to use the medium tyres during this SQ1. It’s Max Verstappen who takes the momentarily lead, with a time of 1'25"510, while we start to see a lot of track limits warnings, that inevitably ruin a lot of laps. After the 12 minutes of the session, the chequered flag waves at the same time as George Russell takes SP1 with a 1'25"413, while the eliminated are Lance Stroll, Alexander Albon, Yuki Tsunoda, Kevin Magnussen and Logan Sargeant. After this, it’s already time for the Sprint Shootout’s Q2, a 10 minutes long session with the imperative of medium tyres again. The first to complete a regular lap is Russell, with 1:26.232; he  is beaten by his teammate just seconds after with a 1'26"069, which is cancelled though. Cancelled is also Leclerc’s lap while Norris takes the lead with a 1'24"947, followed by Verstappen, Piastri and Perez. 

 

With one minute to go, Sainz’ lap is cancelled and after the chequered flag he manages to stay in, but the eliminated are Pierre Gasly, Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Liam Lawson and Guanyu Zhou. It’s now time for SQ3, an eight minutes long session with mandatory soft (used or new) tyres. When the green flag waves is Verstappen who enters the track first, followed by Leclerc and Sainz and then Perez, while everyone else waits in the boxes. It’s Max who sets the first fastest lap, a 1'24"543, but it’s already cancelled and Sainz goes on top with a 1'26"961, a pretty slow lap. Perez takes the lead in 1'25"382, but his time is beaten by Leclerc in 1'25"131: time that is quickly cancelled and so Norris is in P1 with a 1'24"536, right in front of Piastri. The end of the session arrives and Oscar Piastri takes his maiden Sprint pole with a time of 1'24"454, followed by Norris, Verstappen, Russell, Sainz, Leclerc, Hulkenberg, Perez, Alonso and Ocon. After this second qualifying is already time for the starting of the Sprint Race under the lights of Qatar. Lights out and it’s Piastri who’s got a better start than the others, leading the way into Turn 1, while Verstappen and Norris are right behind him. After Turn 1 Piastri is still leading, followed by Russell, Sainz and Leclerc, with Max fifth and Norris in sixth place, but there’s a yellow flag: Lawson went wide at Turn 1 and is trapped into the gravel. No one boxes during the safety car, so when the lights go green again, all the drivers are still very close, with Piastri leading and his teammate being attacked by Fernando Alonso. Meanwhile, Russell manages an unexpected and spectacular overtake on the race leader Piastri, even congratulating himself on the radio: 

 

"What a move".

 

Another Safety Car is deployed after Sargeant went into the gravel and has to retire the car. At the restart, Russell, on soft tyres, takes advantage on Piastri and stays in the lead, while the Australian man is under attack by Sainz, who’s waiting for the DRS to overtake. When the DRS is enabled, is Verstappen who uses it to overtake Leclerc for the fourth position and then to catch Sainz for the third. At this point, the drivers who got the medium tyres on are starting to feel the advantage, as Piastri overtakes Russell on the main straight. Then, it is Safety Car again, as there’s an incident between Ocon, Perez and Hulkenberg: the three of them went together side by side in the same corner and had contact, with Perez and Hulkenberg being forced to retire. This means that Max Verstappen is mathematically 2023 world champion for the third consecutive time. The Safety Car is back at the box and the race starts again, with Piastri still in the lead, Verstappen second after the overtake on Russell and Leclerc in P5 after the overtake on Norris. The latter doesn’t stay quiet and regains advantage, taking back P4 and now aiming at Russell’s P3. During the last lap, Norris manages to overtake Russell for the third position, Hamilton overtakes Leclerc and Oscar Piastri still leads under the chequered flag, winning his first (short) Formula 1 race in his rookie season. 

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After having cooled down - seeing the high temperatures even at night - it’s time to summarize the day in the media pen, even more after the results are changed following Leclerc’s 5 seconds penalty for track limits, putting him in 13th position. Max Verstappen, the new World Champion, is over the moon:

 

"It’s a fantastic feeling, to be three time World Champion is incredible. It's brilliant for the Team, my family and my friends too. From day one my family have contributed so much of their lives to make me the person I am today. Luckily, I got to FaceTime my mum after the race, she was already on the champagne! It’s beautiful because my mum understands, she is a racer too. My dad and was here at the track also so it’s nice to have them close. We talk about performance of the car but I think that the most important thing is the atmosphere and the people working in the Team. We've had a lot of great results in tough conditions, but we did an incredible job. It’s been a fantastic year and the Team have been working tirelessly throughout the whole year. It’s been so enjoyable to be part of this group of people. For now, I’m just enjoying the moment and hopefully we can keep this momentum going for a while, you know we’ll keep on pushing and trying to do the best we can".

 

Red Bull’s Team Principal, Christian Horner, summarizes the day and the championship after all the work they’ve done to achieve this result:

 

"And there it is. Max’s third World Championship. He now joins some of the great names - Brabham, Piquet, Lauda, Senna and Sir Jackie Stewart. It is fitting company and very well deserved. Max is the most competitive driver that I have ever met. The passion, the heart and the abundance of skill puts him up there with the very best. The confidence we have seen to continually deliver no matter what is something that sets him apart. We have seen it in the wet, on out laps, in variable conditions. The ability to be at one with the car and the belief in himself behind the wheel is absolutely stand out. It surpasses everything we have ever seen. But responsibility for this victory extends beyond one person. It would not be possible without the wider team. The way they have galvanised has been phenomenal, all season, not just here but all the unsung heroes back at the factory have had a hand in this Championship. It is a culmination of all the efforts and endeavors to ensure Max has had all the tools he has needed to accomplish a third straight title. We will take this evening to reflect and celebrate but there is a race tomorrow where we will be right back at it. In the meantime, congratulations Max".

 

His teammate, Sergio Perez, didn’t have a good race but still shares the achievement with the Dutchman:

 

"Firstly, very well done to Max, he has done a tremendous job and he worked really hard for this, together with all the Team, I am very happy for them. The way Max has driven this year has to be one of the best Championship seasons in the history of the sport, he has driven at a different level. He has been outstanding, and he deserves all the success and credit he gets. It was a shame for me today, I was in the wrong place, at the wrong time and there was nothing I could really do unfortunately, I ended up taking a lot of damage to my car. It was a frustrating afternoon because I believe we had the pace to go all the way to good points. I need to recover for tomorrow, do as best as possible and come back strong".

 

The Sprint Race winner, the rookie Oscar Piastri, says:

 

"Very happy. A very stressful race. When I saw all the Soft tyre guys come through at the start, I thought we were in a bit of trouble and then their tyres fell off pretty quickly, so that was good. Safety Cars were my friend today, definitely once Max [Verstappen] got behind me. But the pace was reasonable and I think, in a race where you had to manage the tyres, cars on other compounds, we did a really good job, so very happy". 

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And adds:

 

"Anything we can try to learn for tomorrow is going to be important as well. I thought once Max got through into second, I was going to have my work cut out - but the pace was good, I managed the tyres well and a first Sprint win sounds pretty cool. Finally, congratulations to Max on his third Championship, it's a remarkable achievement".

 

His teammate Lando Norris shares his happiness for him and the newly crowned world champion Max Verstappen:

 

"First of all, congrats to Oscar on his Sprint win and congrats to Max [Verstappen] on his third Championship. It was a tough race for me, a bad start made everything much trickier, but we fought back well. Some fun racing, good overtakes, all the way to the last lap on George. It was tough but another podium for our team is great. Oscar's done a mega job this weekend. I've made a lot of mistakes, he hasn't and he's capitalised. He's done a better job, so hats-off to him".

 

McLaren’s Team Principal, Andrea Stella, is more than happy about the race’s result:

 

"An excellent Saturday for the entire team, with Oscar landing his first Sprint win, and a third place finish for Lando. We were strong and had good outright pace, so it's a well-deserved result. For Oscar, this is a historical moment in his career, as was his first podium in Suzuka in a Grand Prix. Once again, I would like to thank the entire team for their hard work, which allowed us to add another signpost in our journey. Looking ahead to tomorrow, starting from P6 and P10, we have a lot of work ahead of us. However, we are encouraged by the performance of the car and we hope to score some good points in the race. Finally, congratulations to Max [Verstappen] and Red Bull on their Drivers' Championship victory".

 

George Russell enjoyed this race:

 

"I really enjoyed that! The first lap was a little bit wild. I had turn six in my mind as the overtaking opportunity on the Medium runners. I knew I would have the advantage at the beginning, so I was pleased to pull off the move on Piastri. I was surprised by how quickly the Soft tyre dropped off and we were fortunate that there were a number of safety car interventions. Without that, we may have finished outside the points. That is what can happen during a sprint weekend though where you have limited practice and limited knowledge on the tyres. Having said that, if we were on the Medium we would have still finished P4. Nothing gained, nothing lost. It was positive to see our pace advantage over Ferrari today. We were on the same tyres as them and we were faster. We are in a great place tomorrow to fight against the McLarens too. It's going to be interesting from a strategy perspective so let's see what we can do. Finally, Max winning the world championship is fully deserved. It's an incredible achievement so congratulations to him. We need to raise our game to give him more of a challenge next year".

 

His companion Lewis Hamilton isn’t as happy as him, but still hopeful:

 

"I was quite slow at the beginning on the Medium tyre. I knew that the degradation would be high though and that the race would come back to us. Did I know that I was going to be able to get back up to fifth? No, but I was hoping I could the whole time. I tried to position my car the best I could, stay out of trouble and progress one step at a time. The car is still tricky to drive but our pace overall was good. I know I've got the race craft on lock. I just need to work on my qualifying! That said, tomorrow we start third". 

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And adds:

 

"That is obviously a much better place to be lining up than we were today. We should be looking to fight to hold that position. We know it will be difficult to hold the McLarens behind. They are a little further back though, so we will be doing our best to do that. We will be giving it everything we've got as always. Congratulations to Max too on his third world championship, he has driven a great season and it is a well-deserved achievement. It would be great if we could be in a fight with him tomorrow".

 

On the Ferrari side, there are mixed feelings from Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr.. The Monegasque says:

 

"It was a very hard Sprint today. We didn't have any data on long runs so we decided to start on the Softs to try and gain some places at the start and then manage the tyres to defend our position. I managed to get a very good start and for the first few laps it looked like we could fight at the front. Unfortunately, we started losing too much due to graining compared to our rivals who were on Mediums and sixth was the best we could hold on to. We’ve learned important things for tomorrow and, even though it’s going to be a very challenging race for us, we’ll push until the end to get some more points".

 

Carlos Sainz Jr. thinks that they could have an advantage on Sunday:

 

"It was an interesting Sprint. I didn’t have any new Soft tyres left after Qualifying and the Shootout, so we went out on a used set, which was a bit more challenging in terms of management. This could give us an advantage in tomorrow’s race as the Medium compound seemed strong today and we have an extra set compared to our competitors who already used theirs in the Sprint. If we take care of the Softs, they can be good too, so it should be an interesting race".

 

Alex Albon is happy as well, given the two points scored after such a difficult race for the team:

 

"We capitalised on everyone's difficulties today and this resulted in a point, which is now two points following Charles' penalty, so I'm very happy! We took a gamble with set-up, and we made it work, so I think it came down to good strategy and some good fortune. We're going to be in a good place for tomorrow, as long as the wind is low like it was in the Sprint, which it looks to be".

 

Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, gives his opinions about tyre degradation in the race, a really sensible topic at this track:

 

"First and foremost, we wish to congratulate Max Verstappen on his third world title, in a season in which he has been well and truly dominant. It was a particularly busy day for Pirelli. As previously mentioned, during our usual analysis last night after free practice, we discovered that some tyres that had done 20 or more laps were showing signs of micro lacerations in the sidewall, between the topping compound and the carcass cords, most likely caused by the impact generated by repeatedly going over the kerbs at some corners, especially turns 12 and 13. We immediately informed the FIA, who proceeded to take action, by revising the track limits at these corners and instigating an additional free practice session prior to the Sprint Shootout, to allow the drivers to check out the new lines through this part of the track. Now, as is the case at every race weekend, we are analysing the sets returned to us at the end of the day. Once this procedure is completed, we will pass on the results of our findings to the FIA and, if necessary, further measures will be put in place for tomorrow night's Grand Prix. In terms of how the tyres behaved today on track, it was clear to see that the Medium was best suited for a long stint, as in the Sprint. The Soft provided extra performance at the start and at the three restarts, but over a distance it suffered from graining and heavy thermal degradation. In fact, on a track which was particularly slippery because of the sand blown across it by the wind, this was a predictable phenomenon. Looking ahead to tomorrow, it is not worth speculating about strategies, given that we must wait for the outcome of our on-going analysis and then see if this has any regulatory effect on how the race will be run".

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It’s Sunday, October 8, 2023, and it’s race day. This time, thinking about the conditions of the tyres after the Sprint Race, the Fia decided to change the rules and put a limit to the stints of the tyres, that mustn’t be longer than 18 laps, otherwise the driver would be disqualified. Prior to the race, a fuel leak in Carlos Sainz Jr.'s car is discovered which prevents him from starting the race. The race starts and after the first corner, Lewis Hamilton goes out of the track after hitting his teammate breaking the hub off his wheel and spinning into the gravel trap. The Qatar GP comes to an end for the seventh-time world champion and George Russell needs to pit after the collision. Safety car is deployed to allow the marshals to remove Hamilton’s car and clear the debris safely. The safety car period ends on lap 4. Verstappen still leads the race. On lap 6, Hulkenberg is given a 5-seconds-penalty for incorrect starting location. On lap 13 both Piastri and Leclerc pit, while Lawson is given a black and white flag for track limits. Max Verstappen pits on lap 18 and gives his first position to Alexander Albon. The Williams driver, together with Sergio Perez, is soon given a black and white flag and on lap 27 the Mexican driver is given a 5-second-penalty for track limits. George Russell starts his fight with Alpine’s Pierre Gasly and at the end, he manages to overtake him. On lap 34, Alonso goes out in the gravel at Turn 2 but manages to rejoin the race almost immediately; however, he gets under investigation for rejoining unsafely. Charles Leclerc manages to pass him. Unfortunately for the Red Bull team, Sergio Perez is given another 5-seconds-penalty for exceeding track limits, as well as Stroll and Gasly. 

 

On lap 40, Sargeant is forced to retire because of heat stroke and dehydration exacerbated by flu-like symptoms he already had coming into the weekend, due to the extreme conditions of the race. Bad race also for his teammate Alexander Albon who is feeling unwell too. On lap 53 Stroll, Perez and Gasly battle among themselves for 9th and 10th positions. Fresh three times world champion Max Verstappen, after leading all the laps, wins the Qatar GP. He is followed on the podium by an incredible Oscar Piastri and a brillant Lando Norris. In 4th place there is George Russell, who managed to do his best after the collision on lap 1. Behind him there’s Charles Leclerc, followed by Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon. The Alfa Romeo drivers get 8th (Bottas) and 9th (Zhou). The last driver to get a point is Sergio Perez. The race was run in challenging hot conditions: in particular, Esteban Ocon vomited in his car twice but managed to finish the race in seventh. Lance Stroll goes directly to the medical centre after the race, and says he was "passing out" in the car and suffered blurred vision. Russell says he was close to losing consciousness at the end of the race. Many drivers, including Piastri, Charles Leclerc, Russell, Ocon, Verstappen, and Norris say it was the most physically demanding race of their careers. McLaren, servicing Norris, set the new record for the fastest pit stop completed in 1.80 seconds. The previous record was set at the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix by Red Bull Racing at 1.82 seconds, servicing Verstappen. Max Verstappen is happy about his race and says that his hunger for winning continues to exist even after winning the Championship:

 

"We had a really good race today. I think what really made it for me was the first stint where we were strong and good on the tyres. I had a slow stop at the end so the McLarens were quite close at the chequered flag but they have been quick all weekend. Of course, with the mandatory three stops, we weren’t able to get the best out of our car as we are good on tyres, but we won and that’s the main thing. My hunger for winning hasn’t stopped since winning the Championship, I want to keep going and maximising the performance of the car each weekend".

 

With two penalties, Sergio Perez is obviously not happy as his teammate is:

 

"It was a difficult afternoon, starting on the hard tyre really complicated things for us, especially with the early Safety Car. It meant we couldn’t warm up the tyres and then we ended up losing positions and couldn’t make progress quickly enough, and as much as we should have. By the time I got the temperature in the tyres we had to pit, due to the mandatory pit stops". 

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And adds:

 

"We lost our car yesterday due to the incident in the Sprint and we had a completely new car for today. It was therefore very difficult to draw conclusions with the car we had, we had to revert on the specifications. I really suffered with the new track limits, they were brought in very last minute, which I don’t think is right but it is the same for everyone and I should have done a better job. It was hard for me to judge them inside the car because I think, a little like in Austria, I am sitting a bit too low and that made things harder, I should have maybe altered that when the changes were implemented. Overall, we have plenty to look at and I will be in the factory this week working hard with my Team".

 

Christian Horner, Red Bull’s Team Principal, says:

 

"For Max it was an incredible win. It’s been a very tough race, both physically and mentally, for all the drivers. In a race that was very prescriptive and sub optimal to the fastest race, Max drove well and very controlled, trying to manage the tyres. Having an enforced three stop was not the fastest way to run that race so it was a case of making sure we covered off the Safety Car possibilities and managed the deg but the strategy team did their work, got their sums right and helped deliver the victory. For Checo it was another tough race. The 15 seconds of penalties really impacted his overall performance and meant a missed opportunity to capitalise on points with Lewis out of the race. Checo just needs to get that form back that he had at the beginning of the season and we know he can do it. He knows he can do it. He has our full support. We head West now and to the Americas where Checo drives well so we look forward to some stronger performances in the quest for second place".

 

Incredible weekend for Oscar Piastri, who won the Sprint Race and got a second place in the main race, all as a rookie:

 

"Very, very happy. Turn 1 was nice. That was in the game-plan before the race. We had a really impressive pace. It was definitely the hardest race I've had in my life. It was hot and basically flat-out the entire time. It was 57 qualifying laps, which I definitely feel that I've done. A really good race. My thanks go to the team for providing Lando and myself with a car that means we can fight at the front more consistently. There were some great strategy calls today, brilliant pit-stops and despite the challenging conditions, we were able to put it all together on the day. A great day".

 

Lando Norris calls this a mega race and this is why:

 

"It was just a mega race from start to finish. We had a good opening lap. I learned from my mistake yesterday of going wide, I said I'd go tight, and I did, and it worked out. So, a good start, we had good pace throughout the whole thing. Probably the best pace out there today, so I'm happy. Stressful, hot, sweaty, little bit tired but a great job for the team. Three in a row now. A 1.8 second pit-stop as well. I think the three-stop made it a lot harder physically. You could push a lot more. Even the last stint, you could pretty much push flat-out. This was one of the hardest races I've done, but it's a nice challenge and congrats to Andrea Stella, McLaren’s Team Principal, is happy about his drivers and the car’s performance:

 

"A fantastic day for the team as we achieve our 500th podium in Formula 1. Both Lando and Oscar drove great races in difficult conditions to finish P2 and P3 to add to the success in the Sprint yesterday. A double podium rewards the team both trackside and at the factory for their brilliant work and my thanks go to them for their continued commitment and dedication to McLaren". 

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And adds:

 

"The tyre limitations provided an interesting challenge for the team as we had to adapt our strategy and prepare the team for six stops. However, they managed very well and the brilliant work by the pit-stop crew saw the fastest stop of 1.8 seconds. We now turn our focus to a busy triple-header and continue to close the gap to our competitors. We must remain with our feet on the ground, however for now, we will celebrate the success of a very strong weekend".

 

George Russell talks about the incident on the first lap, Mercedes’ goals and the difficult conditions of the race:

 

"The incident at turn one was absolutely not intentional from either myself or Lewis. Visibility is so difficult in these cars and especially when you're racing. There are big blind spots and we both have so much respect for one another. We will make sure we come out of this stronger. There are still lots of positives to take away from this weekend though. Our goal is to get P2 in the Constructors' and we managed to outscore Ferrari this weekend. Our pace was very strong too so we can be confident going into these final five races. The Grand Prix itself was incredibly tough. It was by far the most physical race I've ever competed. It was like being inside an oven! I was pretty happy to see the chequered flag".

 

Lewis Hamilton apologises after finishing out of the race on the first lap:

 

"It was a big opportunity to get some good points for the team and in the heat of the moment, I didn't really understand what happened. I felt the tap from behind, but I don't think George had anywhere to go. It was a really unfortunate situation and I feel really sorry for the entire team. Massive apologies to everyone back at Brackley and Brixworth, and I take full responsibility. Everybody is working incredibly hard so it's massively gutting to have a result like this. The positives are that the pace of the car was strong across the weekend. George was also able to do a good job of getting back through to score some important points".

 

Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director, explains:

 

"We've had a tough run of races in the last month. You do get those in sport, though, and it's a good test of how strong your team is. There's very little else to say about the incident at turn one. Neither driver had the intention of coming together. Lewis took full blame for the incident and George acknowledged the role that these sizeable cars can have in such moments. Ultimately both are upset that it's cost the team a lot of points. We know both are committed to making sure we can secure second in the Constructors’. We have five races to go and we're looking forward not backwards. There are positives we can take away from Qatar. We had good pace today; George recovered from dead last to fourth. Operationally, the team worked extremely well across a very challenging weekend. We have a decent car, two strong drivers and a very committed team in Brackley and Brixworth behind them".

 

Charles Leclerc says that he tried to maximise the result today and agrees with other F1 drivers saying that this was one of the toughest races of his career:

 

"We maximized our potential today. It was a case of damage limitation, with Carlos already out just before the start, In the race, we had to give ourselves a bit of a margin with the way I was driving and bring it home safely. We expected McLaren to be strong, but not as strong as what we saw this weekend. Mercedes also had a strong pace and I think that George wasn’t pushing as hard as he could". 

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He continues:

 

"Physically, it was the toughest race of my career. That was due to a number of things: very high temperatures, three stops - which meant putting in qualifying laps in every lap of the race - and as a result, much more stress in the high speed corners. Next up is the triple header and we will do everything to finish the season on a high, especially in our battle in the Constructors’ Championship".

 

Carlos Sainz Jr. couldn’t start due to a car problem and comments:

 

"We are disappointed as today was a lost opportunity. We all know motorsport can be cruel at times and today I got a taste of the worst of it. It’s a pity because I think I could have run a good race today and scored some important points for the Constructors’ Championship. As in every situation, there's always something to learn for the future. Now it’s time to focus on the last five races of the year".

 

Frederic Vasseur, Ferrari’s Team Principal, talks about this chaotic and tough weekend for F1:

 

"We can’t be satisfied with how things went this weekend, because we have lost points to our closest rival and we were unable to get Carlos to the grid because of a reliability problem. However, I think we did the most we could today with Charles. In extreme conditions he drove very well and the mechanics delivered three excellent pit stops. Maybe in the middle stint, we were slowed a bit by traffic, but anyway, it would not have been easy to keep George Russell behind us today. It was a chaotic weekend, held in very tough conditions with several unexpected factors, starting with the problems linked to the kerbs, which might have actually had something to do with the failure on Carlos’ SF-23. We go home with 10 points from Charles' fifth place and will start preparing for the triple-header in the Americas which look like being very tough".

 

Even if he managed to finish 6th, Fernando Alonso had a problem with the seat:

 

"It was an extreme race today with the hot conditions and perhaps one of the toughest we've faced. We also had an issue with the seat being very hot from around Lap 15, which made it quite challenging. We were competitive though and I'm happy to finish sixth after a few weekends where we didn't have the pace. We finished ninth in Monza, eighth in Japan and here I felt like we were in the mix. Perhaps as a sport we can think about some measures in the future if we experience these extreme temperatures again".

 

Alex Albon finished 13th and admits he struggled with the heat, because either pace seemed good:

 

"Firstly, I'm glad Logan is okay as it's never easy to retire from a race. I think this race goes down as one of the toughest of the year, as I suffered with heat exposure myself. Our pace was pretty strong, but I need to review what happened, as we were in what felt like a good position, but we ended up falling out of the points. We also struggled with a bit of an overheating cockpit, so we'll also need to review this. The gap to our competitors is closing, so it's a tough weekend to walk away from but we'll review the data and see what happened".

 

Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, talks about the strategies and the decisions of the Fia about the tyres:

 

"This was a very demanding weekend on many fronts, which ended with a race that, given the circumstances, was interesting and closely contested. The committed and transparent collaboration between all of Formula 1's stakeholders - the FIA, Formula 1, the teams and drivers - meant that there was a rapid and efficient reaction to solving a safety issue that involved us at first hand. Today, the sport was able to put on an interesting show for the spectators with a lot of overtaking and duels, despite the limitations imposed by the FIA. In the coming weeks, we will continue to analyse the tyres used this weekend to acquire as much information as possible and share that with the FIA. From what we saw this evening, graining was a very significant factor with all the compounds. It's severity gradually decreased as the track rubbered-in. Today the wind was much weaker than in the past days which reduced the amount of sand and dust blown onto the track surface, even if it did not disappear completely. Thermal degradation also had an effect on tyre performance, with track temperatures never dropping below 36 °C".

 

The Qatar Grand Prix also concludes, certainly not without controversy regarding the health of the riders, who at the end of the race need to rehydrate due to the high heat of the Qatari evening. In fact, there are numerous drivers who need post-race intervention, including Lance Stroll and Logan Sargeant, or who complain of excessive heat, including Fernando Alonso and George Russell. The weekend ended with Max Verstappen winning the Grand Prix, who had already won in the World Champioanto the previous day. Unfortunately, the Dutch driver fails for the third consecutive time to celebrate as tradition would have it in such cases, since in Abu Dhabi in 2021 he was overwhelmed by controversy, and in Japan in 2022 only after a few minutes of waiting did the stewards actually decide to end the contest in his favor by penalizing Charles Leclerc at the end of the race. Next race will be in two weeks in Austin and will be the first of a triple header in the United States, Mexico and Brazil. 


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