Verstappen takes his 50th victory at COTA

Max Verstappen achieved his 50th victory in Formula 1 by finishing ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris at the Circuit of the Americas.

The race was a fascinating strategic battle between the teams but the raw pace from Verstappen was impressive despite brake concern while Ferrari’s challenge disappeared early.

Norris got a better start than Ferrari’s polesitter Charles Leclerc and was quickly alongside the Scuderia before heading to the Turn 1 apex to make certain of the lead.

Behind, Hamilton tried to defend against Carlos Sainz but was jumped when the Spaniard followed Norris through the inside line of the uphill hairpin and Hamilton instead moved wider and saw off Verstappen’s run even further to the right.

The leaders raced through the track’s sector one esses complex with Norris shooting clear of Leclerc, with Sainz, Hamilton and Verstappen trailing.

Norris’s lead was 1.7 seconds at the end of lap one of 56, which he tripled over the early laps – during which Hamilton battled by both Ferraris with DRS runs to Turn 12 at the end of the long back straight on lap four and six, with Verstappen doing likewise to Sainz soon after.

Even as he passed Leclerc, Hamilton was lapping quicker than Norris and he set about trying to close down the McLaren’s three-second advantage as the leaders carefully paced the medium tyres they had all started on.

But over the next stage of the race, Norris and Hamilton were matched in lap times in the low one minute, 42 seconds, while Verstappen remained behind Leclerc even with DRS, the Ferrari dropping back from Hamilton by a few tenths per lap.

After scoring a sprint win in Qatar, the team was forced to retire Oscar Piastri’s car due to radiator damage sustained in a lap one clash with Esteban Ocon, just as Verstappen passed Leclerc with a move to Turn 12’s inside that the Ferrari defended too late and was shoved wide on exit.

Leclerc tried to hang on to the world champion, who faced a 7.0 seconds deficit to Norris at the end of lap 11 when Hamilton had just brought the leader’s gap under three seconds again since the early laps.

Hamilton pressed on and by lap 16 had cut a second out of Norris’s previous advantage, the McLaren driver struggling to stay in the one minute, 42 seconds bracket.

At this stage, Verstappen triggered the race’s first big strategy call when he came into take more new mediums, with McLaren bringing Norris in from the front a lap later at the end of lap 17, but putting him onto new hards.

Mercedes asked new leader Hamilton if he could stay out for an additional five laps, but when he was not certain he could it opted to bring him in at the end of lap 21 – just after he had slipped off track with a big lock-up at Turn 11 leading onto the back straight.

This was too soon for a one-stop strategy, which Ferrari left Leclerc out to attempt back in the lead he had held earlier for only a few seconds, so Hamilton rejoined a net third position behind Verstappen but with a tyre life hard advantage of five laps and the Mercedes also on the hard.

By stopping earlier and with consistent pace in the one minute, 41 seconds, Verstappen had cut his previous seven-second gap to Norris in half and he was soon homing in on the McLaren – which retook the lead when Leclerc finally pitted on lap 23.

Norris gifted Verstappen 1.2 seconds when he locked up and went deep at Turn 11 on lap 25 and two laps later the Red Bull was in DRS range.

Verstappen used the overtaking aid to close in on the back straight on lap 28 and he made a late dive to the inside of Turn 12, where Norris tried to cut back on the exit but was overcome in the following sequence of corners.

But Norris did not immediately fall adrift and indeed behind Hamilton was soon closing in again on the leading pair with his hards, before Verstappen upped his pace into low one minute, 41 seconds and pulled a new three-second lead.

Just after Verstappen became the latest driver to lock up and go deep at Turn 11, McLaren pitted Norris to take a second set of new hards at the end of lap 34, with Verstappen coming in for the same compound at the end of the following lap.

The undercut’s power plus a slightly slow left-rear change meant Norris had Verstappen’s previous gap down to 1.7 seconds, as they ran behind the one-stopping Leclerc.

Hamilton stayed out longer again given his previous off-set approach and so cycled back to the lead, before pitting at the end of lap 38 to go back to the mediums.

As he rejoined, Verstappen passed Leclerc with DRS into Turn 1, with Norris making a late dive by the Ferrari into Turn 12 on the same lap, at the end of which he faced a 1.2 seconds deficit to Verstappen.

From there, Hamilton caught and passed Leclerc and it was he who had the most gripping end to the race, as his pace was either the same or quicker than the leader – who had been 7.6 seconds ahead when the Mercedes rejoined for the second time.

Norris dropped back from Verstappen, who was unhappy with the braking on his Red Bull RB19, and on lap 48 Hamilton was all over him in the final sector – then mounted a DRS attack into Turn 1 where Norris defended hard.

But Hamilton was able to get by on the exit as Norris went deep and that left a 5.2 seconds gap to Verstappen up ahead – the triple champion complaining with his brake issue and annoyed at receiving radio messages while trying to deal with it.

Initially over the final few laps, Hamilton was able to reduce Verstappen’s lead by a few tenths each time, but as the leader continued to struggle with his brake issue it came down more rapidly right at the end.

But it was not enough for Hamilton – with Verstappen benefitting from getting DRS lapping Zhou Guanyu on the back straight on the last lap – and the gap between at the chequered flag was 2.2 seconds, with Norris a further 8.5 seconds back in third.

Sainz ended up fourth after being waved by Leclerc late on – the Monegasque driver frustrated his one-stopper had backfired, as Sergio Perez demoted him to sixth by the flag.

Ferrari and Sainz, on the medium-medium-hard two-stopper, briefly thought Norris might be beatable, but in the end, the McLaren had a 4.4 seconds gap at the finish as Norris upped his pace in response to his former teammate’s late threat.

George Russell looked at one stage as if he was on the one-stopper before he was taken off a shortened middle stint on the hards and he ended up seventh ahead of Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll.

Stroll rose from the pitlane – where he forgot to return to after the pre-race reconnoitring laps and had to be pushed back off the grid by his mechanics to claim ninth, the Aston Martin driver emerging ahead from a close late battle with Yuki Tsunoda.

The AlphaTauri driver was the only competitor to try the three-stopper, which paid off and he had enough pace on the softs right at the end to seal another point to go with his P10 finish by setting the fastest lap on the last lap.

Fernando Alonso had to retire with floor damage in the closing stages – the double champion also rising from a pitlane start to lead Stroll in the points before his issue occurred – and his former teammate Ocon was the first retirement, also due to damage sustained in the clash with Piastri.

Alex Albon was the only driver to receive a five second penalty for track limits abuse on his way to P11, but several others – including Hamilton – were given black-and-white warning flags for repeatedly going off track.

So an exciting end to the United States Grand Prix but Max Verstappen was able to hold off the chasing Lewis Hamilton despite braking concern. If only there was more laps available for the Mercedes driver as victory was on. Next time.

UPDATE – Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc have been disqualified following post-race checks. Exceeding plank wear.

United States Grand Prix race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:35:21.362
DSQ Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +2.225s
2 Lando Norris McLaren +10.730s
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +15.134s
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull +18.460s
DSQ Charles Leclerc Ferrari +24.662s
5 George Russell Mercedes +24.999s
6 Pierre Gasly Alpine +47.996s
7 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +48.696s
8 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +74.385s
9 Alexander Albon Williams +86.714s
10 Logan Sargeant Williams +87.998s
11 Nico Hulkenberg Haas +89.904s
12 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +98.601s
13 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +1 lap
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas +1 lap
15 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri +1 lap
Fernando Alonso Aston Martin DNF
Oscar Piastri McLaren DNF
Esteban Ocon Alpine DNF

Verstappen wins lights to flag sprint

Max Verstappen dominated the sprint race at the Circuit of the Americas with a lights to flag victory in the Red Bull. Lewis Hamilton finished in second for Mercedes while Charles Leclerc was third in the Ferrari.

At the start, Verstappen and Leclerc moved away seemingly in unison, but the Ferrari gained during the launch’s second phase. As Leclerc tried to move alongside the Red Bull, Verstappen edged his rival right across the track and close to the grass by the pitlane exit.

That left Leclerc pinched very tightly on the inside of the uphill left-hand hairpin at Turn 1, with Hamilton swinging around on the outside line, Lewis was able to get a run on the Ferrari – coming by on the exit off the track in a move that was not called out by race control.

By the end of the first lap of 19, Verstappen and Hamilton were well clear of Leclerc and they continued to pull away across the race’s opening half, as they were able to lap in the mid one minute, 39 seconds with the Ferrari back in the one minute, 40 seconds.

Hamilton made inroads into Verstappen’s lead early and had DRS on him for a few laps, but by the sixth lap Verstappen was over a second ahead – the world champion only fear that the drivability issue that impacted his sprint qualifying performance was then put down to sliding in the wind by Red Bull.

From there, Verstappen remained the only one of the leaders able to regularly stay in the one minute, 39 seconds, which meant his lead quickly rose over Hamilton and was 3.3 seconds by the end of lap 10.

There was little action in the second half of the sprint, with Verstappen continuing to pull away from Hamilton to an eventual winning margin of 9.4 seconds, with Leclerc a further 8.5 seconds back in third.

There was at one stage big gap back to Lando Norris in fourth as the leaders had been able to run clear thanks to Carlos Sainz – the only soft tyres runner with the rest on mediums – using his softer rubber to gain places from the McLarens of Norris and Oscar Piastri at the start.

But the Singapore Grand Prix winner was soon under massive pressure as his rubber’s less durable nature unfolded.

Sainz was getting most attention from Norris early on as Piastri went backwards fast, with Sergio Perez soon joining the two good friends and former teammates in a battle for fourth at the mid-point in the race.

On lap 10, Norris finally got by Sainz at Turn 12 at the end of the track’s long back straight and so was facing a 6.7 seconds gap to Leclerc, which he reduced over the rest of the race – finishing just 0.8 seconds behind the race polesitter, who Norris will start alongside on Sunday.

Perez passed Sainz on the lap after Norris and held onto fifth to the end, albeit 4 seconds adrift of Norris, with Leclerc just ahead.

Sainz held onto sixth way ahead of Alpines’s Pierre Gasly, who was promoted into seventh thanks to George Russell’s five-second time penalty being applied at the finish – following an off-the-track pass on Piastri exiting Turn 15 on lap three.

Russell felt he was pushed off, but the race stewards decided his move was illegal, with Alex Albon putting the Mercedes under huge pressure for the final point with a late charge of personal best laps in ninth, which put him just 0.3 seconds behind Russell once the penalty had been applied.

That meant Russell held onto the final point in a race where Piasti dropped down to P10 behind Albon – an investigation into their battle early being given as no further action – and the Qatar sprint winner picked up a warning for track limits abuse.

The race’s only retirement was Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, who was retired in the pits after the team picked up another brake problem on his AMR23.

So not the most thrilling sprint and yet the pace of Max Verstappen looks very promising so it should be significant come the main event on Sunday. As for Charles Leclerc, third in the sprint but will start on pole position for the United States Grand Prix. Hopefully a better and entertaining race in store at COTA.

United States Grand Prix, sprint race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 31:30.849
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +9.465s
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +17.987s
4 Lando Norris McLaren +18.863s
5 Sergio Pérez Red Bull +22.928s
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari +28.307s
7 Pierre Gasly Alpine +32.403s
8 George Russell Mercedes +34.250s
9 Alexander Albon Williams +34.567s
10 Oscar Piastri McLaren +42.403s
11 Esteban Ocon Alpine +44.986s
12 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri +45.509s
13 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +49.086s
14 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +49.733s
15 Nico Hülkenberg Haas +56.650s
16 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +64.401s
17 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +67.972s
18 Kevin Magnussen Haas +71.122s
19 Logan Sargeant Williams +71.449s
20 Lance Stroll Aston Martin DNF

Verstappen takes sprint shootout pole

This time Max Verstappen kept within track limits to take pole position in the sprint shootout at COTA, edging out Charles Leclerc to the top spot while Lewis Hamilton was once again third fastest.

The Red Bull driver had earlier spun around after hitting the kerbs in the second segment of the weekend’s shorter qualifying session, where the drivers were obliged to run mediums in SQ1 and SQ2 until switching to softs in SQ3.

In the final segment, the majority of drivers only had one new set of softs, which meant they sat in the garages for a long time until Verstappen headed out and set a lap time of one minute, 34.538 seconds.

Although track limits were again a big talking point – with the FIA having widened the white line limits exiting Turns 9, 12 and 19 to help the drivers following discussions with the teams – Verstappen had no repeat of the error that cost him pole for the United States Grand Prix.

Ferrari’s Leclerc was again his main challenger – setting the quickest time in the middle sector on his sole SQ3 run and so closing in on the 0.1 seconds gap he had to Verstappen after sector one before then falling back again in the Austin lap’s final third to end up just 0.055 seconds adrift.

Hamilton slotted his Mercedes into third, with an effort set after most of the other frontrunners – ending up fractionally behind Leclerc and 0.069 seconds adrift of Verstappen.

Lando Norris led his McLaren teammate Oscar Piastri in fourth and fifth, with Carlos Sainz sixth.

Sergio Perez had another disappointing qualifying for Red Bull Racing – finishing seventh and a massive 0.5 seconds down on teammate. But he was forced to run in SQ3 without a new set of softs as he had used all of his in Friday’s action.

The same was true of George Russell, who therefore took eighth position, and Alpine’s Pierre Gasly – P10 in the final order behind Williams driver Alex Albon.

In changing but less windy conditions compared to Friday’s session, Albon was able to rise from a Q1 exit in Grand Prix qualifying to reach SQ3 for the sprint event.

In SQ2, where seven drivers only completed one run due to lacking medium tyres to use, Ricciardo just missed out on progressing behind Albon, along with Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon and Zhou Guanyu.

Zhou was one of the few midfield runners to complete multiple runs in the middle segment, but his personal best at the end was not enough to reach Q3, while Stroll was left out due to a late massive double lock-up aboard his Aston Martin at Turn 12 at the end of the track’s main straight.

In SQ1, Ricciardo’s late improvement knocked out Nico Hulkenberg, who was eliminated alongside his Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen, Valtteri Bottas, Yuki Tsunoda and Logan Sargeant.

Russell faces a post-session investigation for appearing to impede Leclerc going through the penultimate corners late in Q1, with the Ferrari driver joking commented: “And penalty for Mr Russell – thank you”, following the incident.

In a similar incident in Q1, Tsunoda seemed to impede Hamilton at the same point, with the Mercedes driver feeling the pair had lightly touched right-front corner to left-rear, but race control decided the clash was not worthy of further investigation.

Russell will also be among those investigated for apparently failing to follow the race director’s instructions regarding driving too slowly on in and out laps – intended to reduce traffic issues this year – alongside Albon, Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Gasly, Piastri, Bottas, Tsunoda and Perez.

Albon, Piastri and Russell were pinged again for this in SQ2, this time along with Stroll, Zhou, Ricciardo and Norris.

The sprint event is next and it will be fascinating who will win the 19-lap race.

United States Grand Prix, sprint shootout results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:34.538
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:34.593
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.607
4 Lando Norris McLaren 1:34.6395
5 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:34.894
6 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:34.939
7 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:35.041
8 George Russell Mercedes 1:35.199
9 Alex. Albon Williams 1:35.366
10 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:35.897
11 Daniel. Ricciardo AlphaTauri 1:35.978
12 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:36.087
13 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:36.137
14 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:36.181
15 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo 1:36.182
16 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:36.749
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:36.922
18 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:36.922
19 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:36.945
20 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:37.186

Leclerc takes pole position at COTA

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc achieved pole position for the United States Grand Prix following a lap time deletion for Max Verstappen due to track limits.

In an exciting and close competitive session between Red Bull and its typically trailing rivals, Leclerc led the way for the Scuderia through Q2 and again on the first runs in Q3.

Track limits were a focus throughout the one-hour qualifying session, with the penultimate and final corners – Turns 19 and 20 – tricky for the drivers to stay within the white lines.

Leclerc’s time of one minute, 34.828 seconds topped the first of two Q3 runs, with Verstappen down in third position behind Lewis Hamilton and with 0.252 seconds to close, with the Mercedes 0.056 seconds behind the Ferrari.

On the final Q3 run, Leclerc led the pack and went even quicker with one minute, 34.723 seconds despite setting no purple sectors, which gave the opportunity for Verstappen.

The world champion gained time as his final lap wore on, but a slide Turn 19 sent him a fraction wide and his one minute, 34.718 seconds was deleted.

That promoted Lando Norris into second following a solid second Q3 run after taking used softs for the first efforts in the final segment.

Hamilton came through last of the frontrunners but was unable to beat the McLaren driver off the front row for Sunday’s main race despite going fractionally faster than his previous Q3 personal best.

Carlos Sainz took fourth ahead of George Russell, with Verstappen’s first Q3 time putting him only in sixth position, but nevertheless ahead of teammate Sergio Perez, who ended up ninth.

Alpine pair Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon took seventh and eighth, with Qatar sprint winner Oscar Piastri rounding out the top ten.

In the Q2 segment topped by Leclerc, Yuki Tsunoda, Zhou Guanyu, Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen and Daniel Ricciardo were all eliminated. With Ricciardo losing a final lap that was good enough to get him into Q3 for running too wide out of Turn 19.

In Q1, which Hamilton was fastest, Nico Hulkenberg was knockout after also losing his final lap to running too wide out of the penultimate turn, the Haas driver having at one stage been leading the opening segment.

Behind him, both Aston Martin cars were shockingly knocked out following their front brake issues in FP1, with Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll setting personal bests on their final Q1 laps but ending up in P17 and P19 around Williams pair Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant.

Tsunoda, Ricciardo and Stroll face a post-qualifying investigation for possibly failing to follow the race director’s instructions regarding the maximum lap time for out and in laps that is aimed at reducing traffic issues in qualifying.

So congratulations to Charles Leclerc in taking pole position for Scuderia Ferrari. As this is a sprint weekend, there will be another opportunity to set the best lap time for grid positions.

United States Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:34.723
2 Lando Norris McLaren 1:34.853
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.862
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:34.945
5 George Russell Mercedes 1:35.079
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:35.081
7 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:35.089
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:35.154
9 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:35.173
10 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:35.467
11 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:35.697
12 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:35.698
13 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:35.858
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:35.880
15 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 1:35.974
16 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:36.235
17 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:36.268
18 Alexander Albon Williams 1:36.315
19 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:36.589
20 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:36.827

Verstappen takes Qatar victory

Newly world champion Max Verstappen dominated the Qatar Grand Prix and this is the Red Bull’s driver 14th victory in an ultra-successful season.

Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris finished second and third, recording another podium for McLaren, while Oscar was Max’s closest pursuer for much of the race and the latter charging up from starting P10.

At the start, Verstappen moved his car to cover George Russell’s run to the inside of Turn 1 and as he went left just behind the Red Bull’s left rear, Lewis Hamilton – starting on the softs with the two front-row starters on mediums – attacked his Mercedes teammate.

As the soft-shod W14 surged around the one running mediums, they came together in Verstappen’s wake and the contact popped Hamilton’s right rear off and spun him out in the gravel, with Russell spinning and falling to last.

The safety car was sent out as Hamilton’s car was recovered – team radio messages revealing both Mercedes drivers initially blamed the other for the shunt – and so the race only really got going at the start of lap five of 57, with Verstappen leading Piastri, Fernando Alonso and Charles Leclerc.

Verstappen aced the restart to run immediately 1.0 seconds clear of Piastri, with the Red Bull driver doubling his advantage heading towards the lap count hitting double figures, despite the McLaren clearly pushing early on to try and regain the DRS advantage.

The lead gap had hit three seconds when McLaren pitted Piastri on lap 12, with Red Bull, which could leave Verstappen out until lap 17 per the number of laps the used set had done before the race, choosing to do so.

As Piastri had had to battle several others that had stopped under the safety car, when everything shook out again following the first round of stops for the leaders Verstappen’s advantage went up to 8.1 seconds.

Over the first two laps after Verstappen’s first stop, Piastri was able to shrink this down to only 7.4 seconds as the leader gently eased his second set of used mediums before pulling away again.

Piastri being on used mediums that had done more previous laps than Verstappen meant he again pitted for the second time comparatively early, on lap 25 for a third second of mediums – in this case, a new set for Piastri that meant he could run the full 18 laps for his third stint.

Verstappen made his second stop on lap 34, by which point Piastri’s strong pace early in his third stint meant he had cut the Red Bull’s lead to 5.8 seconds as the second stop sequences played out.

For his third stint, Verstappen had been handed new hards, which set up a difference for the fourth stint – with Piastri by this point with just over 20 laps to go having his teammate Norris catching up quickly too.

Verstappen used his hards to extend his lead back out again as the final third wore on, with Piastri facing a 10.2 seconds deficit by the time he stopped for the final time – taking hards – on lap 43.

As McLaren pitted Norris the next time by, the focus for the race’s ending became whether he could overall his teammate during the run to the flag, as Piastri had lost time warming his hards up to temperature and so Norris was able to get within 1.8 seconds as he rejoined.

But that pulled out again to 2.5 seconds as Norris had to go through the warm-up phase on the hards, at which point McLaren told Norris it wanted the pair to hold position as the team was worried the recovering Russell might put a set of softs on at the end and be a real threat.

Norris initially disagreed with McLaren’s call, but in the end held station just over a second behind his teammate as the orange squad wrapped up its second double podium in successive races.

Verstappen’s winning margin ended up being 4.8 seconds after he stopped for a third time to go back to the mediums on lap 51 – but his service ended up at a slightly sluggish 4.1 seconds as Red Bull struggled to get his front left used hard off, did the most damage to Max previous commanding gap over Piastri.

Despite that, Max crossed the finishing line in front of the McLarens to take his latest victory. Another masterclass performance in the Red Bull.

Qatar Grand Prix race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:27:39.168
2 Oscar Piastri McLaren +4.833s
3 Lando Norris McLaren +5.969s
4 George Russell Mercedes +34.119s
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +38.976s
6 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +49.032s
7 Esteban Ocon Alpine +62.390s
8 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +66.563s
9 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +76.127s
10 Sergio Perez Red Bull +80.181s
11 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +81.652s
12 Pierre Gasly Alpine +82.300s
13 Alexander Albon Williams +91.014s
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas +1 lap
15 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +1 lap
16 Nico Hulkenberg Haas +1 lap
17 Liam Lawson AlphaTauri +1 lap
Logan Sargeant Williams DNF
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes DNF
Carlos Sainz Ferrari DNS

Verstappen wins championship as Piastri takes victory in Qatar sprint

Max Verstappen is a three-time Formula 1 world champion after finishing in second position in the Qatar Grand Prix sprint race, which was won by McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.

The 19-lap event featured three safety car periods and was characterised by the drivers opting to use soft tyres making big gains early on and the safety car restarts, before falling back as the race wore on with their Pirelli tyres graining.

A three-way crash that triggered the third safety car period eliminated Sergio Perez which ultimately sealed Verstappen’s title.

At the start, Piastri held the lead off the line from pole while his fellow front row and medium tyre starter Lando Norris and Verstappen, also on the yellow-walled rubber from third, were swamped by the cars starting on the softs – George Russell, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.

The race was then neutralised by the safety car being called into action soon after Liam Lawson spun off from the back of the pack at Turn 2, where he appeared to lose the rear of his AlphaTauri at the long left-hander and spun off into the gravel.

When the race restarted on lap three, Piastri made a getaway but lost the lead when Russell made a late dive to the inside of the Turn 6 hairpin – getting ahead as Piastri slid a touch and lost momentum exiting the corner.

Proceedings were then neutralised by another safety car – required because Logan Sargeant had spun off by himself running through the Turn 9 right-hand kink mid-way through the second sector.

The race restarted again at the start of lap seven, with the drivers on the mediums being told the cars running the softs were already seeing tyres graining up and the expectation being the event would swing back towards those on the more durable compound.

Russell was even better than Piastri on the second restart, shooting clear well before the track’s final turns once the safety car had run ahead to the pits to lead by 1.4 seconds as lap seven went by.

The Mercedes driver was able to hold Piastri at bay and out of DRS range for the first few laps after the second restart, during which Verstappen climbed back to third with DRS-assisted runs passes on the Ferrari pair on consecutive laps.

On lap 11, Russell was finally in DRS range for Piastri as the soft tyre swing turned out as many engineers had predicted and the McLaren driver surged back to the lead with a DRS run to the first corner.

A few seconds later, a third safety car was required when a three-way battle involving Esteban Ocon, Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez in the lower reaches of the top ten resulted in all three cars off the road at Turn 2.

Ocon was under pressure as a soft tyre runner versus the other two on medium tyres and as he fended off Hulkenberg’s attentions in and out of Turn 1, Perez got a run on both into Turn 2, where Ocon moving right and the Haas being sandwiched triggered the contact and put Ocon and Perez out on the spot – with Hulkenberg able to escape the scene before retiring in the pits.

The race resumed again on lap 15, with Russell having argued hard with his Mercedes engineer in favour of pitting during the final safety car as he felt his tyres were gone, a suggestion his team dismissed.

Piastri cleared Russell with P1, with Verstappen taking second with a DRS blast into Turn 1 the next time by, with the leader having established a 2.6 seconds lead over the recovering Red Bull.

Verstappen set two fastest laps during the first two tours of the remaining three, but he could not eat into Piastri’s lead enough to ever make a move.

Piastri had the legs on the final lap to cap Verstappen’s charge to finish 1.8 seconds back, with Norris recovering to third having passed the Ferrari pair in the first two laps after the third safety car ended, then getting Russell with a move around the outside of Turn 1 on the final lap.

Russell ended up fourth – ahead of his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who rose up the order after his shock Q2 sprint qualifying elimination and lowly P12 grid spot thanks to the Ocon-Hulkenberg-Perez shunt happening just in front of him and the Ferrari drivers fading in the final laps.

Of the pair in red, Leclerc had jumped Norris to run fifth just after the third restart before the McLaren driver’s medium tyre life advantage came to bear, with Sainz then under pressure from his team-mate after Norris had gone through.

Leclerc locking up ahead of Hamilton at the Turn 6 hairpin on the final lap gave Sainz some breathing room, but it was not enough as the Mercedes driver carved his way passed both Ferraris on the last lap.

With Sainz and Leclerc sixth and seventh, Alex Albon made many late gains to rise to ninth, with soft starters Fernando Alonso and Pierre Gasly falling back to ninth and 10th having led Hamilton in the period immediately after the third restart.

At the rear of the field, Lance Stroll, Kevin Magnussen and Zhou Guanyu made pitstops during the final safety car, but could not use their fresh rubber to make an impact.

Leclerc and Stroll face a post-race investigation over apparent repeated track limits infractions.

Post-race penalties for these two drivers following track limits. So Alex Albon and Fernando Alonso are promoted to the points.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen in winning the 2023 season and becoming a three-time Formula 1 world champion. What a fantastic achievement in the Red Bull.

As for Oscar Piastri, well deserved to take victory for McLaren in the sprint. Has a bright future in the sport so this success is just the start.

Qatar Grand Prix sprint race results:
1 Oscar Piastri McLaren 35:01.297
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull +1.871s
3 Lando Norris McLaren +8.497s
4 George Russell Mercedes +11.036s
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +17.314s
6 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +18.806s
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +19.860s
8 Alexander Albon Williams +19.864s
9 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +21.180s
10 Pierre Gasly Alpine +21.742s
11 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +22.208s
12 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +22.863s
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +24.523s
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas +24.970s
15 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +26.868s
Nico Hulkenberg Haas F DNF
Esteban Ocon Alpine DNF
Sergio Perez Red Bull DNF
Logan Sargeant Williams DNF
Liam Lawson AlphaTauri H DNF

McLaren takes 1-2 in sprint qualifying at Qatar

Oscar Piastri achieved his first pole position in Formula 1 by taking the fastest time in the sprint shootout at the Qatar Grand Prix. His teammate Lando Norris is second earning McLaren a front row grid slot.

Max Verstappen could only manage third but this position is enough to seal the championship with the sprint race coming up.

The session was dominated again by the focus being on track limits following the issues in Friday’ qualifying and changes to the Losail track following Pirelli discovering repeated high-speed kerb impacts were damaging the tyres.

In SQ3, where all drivers ran soft tyres having progressed on mediums in SQ1 and SQ2, Verstappen lost his first flaying lap for going too wide out of Turn 5, which was a place where wind was causing issues for the drivers.

That one minute, 24.453 seconds lap, completed when the Red Bull driver’s soft tyres were at their freshest, still would not have been good enough to get ahead of the McLaren drivers when they completed their opening efforts later in the final segment.

Unlike at other sprint qualifying events this year, the smooth new track surface here meant the drivers were able to push on for multiple laps throughout the segment, with the cars also fuelled to run throughout in anticipation of possible extra runs being needed in case of times being lost due to track limits.

Piastri’s opening time was shaded by his teammate’s one minute, 24.536 seconds, which Verstappen unable to beat on his second attempt meant he would end up behind the McLaren pair.

On their final runs, Piastri went ahead with one minute, 24.454 seconds and the focus switched to Norris behind, as he had led his teammate in the opening two sectors.

But when Norris ran very wide out of the final turn he abandoned his lap, which meant Piastri went one better than the second position he took in Spa sprint shootout qualifying earlier this season.

Behind the top three came George Russell, Carlos Sainz, Charles Leclerc, Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, with all apart from George boosted by Fernando Alonso losing his final SQ3 time for a track limits off at Turn 13 and dropping him from fifth to ninth.

Esteban Ocon rounded out the SQ3 top ten for Alpine.

In SQ2, Hulkenberg’s last-gasp improvement with the then-quickest time in the middle sector knocked out Pierre Gasly.

Behind, Lewis Hamilton was the shock knockout, losing two laps to track limits – including his final effort, which would not have been fast enough to progress in any case – as he ended up in P12 ahead of Valtteri Bottas, Liam Lawson and Zhou Guanyu.

In SQ1, Lance Stroll was eliminated in P16, as several drivers had their final times deleted, including Alex Albon and Yuki Tsunoda, while behind this pair Kevin Magnussen and Logan Sargeant also lost their final laps and ended up P19 and P20.

Sargeant ended up without a representative time on the board for Williams after his initial efforts were also excluded for track limits violations at Turn 13, with a similar situation also impacting Zhou in SQ2.

The session was preceded by a 10-minute effective warm-up session so the drivers could sample the new track limits at Turns 13 and 14 – painted kerbing lines onto the asphalt that reduce the track width by 80cm for the length of the kerbs at those points.

Verstappen topped the running, with a best time of one minute, 27.085 seconds, which he concluded with another verbal joust with his engineer Gianpiero Lambiase, who had wanted the driver to finish a lap after he had gone so wide out of Turn 5 that he found one of the few gravel traps at this venue.

So congratulations to McLaren with this fine team effort. Oscar Piastri did a superb job to take pole position. The sprint race follows and it will be interesting if Max Verstappen can take the championship.

Qatar Grand Prix, sprint shootout results:
1 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:24.454
2 Lando Norris McLaren 1:24.536
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:24.646
4 George Russell Mercedes 1:24.841
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:25.155
6 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:25.247
7 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:25.320
8 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:25.382
9 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:25.344
10 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:25.510
11 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:25.686
12 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:25.962
13 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:26.236
14 Liam Lawson AlphaTauri 1:26.584
15 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:54.546
16 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:26.849
17 Alexander Albon Williams 1:26.862
18 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:26.926
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:27.438
20 Logan Sargeant Williams 2:05.741

Verstappen scores pole position at Qatar

Max Verstappen achieved his tenth pole position in this season’s Formula 1 World Championship by setting the fastest lap at the Qatar Grand Prix while both McLaren drivers got their times deleted after the session.

The qualifying session at the Losail circuit was dominated by track limits, plus the drivers struggling for rear grip around the high-speed circuit layout.

Verstappen posted a time of one minute, 23.778 seconds on his first run in Q3, which turned out to be the pole time as he lost the rear of his RB19 going through Turn 5 on his second Q3 run.

Lando Norris had already lost a lap time to track limits in Q1 and this occurred again on his first Q3 flaying lap, where like Verstappen he went too wide at Turn 5.

He initially got to within 0.3 seconds of Verstappen’s leading with his second Q3 attempt, but edging out too wide through Turn 10 proved to be costly for Norris and he was dropped back to P10.

Lando’s errors promoted Mercedes driver George Russell to second, ahead of Oscar Piastri and Lewis Hamilton, who had been second after the first Q3 runs but abandoned his second go after a wild oversteer moment at Turn 7 sent him off track.

But Piastri’s lap time was also deleted while he was interviewed post-session, moving Hamilton up to third on the grid. Piastri will start in sixth position.

Fernando Alonso took fifth for Aston Martin ahead of Charles Leclerc, who also abandoned his second Q3 flying lap after needing two attempts to set a time on the first runs in the final segment as he went off at Turn 4 – a spot of repeated issue for the Ferrari driver throughout qualifying.

Alpine’s Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon finished seventh and eighth, ahead of Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas and the demoted Norris.

In Q2, Yuki Tsunoda topped the list of those eliminated, with Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez the high-profile early fallers ahead of Alex Albon and Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg.

Sainz could not gain time switching to new softs – abandoning his first lap after a moment at Turn 7 and getting involved in an incident with Verstappen where Sainz appeared to repeatedly cut in front of the Red Bull’s line as they prepared for their final Q2 efforts.

Perez was knocked out after losing his best time – one that only had him on the fringes of the Q2 top ten anyway – and was deleted for slipping beyond track limits at Turn 5 on his final effort.

In Q1, Albon’s last effort improvement knocked his Williams teammate Logan Sargeant out by just 0.092 seconds with Logan losing time in the high-speed corners in the track’s final sector.

Behind came Lance Stroll, Liam Lawson, Kevin Magnussen and Zhou Guanyu.

Hamilton, Tsunoda, Lawson and Piastri also face a post-qualifying investigation for possibly failing to follow the race director’s instructions regarding the maximum lap time aimed to reduce traffic issues in qualifying.

Qatar Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:23.778
2 George Russell Mercedes 1:24.219
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24.305
4 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:24.369
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:24.424
6 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:24.540
7 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:24.553
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:24.763
9 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:25.058
10 Lando Norris McLaren No time
11 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:25.301
12 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:25.328
13 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:25.462
14 Alexander Albon Williams 1:25.707
15 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:25.783
16 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:26.210
17 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:26.345
18 Liam Lawson AlphaTauri 1:26.635
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:27.046
20 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:27.432

Red Bull are constructors’ title winners following Verstappen victory in Japan

World championship-elect Max Verstappen retuned to winning ways by securing first position at the Japanese Grand Prix and securing Red Bull Racing’s their sixth constructors’ title.

Verstappen fended off an early assault from the McLarens at the start of the race and lived up to Lando’s pre-race prediction that the Woking-based squad would have little answer to Max if he led beyond Turn 2.

The Red Bull driver crossed the finishing line 19.3 seconds clear of Norris, having been considerably out of reach across the 53-lap race at Suzuka beyond the opening laps.

The only moments of close action that the championship leader faced were in his defence of the lead into the first corner, as he pulled across to the inside of the corner to fend off any threat from front-row starter Oscar Piastri.

Norris then placed his car on the outside, but could not get enough to get into the second corner to take the lead, but jumping Piastri nonetheless in the process.

The McLaren driver then attempted to challenge Verstappen on a subsequent restart after a lap 1 safety car was produced to clear debris resulting from a clash between Valtteri Bottas and Alex Albon – in which the Alfa Romeo driver went into the Williams driver’s side by Esteban Ocon.

Verstappen made the perfect restart on the exit of the Casio Triangle, and proceeded to begin his usual efforts to build a break over the rest.

This put him beyond reach despite the early power of an undercut strategy, as Verstappen had enough in hand to preserve a net lead during each pitstop stages.

His efforts ensured that Red Bull outscored Mercedes to tie up the constructors’ championship, the team’s sixth during its 19 seasons in Formula 1. What an incredible achievement.

Norris led a McLaren 2-3 home as Piastri managed to collect his maiden podium – although he undercut Norris following the opening round of stops having pitted under a brief virtual safety car – Oscar’s race pace was less impressive than his teammate and Norris made his way through at the start of lap 27.

Charles Leclerc briefly hinted at being a threat to Piastri’s podium when the 2021 Formula 2 champion was stuck behind a one-stopping George Russell following the second round of stops, but struggled to pass the Mercedes himself once Piastri made his way through.

The Ferrari driver eventually finished 7.5 seconds down on Piastri but had fourth apparently locked in as the cars behind made little progress into his advantage despite differing attempts at strategy.

Lewis Hamilton made an undercut over Carlos Sainz work to secure fifth, having just about fended off the Ferrari driver despite Mercedes’ bad attempt to imitate his Singapore Grand Prix-winning strategy by telling Hamilton to give the following Russell DRS.

Russell was moved aside by Sainz as his sole set of hard tyres had begun to ail and fell to 7.4 seconds behind the Ferrari to secure seventh.

Following a strong getaway at the start of the race that resulted in sixth position, Fernando Alonso could only claim eighth after an early switch from soft tyres to hards – and suggested his team had “thrown me to the lions” as he battled to retain position.

He managed to stay ahead of the Alpines, as Ocon recovered from the first-lap drama to collect ninth ahead of Pierre Gasly.

Liam Lawson beat AlphaTauri teammate Yuki Tsunoda as the home favourite was announced for the 2024 season, as Zhou Guanyu beat the Haas duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen.

Magnussen had survived an assault from Sergio Perez at the Turn 11 hairpin as the Red Bull driver made an bad divebomb on K-Mag. Checo then earned a five-second penalty and retired, but returned to the circuit well into the race to serve that penalty before retiring again.

Williams retired Albon and Logan Sargeant as a result of the damage, as the latter used his newly rebuilt car to push off Bottas into a spin at the hairpin, causing the Alfa Romeo driver to retire his own car two laps after the contact.

So congratulations to Red Bull Racing in winning the constructors’ title. What an incredible achievement in this sport and with Max Verstappen on the verge of taking this season’s title, this success has been incredible.

Japanese Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:30:58.421
2 Lando Norris McLaren +19.387s
3 Oscar Piastri McLaren +36.494s
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +43.998s
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +49.376s
6 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +50.221s
7 George Russell Mercedes +57.659s
8 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +74.725s
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine +79.678s
10 Pierre Gasly Alpine +83.155s
11 Liam Lawson AlphaTauri +1 lap
12 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +1 lap
13 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +1 lap
14 Nico Hulkenberg Haas +1 lap
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas +1 lap
Alexander Albon Williams DNF
Logan Sargeant Williams DNF
Lance Stroll Aston Martin DNF
Sergio Perez Red Bull DNF
Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo DNF

Verstappen and Red Bull returns back to his usual pole position

World champion Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing are back on form following qualifying at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

Verstappen edged out his nearest competitor of Oscar Piastri by over half a second. His initial Q3 run was a time of one minute, 29.012 seconds – which would have been good enough for pole on its own – and yet the Red Bull driver went even quicker on the second lap to further extend his advantage with a lap time of one minute, 28.877 seconds.

The Red Bull driver’s final lap was 0.581 seconds clear of Piastri’s opening effort, which the McLaren driver unable to improve on the second time around, but nonetheless it was enough for him to secure a first front-row start having shaded teammate Lando Norris by just 0.035 seconds.

Norris could not improve on his second effort either, but lost moments of time compared to his younger teammate in the second and third sectors to be beaten to the front row at Suzuka.

Charles Leclerc only did a single lap in Q3, but gained fourth position as Ferrari appeared to lose pace compared to McLaren overnight having headed the Woking-based squad in Friday’s practice sessions.

The Scuderia Ferraris were split by Sergio Perez, who was 0.773 seconds adrift to teammate Verstappen, but the Red Bull driver found enough to move ahead of Carlos Sainz by two tenths on his final run.

Lewis Hamilton was a second off the pace but beat Mercedes teammate George Russell by 0.3 seconds, responding George’s improvement among the final runs to reclaim his place ahead.

Home hero Yuki Tsunoda made his way into Q3 and grabbed ninth, beating Fernando Alonso, who just managed to get into Q3 to ensure his season-long streak of making the final qualifying session continued.

Liam Lawson could not repeat his Q1 heroics, where he jumped up to fourth, and was knocked out Q2 by just 0.043 seconds as George Russell broke into the top ten at the end of the second segment of qualifying.

Lawson shaded the tenth position Alonso by that tiny margin to claim P11 on Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix grid, as Pierre Gasly was just 0.001 seconds behind the AlphaTauri driver in a tight session.

Alex Albon was first to set a lap in the second set of runs and initially got up to seventh, but fell down the order as the later laps showed greater improvement. He was half a tenth ahead of Esteban Ocon, the Alpine’s squad losing both cars in Q2, while Kevin Magnussen nudged into Q2, but could get no further than P15 for Haas.

Logan Sargeant lost control of his Williams on the exit of the Casio Triangle while attempting to complete his first flying lap, dipping a wheel on the grass and straight into the barrier. This shunt produced a red flag – the second Q1 stoppage in as many races.

This interrupted the laps of Sainz and Leclerc and, with nine minutes remained on the clock when the session resumed, the Ferrari pair were first to go again on new softs in their bid to secure access to the second part of qualifying.

An end-of-session series of laps followed as the bottom half of the field aimed to break away from the top five, where both Gasly and Albon, who had laps deleted following the first runs, managed to get through to Q2.

Albon was last to set a time, and his effort was enough to dump Valtteri Bottas into the drop zone. Lance Stroll dropped out in P17, as his teammate Alonso managed to get his way out of the bottom five despite only modest improvements to his initial time.

Nico Hulkenberg also had a lap deleted but could not progress beyond P18, while Zhou Guanyu lost a lap to minimal effect as he had only made it to P19 anyway, having run slightly wide at the second Degner corner. Sargeant did not get a time on the board and will start last.

So normal service is resumed with Max Verstappen and Red Bull back on top following a dip in form at Singapore’s Marina Bay last weekend. The RB19 looks well balanced with great grip and speed, so it seems the Japanese Grand Prix could see the team winning the constructors’ title. That would be incredible achievement if Verstappen score victory at epic Suzuka on race day.

Japanese Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:28.877
2 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:29.458
3 Lando Norris McLaren 1:29.493
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:29.542
5 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:29.650
6 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:29.850
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:29.908
8 George Russell Mercedes 1:30.219
9 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:30.303
10 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:30.560
11 Liam Lawson AlphaTauri 1:30.508
12 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:30.509
13 Alexander Albon Williams 1:30.537
14 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:30.586
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:30.665
16 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:31.049
17 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:31.181
18 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:31.299
19 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:31.398
20 Logan Sargeant William No time