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Qatar Grand Prix: F1 race results

Tyre concerns ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix resulted in the FIA and Pirelli imposing race-defining restrictions upon the F1 teams

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The high drama had begun before the lights even went out for the Qatar Grand Prix, with an 18-lap maximum stint length imposed upon the entire F1 field.

F1 Qatar Grand Prix result
Max Verstappen didn’t need to wait for the Qatar Grand Prix to confirm his third consecutive F1 Drivers’ World Championship, wrapping up the title during Saturday’s sprint. (Image Credit: @redbullracing on X)

This move came following concerns over the aggressive pyramid kerbs that sit along the outside of certain corners at the Losail International Circuit.

The issue related to the ability of F1’s Pirelli tyres to withstand contact with the kerbs over a prolonged period of time, but was not a Pirelli issue in itself. Together, the FIA and Pirelli felt it necessary to take action and impose the restrictions that effectively forced each driver into at least a three-stop race strategy.

Specifically, the FIA discovered “a separation in the sidewall between the topping compound and the carcass cords on many of tyres that were checked.”

Therefore, the issue was construction-based and not compound-centric, meaning the 18-lap maximum was in place for each type of tyre.

With the entire field pigeon-holed into at least four stints, used tyres would come into play during the grand prix. Those sets of tyres were also tied to the overall 18-lap maximum, so how used they were became a major consideration in race strategy. The below graphic – provided by Pirelli – outlined the number of laps left on each set of the F1 field’s tyre allocation prior to the start.

F1 Qatar Grand Prix

It had already been an enthralling weekend in Lusail, even before what was shaping up to be a frenetic, pit-stop-strewn grand prix.

A maiden win and a third consecutive title

Concerns over Lance Stroll’s recent form weren’t helped by footage of him pushing trainer Henry Howe after a disappointing Q1 exit in Friday night’s qualifying.

The tyre issues, which were first identified following the sole scheduled practice session, increased the propensity of track limit violations – everyone’s favourite F1 talking point – after modifications to the track width at certain corners. That change would characterise both the sprint shootout and the sprint itself.

Oscar Piastri took pole from teammate Lando Norris on Saturday afternoon. He followed it up with a first win in F1 a few hours later – although he’ll have to wait for a first recorded grand prix victory.

Nevertheless, the sprint was undoubtedly the birth of a new star, one who might soon challenge the newly-crowned triple world champion, Max Verstappen. The Dutchman’s third consecutive title was confirmed with the retirement of Sergio Perez after contact with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon mid-race.

In the run-up to the grand prix

That crash required a significant rebuild of the Red Bull. So much so that Perez would have to start the race from the pit lane, as the changes made were so substantial it was considered a new chassis – the same thing that happened to Logan Sargeant in Japan.

Also in the wars pre-grand prix was the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard suffered a fuel system issue on his car that ultimately ended his race before it began.

With one Red Bull down, and one Ferrari out, it was a case of who might capitalise on their respective woes.

The mandatory stint length maximum meant added jeopardy in the opening salvo of the race; those enforced changes were likely to cause early incidents to hurt strategy and tyre availability more than usual.

The first stint

The vast majority of the field opted to start the race on medium tyres, with just Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Liam Lawson and Kevin Magnussen on the contrarian soft compound.

It would be new mediums for the Williams pair of Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant, who were joined by Yuki Tsunoda and Zhou Guanyu on fresh rubber.

A horrific start for the Mercedes drivers, Hamilton – who had a good start on the red-walled tyres – making contact with George Russell into the apex of the first corner.

An early safety car would ensue to the benefit of Oscar Piastri, who moved past Charles Leclerc and Fernando Alonso and into P2 during the melee. Following the contact, Russell was in and onto another set of mediums. But would he be able to continue much further into the race after that collision?

He was soon onto the radio to apologise for the incident, despite fault appearing to fall at the feet of Hamilton.

Four laps in and the pit lane would see a number of cars come in to roll the strategy dice. Bottas, Magnussen, Stroll and Lawson shuffled to the back of the pack.

There were three safety car periods in the sprint, and Verstappen left Piastri for dead at the first restart of the grand prix, pulling over a second gap before even crossing the line to start lap five.

Nico Hulkenberg soon found himself under investigation for an incorrect starting position. That wouldn’t deter him from making a strong move on Yuki Tsunoda, but the penalty would soon come – a 10-second time addition for occupying Sainz’s vacant grid slot.

Fernando Alonso had a moment off-track but managed to retain P3, behind the McLaren of Piastri and the Red Bull of Verstappen.

Towards the first round of stops

Meanwhile, Russell – who had started in P2 – continued to work his way through the pack, up to P10 by the end of lap 9. The British seemingly escaped damage-free from his first corner accident.

Tsunoda was the first of the points-runners to pit, soon to be followed by Ocon, with both onto medium tyres. Alonso followed a lap later along with Pierre Gasly. After 12 laps, Perez was up to P10, but he’d have to pit within the next six.

Piastri and Leclerc were the next in, leaving Norris in P2 and Russell in P3 – who had already pitted. Hulkeberg and the two Williams rounded out the top six runners, but all three were yet to stop.

As the lap count approached 18, the pit lane wouldn’t get any less frantic. Russell would be in again after 15 laps, elevating Albon to P2 with Perez and Zhou behind. However, along with leader Verstappen, all four still needed to come in within the next three rotations. Would the offset strategy pay dividends?

With Verstappen pitting a lap prior to the limit, Albon inherited the lead for one lap having been just under a pit stop behind the champion. Piastri continued to work through those ahead of him and soon found himself back in P2 – but over eight seconds off the lead.

After the first round of stops, the big winners appeared to be Bottas in P4 and Stroll in P5. But with a range of strategies, tyre age and compound, it remained unclear as to where they ultimately lay in the fight.

The latter would soon find himself taken by Norris, with Leclerc also in close pursuit. Up top, Norris’s teammate had closed the gap marginally to Verstappen.

The mid-point

Things soon straightened out, with Bottas and Stroll in for new hard tyres after 21 laps. They’d next have to stop by lap 39, meaning they’d be able to take one final 18-lap stint the whole way to the chequered flag on lap 57.

As an early stopper, Piastri would soon be in again, on lap 25. The Australian driver coming out between Alnon and Zhou in P8. Alonso would soon follow from P2, having complained to his team of the heat coming from his race seat. In other bad news, Perez would find himself the victim of a five-second time penalty. His crime? Track limits.

Albon, despite being on a different strategy, raced the charging Piastri hard. The Williams driver managed to fend him off for a little while but yielded the position at the start of lap 29.

Now in fresh air, Piastri was able to quickly claim the fastest lap, as he closed in on Perez for P3. Russell, already on two stops, lay up the round in P2, some 22 seconds behind Verstappen in the lead. The Dutch driver was soon given then hurry up – and asked for a managed, sustainable increase in pace.

Alonso endured his second trip off-track on lap 33, the two-time champion flying across the gravel. Although he found the escape road, he would rejoin the track right in front of Leclerc, and arguably in an unsafe manner. Would he face further penalisation?

With 36 laps in the bank, James Vowles confirmed that Logan Sargeant had reported feeling unwell from the cockpit of his car. Given the opportunity by his team to retire, the under-pressure American declined. He’d opt to valiantly continue, despite running last, as he fights for his F1 career.

The final phase

39 laps gone and into the last required stop window, Bottas, Stroll, Magnussen and Lawson would soon come in – the four drivers who came in during the safety car period on lap four.

Perez soon gifted himself another five-second penalty for track limits. At 40 laps, Sargeant was back on the radio. Unable to continue, illness getting the better of him of the 22-year-old.

Gasly would soon join those with track limits penalties, whilst up front Piastri made his final stop of the race. The young race winner re-entered the fray in P4 on hard tyres. After his teammate pitted a lap later, he re-took P3, but the gap was drastically reduced. Would Norris try to prove a point with just 12 laps left to run?

No, as far as McLaren were concerned. The team soon came on the radio to tell him to hold position, which Norris unsurprisingly challenged. The Briton continued to hunt Piastri, claiming he was quicker.

Up the road, Russell in P2 still needed to pit. The concern for McLaren was a stop after lap 50 and onto softs. He’d rejoin behind their pair, but he’d be far quicker.

He’d come in on lap 51, and indeed onto the red-walled tyres. 15 seconds back from Norris, what could he manage with just six laps to go?

A slow stop for Verstappen the lap after would have no impact, given his sizeable advantage over the two papaya cars.

Further down the order, Zhou Guanyu was enjoying a strong performance in P6, but he still needed to make his final tyre change. He’d fall to P12, but Bottas – in the other Alfa Romeo – would benefit, moving up to P8.

The last few laps

A late time penalty for track limits would ruin a better day for Stroll, who was in P9. Perez and Gasly sought to gain, but would Zhou have time to catch the pair and reclaim a points position?

With the pressure of Russell no longer an issue – the Mercedes driver deciding to consolidate his P4 – Norris would continue to track down Piastri in P2. He reduced the gap to below a second, however, it was a case of too little, too late for him.

The McLaren pair followed Verstappen home, with Russell and Leclerc rounding out the top five. Zhou would fight back into the points, to score for the first time since Spain.

Combined with Bottas’s P8, Alfa Romeo leapfrogged Haas into P8 in the constructors’ championship – a big evening for the team that will return to the Sauber name next season.

A chaotic race strategy-wise, and a physically and mentally draining challenge for the drivers, McLaren managed a 38-point gain as they continue to fight their way back up the order with only a handful of race weekends left to run.

Full classified race results

Featured Image Credit: @redbullracing on X

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