Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Losail International Circuit, 2023

Verstappen on pole as track limits violations cost Perez and McLaren pair

Formula 1

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Max Verstappen will start on pole position for Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix ahead of the two Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton.

The Red Bull driver took pole by four tenths of a second from the Mercedes pair. But both Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri were demoted places when both their final laps were deleted for track limits violations.


The first phase of qualifying began with track conditions significantly cooler than the earlier practice session. Red Bull wasted no time in taking to the track, Sergio Perez and Verstappen leading the field onto the circuit.

Perez set the first timed lap with a 1’28.495, but that was easily beaten by Verstappen’s 1’26.884, despite him catching a Ferrari and Mercedes in the later part of the lap. Charles Leclerc jumped straight to the top of the times with a 1’26.444 with his first effort, Verstappen’s next effort just a few hundredths slower.

The track limits around the Losail circuit proved challenging for drivers. Lando Norris lost a lap in the 1’26s for running wide at turn five, and Leclerc saw an almost identical time wiped for going off at turn four. Fernando Alonso kept his Aston Martin within the lines to post a 1’25.685, putting him at the very top of the order.

With five minutes to go in the opening session, the drop zone was made up of Zhou Guanyu, Alexander Albon – who had a time good enough for 13th deleted for track limits – Liam Lawson, Kevin Magnussen and Norris slowest having failed to set any legitimate push lap. Norris jumped from slowest to fastest with his next lap on new soft tyres, with Lawson also improving to push Nico Hulkenberg and Lance Stroll into danger.

Stroll needed a significant improvement to get safe. As the chequered flag flew, he could only jump up to 17th, over a second off his team mate’s pace, leaving him eliminated from Q1 for the fourth consecutive race weekend. Lawson was also knocked out in 18th, with Magnussen and Zhou eliminated on the back row of the grid.

The battle for survival came down to the two Williams drivers of Albon and Logan Sargeant. Sargeant sat safe in 15th, but Albon was the last driver to complete his final lap at the end of the session and the only driver who could eliminate his rookie team mate. Albon just pipped Sargeant’s best time by just under a tenth of a second, winning progression into Q2 at the expense of his fellow Williams driver.

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Q1 result

11Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’25.0078
24Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’25.1310.1247
314Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’25.2230.2169
481Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’25.2660.2599
563George RussellMercedesW141’25.3340.3279
616Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’25.4520.44510
710Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’25.5660.55910
831Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’25.7110.70410
955Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’25.8080.80110
1027Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’25.9040.8976
1111Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’25.9910.98410
1277Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’26.0381.0319
1322Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’26.0581.05110
1444Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’26.0761.0699
1523Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’26.1181.11110
162Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW451’26.2101.20310
1718Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’26.3451.33810
1840Liam LawsonAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’26.6351.62810
1920Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’27.0462.0399
2024Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’27.4322.4259

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Red Bull opted to allow their rivals to clean the track for them as the second session of qualifying got underway. The two McLarens were eager to get going with Norris and Piastri heading out on used soft tyres. Piastri set the initial benchmark with a 1’25.745, which was beaten by Leclerc’s first effort and then Verstappen, who posted a 1’24.758 to put car number one into position one.

The Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were among the last to set their opening laps, but when they did they were on new soft tyres. They could not quite match Verstappen’s pace, having to settle into second and third for Russell and Hamilton, respectively.

The Ferraris of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr waited until the track was quiet to push, but they both abandoned their next push laps after mistakes around the windy circuit. Piastri, Hulkenberg, Sainz, Valtteri Bottas and Norris were all sitting in the bottom five as the drivers headed out in the closing minutes for their final runs.

Norris, again, went from the rear of the field to the front with his next lap, with Piastri almost matching his team mate to go second. That put Perez in danger. The Red Bull driver only able to move into ninth with his last effort – and then he lost the lap time due to a track limits violation at turn five.

That made him the second major player to fall in Q2. Sainz had already lost his grip on a place in Q3 after Bottas improved his time. Joining Sainz and Perez in elimination were Yuki Tsunoda in 11th, Hulkenberg in 15th and Albon in 14th, who was forced to abandon his best lap after a mistake at turn 15 sent him off the circuit.

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Q2 result

144Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’24.38115
21Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’24.4830.10214
34Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’24.6850.30415
481Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’24.7240.34317
563George RussellMercedesW141’24.8270.44615
610Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’24.9180.53717
731Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’24.9280.54718
816Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’25.0790.69819
914Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’25.2410.86015
1077Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’25.2970.91615
1122Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’25.3010.92016
1255Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’25.3280.94718
1311Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’25.4621.08116
1423Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’25.7071.32615
1527Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’25.7831.40212

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With his team mate and one of the two Ferraris not participating in the session, it appeared that Verstappen would face reduced competition for pole. The challenge diminished further when Leclerc lost his first push lap of the session by running wide at the exit of turn four, then Norris had his first time cancelled for the same infringement.

With two of his main rivals losing their first laps, Verstappen duly took provisional pole position with his first effort on new soft tyres, breaking under the 1’24s with a 1’23.778. Leclerc was almost a second slower on his next attempt on the same tyres, while Norris peeled off into the pits without trying a second lap.

The Mercedes were the closest to the championship leader after the first run, Hamilton moving into second, albeit half a second off Verstappen’s provisional pole time. Russell was a tenth further back in third, with Piastri sitting fourth in the first McLaren.

As the field emerged for their final runs, Verstappen looked to be in an incredibly strong position. However, despite setting the fastest first sector, a mistake at turn four forced him to abandon his run. Although he could have been vulnerable, no one seemed to be able to get close to the Red Bull driver.

Norris was the closest, but appeared to have run wide at turn 10. Despite his apparent track limits violation, Norris jumped up to second place, with Russell moving right behind him. No one was able to challenge Verstappen, however, who had enough margin over the rest of the field to pull into the pit lane and still keep pole position.

As the drivers returned to the pit lane, Verstappen was fastest with Norris in second and Russell third. However, long after the drivers climbed from their cars, Norris lost his second-place time for his turn 10 off, leaving him last of those in Q3 and promoting Russell to second. Piastri was promoted into third, but that turned out to be temporary, as during the post-session television interviews he was told that his own best lap had been deleted for a track limits violation at turn 14.

That ultimately meant that the two Mercedes of Russell and Hamilton were now promoted to second and third on the grid, with Alonso moved up to fourth. Leclerc was promoted to fifth, while Piastri fell to sixth with his best time deleted.

The two Alpines of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon took seventh and eighth, with Bottas taking ninth for Alfa Romeo. Having failed to set a single legitimate lap in Q3, Norris was left stranded in tenth.

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Q3 result

11Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’23.77819
263George RussellMercedesW141’24.2190.44121
344Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’24.3050.52720
414Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’24.3690.59121
516Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’24.4240.64626
681Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’24.5400.76223
710Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’24.5530.77523
831Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’24.7630.98524
977Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’25.0581.28021
104Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL60No time21

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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12 comments on “Verstappen on pole as track limits violations cost Perez and McLaren pair”

  1. We have found the solution for entertainment and purity. Get tracks with lots of runoff. I said that these guys would not survive in Qatar after what happened in Austria. Get rid of street circuits and walls, put these wide tracks. These guys would be getting penalties non stop in the codemasters games.

    1. Or…just abide by track limits like a F1 pro that isn’t playing a video game.

  2. The fact that Perez always gets penalties for this in every single track they race that track limits is a thing reflects how scruffy his driving is.

    It just got to the point there’s no defense for him anymore.

    1. The deleted lap wasn’t necessarily the problem (Verstappen ran wide as well on his last lap). The problem is that Perez cannot see a decent banker lap.
      The .7s or more cannot be explained by a car developed for a different driving style.

    2. The fact that Perez always gets penalties for this in every single track they race that track limits is a thing reflects how scruffy his driving is.

      Or shows just how incredibly uncomfortable he is in the current iteration of their car.
      Because if that isn’t a factor, then he must have simply forgotten how to drive. Right? But he’ll probably remember at the beginning of next season, and then soon forget again as car development takes effect.

  3. F1pro
    still gives Norris on 8th..

  4. How about Stroll Jr.? He should be banned after what he did tonight. And I’m not speaking of his on-track performance, since that’s the usual.

    1. If anything, him being angry for not performing is good to see, as in he’s just not taking it easy, he’s just not able to drive the car anywhere near its potential and realises that.

      But yes, if I were a journalist I’d ask lawrence stroll: can you explain how alonso can consistently get in q3 and your son consistently gets eliminated in q1?

      1. I think Lawrence would reply:
        “Lance is currently the fastest of my children, and the only one with a super license, so it makes perfect sense for him to be in the car, and not Chloe.”

  5. 8,000 empty seats at this race and tickets are at a premium everywhere else. Disgusting.

  6. Track limits didn’t cost Checo Q3, though, because Hamilton’s time already dropped him to P11.

    1. @jerejj that’s not correct, he was tenth after all runs with a time of 1:25.27 .

Comments are closed.