Max Verstappen celebrated becoming a three-time world champion by winning the Qatar Grand Prix ahead of the two McLaren drivers.Lewis Hamilton tripped over George Russell at turn one.
That opened the door for the rapid McLarens. Sprint race winner Oscar Piastri took maximum advantage, leading home team mate Norris to complete another double podium for McLaren. Russell recovered to fourth but Hamilton’s race ended on lap one.
Due to the tyre concerns raised by Pirelli over the build-up to the grand prix, the FIA announced that there would be a maximum stint length of 18 laps for safety reasons. The majority of the top 10 starters opted to begin the race on medium tyres, though Hamilton had soft tyres fitted for the start.
When the lights went out, pole winner Verstappen came under pressure from fellow front row starter Russell. But Hamilton got a better start on his soft tyres and tried to pass Russell around the outside of the first corner.
The two Mercedes collided, sending Hamilton spinning out of the race and dropping Russell to the back of the field. In the chaos, Piastri navigated by Fernando Alonso into second place, while the Safety Car was deployed so Hamilton’s car could be retrieved from the turn one gravel trap.
The race eventually restarted at the beginning of lap five, with Verstappen leading from Piastri, Alonso and Charles Leclerc in fourth. Russell restarted at the back of the field in 18th place, quickly making positions as he began his recovery.
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Verstappen pulled out a modest lead over Piastri, with Alonso becoming the first of the leaders to stop at the end of lap 11. Piastri pitted the following lap and rejoined ahead of Alonso, with Verstappen eventually fitting a second set of mediums at the end of lap 17. By the time the first pit cycle had completed, Verstappen held a lead of seven seconds over Piastri, with Alonso four seconds further back.
Verstappen’s lead remained fairly static until Piastri made his second stop at the end of lap 25, fitting his third set of mediums, with Alonso also stopping and resuming on hard tyres. Alonso had a major moment at turn two, sliding off the track and onto the gravel, losing a position to Leclerc after rejoining right in front of the Ferrari.
The race leader remained out on track until the end of lap 34, pitting for hard tyres. Over the next 10 laps, Verstappen increased his lead to 10 seconds, until Piastri stopped again on lap 44, switching onto the hard tyres. His team mate inherited second place until Norris pitted at the end of the next lap, resuming just behind his team mate.
Russell had spent the race making his way through the field after his opening lap clash with Hamilton and moved into second after the McLarens stopped, with a Russell still to make a final pit stop. Eventually Russell pitted for hard tyres, rejoining down in fourth, 20 seconds behind Norris. Verstappen made his final stop and to sit just five seconds ahead of Piastri in the lead, with under five laps remaining.
Verstappen checked off the remaining laps and took the chequered flag to secure his 14th grand prix victory of the season. Piastri secured the best grand prix finish of his rookie career in second, under five seconds behind the winner, with Norris completing the podium for McLaren in third. Russell took fourth place despite fading rapidly in the final stint, ahead of Leclerc in fifth and Alonso sixth in for Aston Martin.
Esteban Ocon finished seventh for Alpine, with both Alfa Romeos of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu securing double points in eighth and ninth. Sergio Perez took the final point in tenth after multiple time penalties for exceeding track limits.
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2023 Qatar Grand Prix
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