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Qatar Qualifying: Verstappen takes ten

Qatar Qualifying: Verstappen takes ten amid track limits farce

Qatar Qualifying: Verstappen takes ten

Max Verstappen took a pole position for the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell and Lewis Hamilton who inherited Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri’s positions.

The Dutchman was on another level as he snatched his 30th Formula 1 career pole position on a weekend he is looking to seal his third F1 Drivers’ Crown.

And despite making a mistake on his second run in Q3 which meant he had to abort and head back to the pits, no one else was able to deny him his tenth pole position of the season.

And while for some time we all thought Lando Norris was second fastest, the stewards finally decided to delete his final lap time while he was getting ready to do his parc ferme interviews, and dropped him to tenth.

The FIA joke of a stewarding continued as Oscar Piastri had his lap time deleted as well while the Australian driver was doing his his parc ferme interview!!!

That meant George Russell and Lewis Hamilton took second and third fastest respectively after the McLaren drivers got their laps deleted. Piastri dropped to sixth.

Verstappen: Great start to the weekend

Verstappen said after qualifying: “Great start to the weekend. It’s quite tricky out there with the new tarmac. It still needs to rubber in. Very peaky grip. As soon as you overpush, the rear steps out.

“Of course very happy to be on pole, it’s been a good day for us,” he added. “I want to win on Sunday. We put it on pole and naturally you want to win the race but let’s make sure tomorrow we have a good day. I think the car is quick.

“Tomorrow it’s going to be a bit more difficult to get the tyres ready to work well with the tyres. It’s a great start to the weekend and the car is working well. That’s all I can hope for really,” the Red Bull ace concluded.

Russell added: “Really tricky day for everybody. New tarmac, really slippery, very windy here. We went out in qualifying and the lap times were just immense compared to this morning.

“I’m really happy with P3 (P2). I think we did a bit better than expected,” he said of his third place which became second after Norris’ demotion.

“The McLarens look quick. We know Red Bull and Max are in a league of their own. Our fight is with Ferrari and we need to be consistent,” the Briton concluded.

Hamilton: Not massively satisfied

After being promoted to third, Hamilton commented: “Not massively satisfied. It’s just great for the team to be on the first two rows.

“Difficult at the beginning of the session, tricky conditions out there with the wind. Ultimately, a pretty average session for me.

“I’m going to give it everything and try and bag those points. It’s great we are ahead of the Ferraris which is key,” the seven-time F1 Champion concluded.

Norris reflected on his deleted lap times, he said: “I had a correction of oversteer and went off. The team did a good job, I just messed it up.

“I just think of the job I’m meant to do today, which is put in good laps and don’t make mistakes, that’s what I did today, so not a good day for me,” he concluded.

Norris’ teammate Piastri also said on losing his third place: “I just pushed a little bit hard on the last lap. A shame because the car was quick.

“We get another crack at it tomorrow with qualifying and in the Sprint too. We will see what we can do. It’s very tight, it’s so easy to make a mistake because the track is very slippery. Not making things easy for us,” he added.

Q3: Norris loses out on track limits

Leclerc lost his first lap on new Soft tyres with a scary slide, as his SF-23 snapped out of control due to the wind, but he impressively managed to catch it. The lap was ruined though.

Norris’ first lap in Q3 was deleted as exceeded the track limits at Turn 5, as Verstappen dipped into the 1:23s on his first attempt and was the only driver to manage that.

Replay showed Leclerc being impeded by Norris, the latter asking whether the Ferrari driver was on a push lap. No communication between the McLaren pit wall and their driver?

The second round of laps began with Verstappen on provisional pole over half a second faster than Hamilton who was second fastest after the first round of laps. Half a second!!!

Verstappen’s second attempt was not good enough as he did a mistake and aborted his final lap and went back to the pits, but pole was his and now one else could take it away from him.

As the stewards finally finished clowning around with track limits, the final order for the starting grid of Sunday’s race was out.

Verstappen was fastest with a 1:23.778, 0.441s faster than Russell in second and 0.527s faster than Hamilton who was third.

Fernando Alonso was fourth fastest in the Aston Martin, 0.591s off pole and 0.055s ahead of Charles Leclerc who was fifth fastest for Ferrari.

Piastri was sixth fastest after his best lap was deleted, and was ahead of seventh-placed Pierre Gasly in the Alpine, the Frenchman posting a 1:24.553.

Esteban Ocon was eighth fastest in the sister Alpine, 0.210s behind his teammate and 0.295s faster than Valtteri Bottas, ninth fastest in the Alfa Romeo.

Norris was tenth having failed to post a lap time in Q3.

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Q2: Perez and Sainz out!

The remaining 15 cars set out on track in Q2 without delay as they are looking to fight for a place in the top ten, and Ocon soon had his first lap deleted for track limits violation.

Replay showed that Norris was impeded by Tsunoda and had to head back to the pits for a new set of tyres, his first effort putting him 14th fastest at that instant, on used Soft tyres.

Verstappen’s first effort was also on used Soft tyres, and was 0.206s faster than Russell who was on new Softs, a whopping 0.425s faster than Hamilton also on new tyres.

Soon the drivers were back on track for the second round of laps, with new Soft tyres bolted on for the final attempts to book a place in Q3.

Sainz and Leclerc both fluffed their first laps on new Soft tyres and put themselves under pressure having to go once again to make sure they make it through.

Replay showed Verstappen having to muscle his way past one of the Ferrari of Sainz while on an out lap, the Dutchman not happy with the Spaniard who according to him was defending.

Hamilton took over the lead into Q3 with a 1:24.381, 0.102s faster than Verstappen in second and 0.304s faster than Norris in third.

First of the drivers to miss out on the top ten was Yuki Tsunoda who was 11th fastest missing out by a painful 0.004s to Bottas who was tenth.

Carlos Sainz couldn’t get a lap within the track limits and ended up 12th fastest, 0.947s off the pace and was followed by Sergio Perez who also lost out to track limits. The Mexican was 13th fastest 0.134s behind Sainz.

Alex Albon was 14th fastest for Williams ahead of Nico Hulkenberg who also dropped out after having a lap time deleted.

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Q1: No drama, but numerous track limit violations

Temperatures dropped ahead of qualifying in Qatar, as the ambient temperature was 31 degrees when Q1 started while track temperature was 34 degrees. Wind speed dropped as well to 26kph, still a considerable figure.

The Red Bull drivers were the first to set out on track as Q1 was green-lighted, Perez ahead of Verstappen, as the cars lined up in the pitlane.

The best lap times would naturally the ones set later in the session as the track starts to evolve and rubber in, and drivers had to set lap after lap

Replay showed that Verstappen was impeded by one of the Mercedes, and wasn’t happy about it, while Norris had a lap deleted for exceeding track limits, too bad it was a great lap from the Briton. Leclerc also had a lap time deleted for track limits violation.

With eight minutes remaining from Q2, Alonso lead the time screens, with Ocon second, Leclerc third and Verstappen fourth.

Ocon soon reported that it was “very hot in the car” as he set out on track, his team responding that they are looking into it.

The drivers soon went back to the pits to bolt another set of Softs to have another go to try and make it out of Q1, but Sainz also had a lap time deleted for track limits violation, while Norris lost his McLaren at Turn 5, blowing his lap.

At the end of Q1, Verstappen lead the pack into Q2, 0.124s faster than Norris in second, while Alonso was third fastest, 0.216s off the pace.

Alonso was not happy with Ferrari’s Leclerc saying over the radio that he destroyed his lap, while the stewards announced Hamilton, Tsunoda, and Piastri were under investigation for going too slow on their out laps.

The first driver to drop out of Q1 was Logan Sargeant, who missed out to teammate Albon by 0.092s. At least he kept it out of the wall and was not far off his teammate. He was 16th fastest.

Lance Stroll again was way off his teammate (over a second), and was only 17th fastest at the end of Q2, and 0.290s ahead of Liam Lawson who was only 18th fastest.

Kevin Magnussen was 19th fastest in the Haas ahead of Zhou Guanyu who was dead last.

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