Qatar Takeaways: A new triple champ, a new winner and other stories

Qatar Takeaways: A new triple champ, a new winner and other stories

Qatar Takeaways: A new triple champ, a new winner and other stories

The Qatar Grand Prix, as expected, saw Max Verstappen seal his third Formula 1 Drivers’ Title, and Oscar Piastri take his first win in top flight, while controversies were aplenty.

To be honest, the Qatar Grand Prix wasn’t an exciting race, which is a shame as the Lusail International Circuit has a nice layout, but the FIA’s decision to dictate the number of pitstops did not really help.

I can’t believe I am saying this, but for once the Sprint Race saw some decent action with the multiple Safety Car periods spicing things up even more, but the best thing about it is that we finally saw Oscar Piastri win ‘something’ in F1.

I say ‘something’, because the statistics will not show that he is a grand prix winner, he is a Sprint winner… What is that supposed to mean?

Never mind, because Piastri drove beautifully and kept a cool head under the attack of Max Verstappen who was trying his best not to win his third Title by finishing second, but in the end, the #81 McLaren was out of reach and the driver of the #1 Red Bull can only blame himself after messing up his final efforts in the Sprint Shootout by violating track limits which meant he started the Sprint from third, and anti-stalled on the start.

As it turned out, Verstappen only needed to outscore Sergio Perez by three points, which was easy as the latter crashed out from the Sprint. Third Championship in the bag, job done!

So let’s get on with our takeaways from the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix.

Max Emilian Verstappen, Triple F1 Champion

It took me quite some time before I started writing this takeaway about Verstappen, because we have ran out of superlatives trying to describe his dominance, and the brilliant run he is currently on.

I said before that we are privileged to watch such a genius at work, and I say that again, and the fact that he sealed the Championship with five races to go is simply the natural outcome when you combine a great driver with a great F1 machine, which the RB19 is.

Now the good thing for us is that Max will never take his foot off the gas even if the Title is in the bag, as he will always want to be the fastest in every practice session, every qualifying, and every race, which means we may still get some entertainment, not to mention breaking a few more records on the way.

Max’s only glitch was messing up his Sprint Shootout by crossing over the limits on his first lap in SQ3, while his second attempt was far from perfect.

And while Lando Norris was happy that the gap to Verstappen was smaller in Qatar, he has to keep in mind that the mandatory pitstops in the race did allow the RB19 to stretch its legs properly, not to mention that Red Bull are probably not unleashing all the pace from the Verstappen/RB19 combo.

But, from what we have seen from Norris, Piastri and McLaren so far this season, we may still have a glimmer of hope for 2024 that they might take the fight to the Bulls from the word go.

Oscar Piastri finally wins

Too bad Oscar did not win a grand prix, but winning the Sprint Race in Qatar was just another step towards the rookie’s progress in top flight.

We know for sure that Piastri is blindingly fast, and Norris can surely tell us a thing or two about that, but until Japan, race pace and tyre management were still a weakness for the Australian.

But that did not seem to be an issue for the Aussie in Qatar, not in the Sprint, not in the grand prix. In the Sprint he managed to keep enough in his tyres to fend off Verstappen, while in the grand prix, he probably did not need McLaren’s team orders towards the end to keep Norris at bay.

Now there was this issue of exceeding track limits in qualifying, but to be fair the more experienced Norris fell prey to that, not to mention even veterans like Sergio Perez. who got a combined 15-second penalty in the race on Sunday for failing to keep his RB19 on the black stuff.

So in that regard, Qatar was another learning step for Piastri towards perfecting his trade as an F1 driver, and as we see this young exciting talent mature we cannot but ask the question: Where would have Piastri been had he stayed with Alpine?

Heat, Humidity, Exhaustion, Vomiting…

Another talking point from the Qatar Grand Prix was the extreme dehydration and exhaustion some drivers suffered during and after the race.

Logan Sargeant couldn’t not even finish the race, while Esteban Ocon revealed he vomited in his helmet. Alex Albon could not get out of his car unaided, and Lance Stroll reportedly fell after getting out of his car, as all those drivers had to visit the medical center.

Now the FIA said they are looking into what happened to avoid a recurrence in the future, even exploring ventilation solutions for the cars, while drivers have complained nonstop about how difficult it was to drive those cars on Sunday night in Qatar.

However, Verstappen, Piastri, and Norris did not complain despite being visibly exhausted, nor did the 42-year-old Fernando Alonso who also had to deal with a hot seat due to some issue with his AMR23.

Now we at GrandPrix247, and I personally, always believe the safety and wellbeing of F1 drivers is the top priority, as no sport is more important than the life of its athletes, but allow me to share my own experience in Qatar.

I was a resident in Qatar for eight years and worked at a pipe factory as a production engineer. Mind you temperatures in Qatar could reach over 50 degrees Celsius with humidity so high you feel you are suffocating, not to mention that in October, the intensity of the heat decreases.

In my job I used to spend at least five hours a day on the factory floor, in temperatures ranging between 40 and 50 degrees Celsius, and to make things worse we had ovens that operated at 150 degrees Celsius and above.

I was, and still is nowhere as fit as an F1 driver nor was I paid as handsomely as they are. Me and my colleagues in the factory did not have any of the facilities or training programs at drivers’ disposal these days, keeping in mind the company we worked for respected employees’ rights and did whatever was possible to ensure their wellbeing.

But it was the job we chose and we did it without any complaining…

And one more thing, back in 1957, Juan Manuel Fangio won the 1957 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, at the age of 46, driving the Maserati 250F for over three hours in August, and we know what those cars were like to drive.

Also, let’s not forget Niki Lauda’s comeback race after his horrible 1976 fiery crash at the Nürburgring as well, when he drove the Italian Grand Prix at Monza with his burns not yet healed finishing fourth.

And these are only two examples… Just saying…

Quick hits

  • Red Bull may have sealed both Championships already, but McLaren’s record pitstop of 1.8s in Qatar must be irking them now, so this may be their incentive for the rest of the season.
  • Another race where track limits was a factor. These are the rules, but the way they were administered were a joke. When Piastri knows his lap was deleted after finishing his parc ferme interview is just an embarrassment to the sport.
  • As for the Pirelli tyres falling apart because of the kerbs at the Lusail International Circuit, how was that supposed to happen with the kerbs reportedly as per the FIA specifications.
    Why did that happen, and whose fault was it?