Formula 1

Formula 1: Verstappen victorious in a scorching Qatar Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen wins the Qatar Grand Prix in a race that saw drivers having to battle the heat as much as each other. Not only did drivers have to deal with the hear, but a mandatory 3-stop race as well, which the FIA put in for safety reasons.

Nico Hulkenberg managed to make a mistake before the race had even started as he ended up putting himself into the wrong grid spot, possibly thrown off by Sainz, who was set to start in the grid spot directly in front of him, not starting the race due to a fuel issue. For this, Hulkenberg would receive a 10 second penalty.

There was drama right off the line as both Mercedes collided with one another at the very first corner. Hamilton was out of the race, whilst Russell was able to continue on, though did have to pit under the safety car that came out following the incident. Both were annoyed at one another following the incident, though Hamilton would go on to concede that Russell probably didn’t have enough space, especially with Verstappen on the inside of the two of them.

Russell hadn’t been the only one to pit under the safety car, with Stroll, Zhou, Bottas and Magnussen all following him in. With the mandatory stint length, it wouldn’t be immediately apparent if this gamble would pay off.

When the race resumed, Russell was racing with Perez, and managed to overtake him on lap 6, capitalising on having medium tyres on whilst Perez was using hards. Despite his lap 1 incident, Russell had strong pace as he tried to salvage a strong result. He would be back in the points as early as lap 11.

Esteban Ocon began a wave of pitstops on lap 11, with many drivers not looking to fully utilise the maximum 18 laps that they could drive in any one stint. Alonso and Gasly for example would pit on lap 12, and Norris would pit on lap 14. Norris’ stop would put him behind Alonso and Leclerc, though this wouldn’t be for terribly long as the McLaren cars looked to be as fast as they have done all weekend long.

Verstappen was beginning to pull away a bit more by this point. By lap 23, he was over 7 seconds ahead of Piastri. Whilst not as dominant as he has been at some races over the course of this season, his race was certainly still very comfortable.

Lap 27 saw the first signs of the Qatari heat starting to get to the drivers, as Fernando Alonso complained on the radio of his seat getting hot, asking his team if there was anything they could do during the next pitstop to cool it. We would also see the likes of Norris and Russell open their visors in the pit lane to try and get some cooler air to hit their faces, whilst Sargeant had to retire from the race entirely due to not feeling well.

Another struggle the drivers faced was the issue of track limits, which had been haunting them all weekend. Sergio Perez was first penalised on lap 27, getting a 5 second penalty, though would receive two more by the end of the race. Pierre Gasly would also receive 15 seconds worth of time penalties due to track limits, whilst Stroll and Albon would both get 10 seconds worth of penalties each.

Alonso had slightly lost control of his car at one point, and he had been investigated for having unsafely re-joined the track. However the stewards cleared him of any wrongdoing.

The final round of pitstops for the two McLarens occurred on lap 44 for Piastri and lap 45 for Norris. The overcut proved to be strong for Norris, who had gained on his teammate ahead. He was however told to hold position until the end of the race, which frustrated the Brit.

Russell managed to make his way up to fourth by the time he left the pits, audaciously gambling on the soft tyres to try and gain on the McLarens to potentially snatch a podium. This did not work however as he didn’t make any inroads, although trying to gain 17 seconds in just over five laps was already a big ask.

Max Verstappen would be joined on the podium by Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris for the second Grand Prix in a row. The win is his 14th of the season, just one less than the amount he got last year with five races to go. The double podium means McLaren are now only 11 points behind Aston Martin in the fight for 4th in the constructors standings.

With Hamilton’s crash, Perez was able to extend the gap to 2nd place in the drivers standings, although his 10th place means that the gap was only extended by 1 point.

The next race takes place at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for the United States Grand Prix, taking place from 20th – 22nd October.

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