LUSAIL, Qatar - On a hot and humid night in the Middle East, the Qatar Grand Prix returned after a one-year hiatus as Oracle Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen won the race and clinched his third consecutive FIA Formula 1 World Championship at Lusail International Circuit.
After a slightly delayed start due to the addition of a 10-minute practice familiarization session, the race in Qatar got underway.
Carlos Sainz did not take the start after Ferrari was unable to repair a fuel system issue in time for the start of the race. Sergio Perez was forced to start from the pit lane after Red Bull made unapproved changes to his car in Parc Ferme.
Verstappen, the polesitter and newly crowned three-time World Champion led the field into Turn 1. Just behind him, the two Mercedes drivers collided. Lewis Hamilton lost a wheel and his car ended up in the gravel trap.
George Russell was able to limp his Mercedes back to the pit lane. Then, the team fitted his car with a pair of soft tires and rejoined the race at the rear of the field.
Verstappen performed a perfect restart and quickly put more than a second between himself and McLaren's Oscar Piastri.
“I think what really made my race was that first stint, where I think we were quite strong and good on the tyres," Verstappen said. "After that, because we had a bit of a tyre offset, compared to the McLaren, I could drive a bit longer on most of the sets."
On Lap 27, Perez became the first driver to receive a five-second time penalty for exceeding track limits during the Grand Prix. Perez had a dramatic day, battling from the back of the field up through the midfield.
He would later receive a second and third penalty for track limits. Crucially, he managed to finish in tenth and bring home a point after failing to do so during Saturday’s Sprint Race or the previous round at Japan.
The physicality of the race quickly became apparent as Fernando Alonso came on the radio to tell Aston Martin about the effects of the Qatar heat inside the cockpit.
“The seat is burning, mate," Alonso said. "Anything we can do at the pit stop? Throw me water or something."
Five laps later, Alonso lost a position to Charles Leclerc after an uncharacteristic error caused the two-time F1 World Champion to veer off into the gravel.
American-born rookie Logan Sargeant did not complete the race and was helped from the car after reporting he was not feeling well to the team. He was encouraged to retire the car and make his overall health the main priority over trying to fight through the discomfort.
Other drivers reportedly required medical attention at the conclusion of the Grand Prix.
Following the race, the FIA revealed that they would work with race organizers to avoid repeating the uncomfortable situation of competing in unsafe, extreme weather conditions drivers faced in Qatar.
Track Limits and The FIA's Pirelli Tire Mandate
The weekend got off to a chaotic start during Friday's qualifying session to set the grid for Sunday's Grand Prix. It quickly became apparent that track limits would play a major role throughout the race weekend.
To no one's surprise, Max Verstappen outpaced the field to claim pole position. Behind Verstappen, the McLarens of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri showed strong pace, ending Q3 in second and third respectively.
However, both suffered the misfortune of having their lap times deleted by race control for exceeding track limits. Piastri dropped to sixth and Lando Norris fell to 10th place after failing to set a lap time.
As a result, the Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were promoted to second and third.
On Saturday, the FIA put out a statement addressing concerns discovered by Pirelli in the tire manufacturer’s routine analysis of the tires used during Free Practice 1.
During their analysis, “a separation in the sidewall between the topping compound and the carcass cords on many of tires [sic] that were checked was discovered”.
In response, the FIA revised the track limits at Turns 12 and 13, creating an additional 10-minute practice familiarization session to give the drivers a chance to adjust to the changes. Plus, an alert to the teams about the possibility of a mandate that would limit the number of laps a driver could run on a single set of tires.
Following the Sprint Race, the FIA concluded that the numerous interruptions by the Safety Car during the Sprint meant that Pirelli was unable to collect adequate additional data on the performance of the tires.
Consequently, the FIA decided to impose a mandatory 18-lap limit of total tire life per set during the Grand Prix.
The 2023 GRID Ranking is the seventh year of the world's premier motorsport ranking and was initially released on Sunday, April 2.
Drivers in the seven racing series participating in the ranking (NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula 1, Formula E, World Rally Championship, Repco Supercars, MotoGP) have earned GRID Ratings, which helped determine their seeding during Week 27 of the 2023 GRID Ranking.
GRID Ranking Week 28 Formula 1 Drivers:
MOST RECENT FINISH
Full results from the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix can be found here: