Max Verstappen won the 2023 Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship title with second place in the Qatar Grand Prix Sprint, finishing behind race winner Oscar Piastri of McLaren in a closely contested 19-lap race that featured three Safety Car periods.
At the start, Piastri got away well from top sport on the grid to take the lead, but beside him on the front row team-mate Lando Norris bogged down. The McLaren driver was swiftly surrounded by soft-tyre runners George Russell of Mercredes and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and as they squeezed past the Briton in the inside the trio forced Verstappen wide on the run to Turn 1 and he slipped to fifth place, behind Charles Leclerc, who also started on softs.
Further back, though, there was trouble for Liam Lawson. The AlphaTauri driver was clipped by a rival at the start and he spun off into the gravel at Turn 1. The Safety Car was deployed and when it left the track Piastri was ambushed by Russell who used the better grip of his Sofrt tyres to steal the lead in Turn 8.
However, almost as soon as the race restarted, it was neutralised again when Williams’ Logan Sargeant spun off into the gravel. The Safety Car was released again.
This time the SC left the track at the end of lap six and at the restart Russell kept his lead ahead of Piastri who was forced to defend hard from Sainz. Leclerc held fourth, just three tenths of a second ahead of Verstappen.
The Soft tyres were beginning to suffer, however, and when DRS was enabled Verstappen reeled in Leclerc, powering past the Ferrari drive on the run to Turn 1 at the start of lap nine. The Dutchman’s next target was Sainz and on the next lap he breezed past the Spaniard under DRS to take P3.
The longer life of the Mediums was also benefitting Piastri and though Russell had opened up a two second gap after the second restart, the Australian rapidly clawed that back and reclaimed the lead from the Mercedes on lap 10.
Further back, Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez, also on Mediums, was beginning to make his forward after a poor opening to the race that saw him drop to P11. He made his way past Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, but that was as far as his progress went. On lap 11, Nico Hülkenberg attempted to pass the slower Esteban Ocon on the outside. Seeing a gap, Pérez also dived to the inside. Baulked by Ocon on the outside, Hülkenberg then switched to the inside and as they tussled Ocon hit the Haas. The Frenchman’s Alpine bounced off the German’s car and then slammed round into the left side of Pérez’s RB19 sending the Mexican sliding off into the gravel and out of the race. The Safety Car was released for the third time.
This time the restart occurred at the end of lap 14 and though the top three order stayed the same on the resumption, on lap 16 Verstappen closed in on Russell and eased past the struggling Mercedes on the pit straight.
Norris, meanwhile, was also on the move, dismissing both Ferraris soon after the restart to rise to fourth place behind Russell and at the start of the final lap the McLaren driver powered past the Mercedes to take third place.
Ahead, Verstappen attempted to reel in Piastri but though he was able to get within two seconds of the Australian, the McLaren driver hung on for the win.
Second was good enough for Verstappen, however, and the Red Bull driver now joins legends such as Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna on three titles.
“It’s a fantastic feeling. It’s been an incredible year,” said Verstappen afterwards. “A lot of great races and of course super-proud but also super-proud of the job of the team. It’s just been so enjoyable to be part of that group of people. To be a three-time World Champion is just incredible.”
FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, said: “Congratulations to Max Verstappen on securing his third FIA Formula One World Drivers’ Championship. Max has been the dominant performer this season and thoroughly deserves the title. His dedication and commitment is an example for all emerging drivers in our sport. I would also like to pay tribute to rising star Oscar Piastri for his maiden Sprint victory.”
2023 FIA Formula 1 Qatar Grand Prix – Sprint
1 Oscar Piastri McLaren/Mercedes 19 35’01.297
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda RBPT 19 35’03.168 1.871
3 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 19 35’09.794 8.497
4 George Russell Mercedes 19 35’12.333 11.036
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 19 35’18.611 17.314
6 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 19 35’20.103 18.806
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 19 35’21.157 19.860
8 Alexander Albon Williams/Mercedes 19 35’21.161 19.864
9 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin/Mercedes 19 35’22.477 21.180
10 Pierre Gasly Alpine/Renault 19 35’23.039 21.742
11 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 19 35’23.505 22.208
12 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Honda RBPT 19 35’24.160 22.863
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 19 35’25.820 24.523
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 19 35’26.267 24.970
15 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 19 35’28.165 26.868
Nico Hülkenberg Haas/Ferrari 11 21’30.850 Accident damage
Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 10 18’55.475 Accident
Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda RBPT 10 18’56.245 Accident
Logan Sargeant Williams/Mercedes 2 4’18.105 Accident
Liam Lawson AlphaTauri/Honda RBPT 0 – Accident