Max Verstappen caps off Championship weekend with victory in scorching Qatar Grand Prix

Logan Ploder
FiredUp Network Sports Writer


Sunday, October 8, 2023

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Entering the Qatar Grand Prix weekend, all eyes were on Max Verstappen, who had his first chance to wrap up the 2023 F1 World Drivers' Championship.

All the Dutchman needed from Qatar to the end of the season to get his third-straight title were three more points. He achieved that with a 2nd place finish in the Sprint on Saturday.

For the rest of the season, starting in Sunday's Qatar Grand Prix, all that's left for Verstappen is padding his stats, and chasing records - some of which are his very own already.

Starting from pole position, Verstappen led away into Turn 1, and was never challenged for the rest of the 57 laps en route to his 14th win of the season.

With the victory, Verstappen has now won 82 per cent of all the Grands Prix in 2023, a mark that is on track to smash the F1 record, and puts him just one win away from tying his own record of the most wins in a single season, which he set just last season.

While it looked easy from the outside, it was anything but.

Even with the race taking place in the darkness of the night, temperatures reached above 40 degrees Celsius, which, combined with the high speed nature of the track, and drivers running qualifying laps every lap due to the FIA's 18-lap stint limit for tire safety, caused extreme difficulty physically.

Esteban Ocon admitted to vomiting in his Alpine cockpit on Lap 15, Logan Sargeant retired due to dehydration, Alex Albon suffered from acute heat exposure, and Lance Stroll even said he was passing out in high speed corners.

The race-winner didn't encounter such problems, however he still said it was very tough.

Finishing the race in second and third were the two McLarens of Saturday Sprint winner Oscar Piastri, and Lando Norris. Norris put together a solid drive from tenth on the grid after losing his fastest lap in qualifying due to track limits, and continued his streak of top eight finishes in every race since Austria.

Fourth was the Mercedes of George Russell, who recovered from almost plum-last to take a top-5 after colliding with his teammate Lewis Hamilton on Lap 1. Hamilton made an aggressive three-wide move on the outside of Russell and Verstappen off the start, and was spun off into the gravel and forced to retire, while Russell pitted for a new front wing.

Fifth was Charles Leclerc, the lone Ferrari to start the race after Carlos Sainz's fuel leak was discovered before the race. He was ahead of Fernando Alonso in sixth, and Ocon in a brilliant seventh with his aforementioned health complications.

Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu made it a first double-points finish of 2023 for Alfa Romeo in eighth and ninth, ahead of Sergio Perez in tenth. Perez started the race from the pit lane after modifications were made to his chassis following his Sprint crash, before he suffered two five-second penalties for track limits during the Grand Prix.

In two weeks' time, Formula 1 heads to Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for the United States Grand Prix. Verstappen will have his first chance at tying the all-time single season wins record on a track that should suit his RB19 brilliantly.