And ten! Max Verstappen (Red Bull), on the verge of winning a third consecutive Formula 1 world champion title, will start from pole position for the tenth time of the season on Sunday at the Grand Prix of Qatar after flying over Qatar qualifying on Friday.
The Dutchman, who once again outclassed his opponents at the wheel of his RB19 single-seater, took the 30th pole position of his career at just 26 years old, the tenth in 17 races this season.
“With the track conditions, it wasn't easy but we did our best and that was enough. I was quite happy with the car today,” explained Verstappen, who should win a third world crown on Saturday when sprint.
“The fact of being able to be crowned doesn't change anything, I just want to have a good weekend, it doesn't bring any additional pressure,” he added.
On a circuit that they know little and which has been resurfaced since the first Grand Prix organized in 2021, the drivers had difficulty getting their bearings on a track made slippery by the presence of sand, while the heat and the wind did not help anything .
With only one free practice session due to the sprint which will take place on Saturday, qualifying promised to be tricky and it was. Thus, the Canadian Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) was trapped in Q1 and the Briton Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) came close to disaster with the 14th time.
– Mercedes opportunist –
George Russell at Lusail , Qatar, October 6, 2023 © POOL – Ariel Schalit
The seven-time world champion recovered by setting the best time in Q2, during which the Spaniard Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), winner in Singapore three weeks ago, was eliminated by 31 thousandths. The Mexican Sergio Pérez (Red Bull), under pressure in the fight for second place in the championship, also took the door with the 13th time, well away from his teammate.
Many lap times were deleted for failure to respect track limits, creating major confusion at the end of Q3, and it was ultimately McLaren who paid the high price.
Initially second, the Briton Lando Norris, who had not completed another flying lap, fell to tenth place. His Australian teammate Oscar Piastri, fourth and who had temporarily benefited from Norris's downgrade, ultimately suffered the same fate and finished sixth.
In this little game, the Mercedes were the big winners of the day since they took advantage of the setbacks of the McLarens to grab very good places on the starting grid which could prove crucial in their fight for second place in the standings. manufacturers and drivers.
Hamilton could thus take advantage of Pérez's poor performance to reduce the current gap of 33 points with the Mexican, while his team, which is ahead of Ferrari by 20 lengths, will leave with a nice advantage over the Scuderia since Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will start in 5th and 12th places respectively.
– Alpine at the party –
“It wasn't easy today. It's weird because I was almost eliminated in Q1 and then I set the best time in Q2 right after… It's great for the team who did a great job again today,” Hamilton said.
“We know we can still improve in certain areas so that's promising, but you never know what's going to happen give in the race. For our fight against Ferrari, we will have to make sure we pocket as many points as possible here,” added Russell.
Fernando Alonso at Lusail , Qatar, October 6, 2023 © AFP – KARIM JAAFAR
For once, Alpine managed to place its two cars in Q3. This is only the fifth time in 17 races this year, the first since the Spanish GP in early June. The two French drivers will share the fourth row with Pierre Gasly in 7th and Esteban Ocon in 8th.
“It was a good Friday for the team as a whole and I hope we can convert it in points over the next two days”, underlined Gasly.
On Saturday, the drivers have an appointment with the sprint qualifications in the middle of the afternoon then they will compete in the sprint race, long 19 laps , at night a few hours later.
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