It was a sizzling weekend at the Losail Circuit in Qatar as the Formula 1 circus made its way to the Middle East before jumping across the pond for its American leg.
With soaring track temperatures that made for interesting tire strategies, an action-packed sprint race, and a new three-time world champion, there was quite a bit to unravel.
1. Max Verstappen is now a three-time world champion. Like death and taxes, Max Verstappen (Red Bull) winning the drivers’ title was inevitable for the 2023 season. In fact, he bagged the title during the sprint race, where he finished right behind McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.
As a show of his utter dominance, he did another hat trick (qualifying pole position, fastest lap, and race win), all without exceeding any track limits. He even broke Sebastian Vettel’s record for most laps led in a single season (739) during this race.
Other three-time world champions include Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet, and Ayrton Senna.
2. An unexpected error shook up the starting order. What could have been a dream start for the two Mercedes-AMGs of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell ended horribly. Hamilton jumped on Russell with an excellent start, but the seven-time world champion misjudged his braking point as the two Silver Arrows chased Verstappen into Turn 1. This led to Hamilton clashing with his teammate and taking himself out of the race.
As for Russell, this incident sent him to the back of the field, but a very strong recovery drive saw him taking P4 at the end of the race, even fending off the likes of Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) in P5 and Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) in P6.
3. A very rough weekend for the second Red Bull driver. The latter half of the season isn’t so kind to Sergio Perez (Red Bull). This race saw the Mexican qualify all the way back in P13, which is a horrible result for the fastest car on the grid.
During the Sprint race, a three-car incident between himself, Esteban Ocon (Alpine), and Nico Hulkenberg (Haas) effectively ended his recovery drive and put him out of contention for the driver’s title.
Due to said collision, he had to start from the pit lane and even picked up three penalties for exceeding track limits, pushing him back to a P10 finish.
Whether you can believe the claims of the car being built around his teammate or things like the “cursed second seat,” it’s as plain as day that he might be on the chopping block for next year unless he manages to find his form once again.
4. McLaren continues to impress. If you take Red Bull out of the equation, seeing the two McLarens race their way to the top in recent races is nothing short of spectacular. And for a rookie like Piastri, consistent top-spot results mean that the rookie driver is someone worth monitoring for next season.
He took advantage of the now-rapid McLaren to earn himself a third place during qualifying for the actual race, only to be demoted down to sixth for exceeding track limits. As for the Sprint qualifying, he snagged pole position with his teammate Lando Norris right behind him. This translated to his maiden Sprint win.
As for the actual race, the two McLarens took advantage of the accident between the two Mercedes-AMGs to snatch second and third places, and comfortably hold on to those two spots until the end of the race.
Piastri finished with a 4.833-second gap from the race leader, showing how much raw pace he has. He got a well-deserved “Driver of the Day” award.
5. The track was too hot for the drivers. Formula 1 machinery is impressive with all the engineering wizardry and space-age materials put into it. But you have to remember that the sacks of meat piloting it can only handle so much, even if they are some of the world’s best athletes.
While most were expecting the heat to absolutely decimate the tires (hence the mandatory three pit stops for the race), the drivers onboard weren’t faring as well on the track.
A few examples included Ocon throwing up in his helmet as early as Lap 15, and Logan Sargent (Williams) retiring on Lap 40 due to the extreme heat and exhaustion.
Alex Albon (Williams) and Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) struggled to get out of their cars post-race, and even the seasoned drivers couldn’t handle the conditions, like how Verstappen slumped on the floor of the cooldown room.
If anything, this will be the last time the Qatar race will happen during this season as it will be moved to December 1 next year for cooler conditions, thankfully.
The next race will be the United States Grand Prix to be held at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on October 23 (3am, Philippine time).