QATAR GP – Oscar Piastri beats Lando Norris to sprint pole taking a maiden pole by nine hundredths

Testing & Race Reports

Oscar Piastri has beaten his McLaren teammate Lando Norris to take pole position for the sprint at the Qatar Grand Prix. The Australian beat his teammate by nine-hundredths of a second securing his first pole in any F1 and his first since F2 in Abu Dhabi 2021, a turnaround from yesterday when both had there fastest times deleted for track limits in Q3 for track limits.

Piastri’s pole was a 24.454 as he improved by eight-hundredths of a second, teammate Norris was forced to abort his final run in SQ3 after running wide. That allowed Piastri to go one place better than at the last sprint at Spa when he started second.

It was an excellent comeback for Piastri and Norris after having their best lap deleted in Grand Prix qualifying for track limits. Again McLaren’s turn around in the second part of the season shows how much progress they have made, while Piastri has again highlighted why he was fought over last year by McLaren and Alpine.

Track limits breaches in Friday’s qualifying mean Piastri starts sixth and Norris tenth in Sunday’s race, when they clearly had the pace to at the very least challenge Verstappen for pole.

Norris, narrowly fastest from Piastri after their first runs, was chasing Piastri’s new benchmark at the end of the session when he ran wide the last corner and had to settle for second. Piastri, who has impressed with his maturity and calmness as well as his speed in his rookie season, said he was “very happy” with his first F1 pole position.

Max Verstappen was third a tenth behind Norris, but the Red Bull driver is in pole position to win his third championship tonight. While teammate Sergio Perez didn’t start the sprint down in eighth, after being nine-tenths off Piastri. If they were to finish how they start that would allow Verstappen to seal his third title.

Verstappen’s relatively lowly grid position for the race should have little effect on his ability to clinch the championship. To do so, he needs only to ensure he does not lose six or more points to Perez, who starts the sprint eighth.

The big question for the sprint is whether McLaren is able to hold Verstappen behind, that seems unlikely as so many times this season the Red Bull driver has cut through the field. He can also play it safe and take his third title if he stays third.

George Russell put his Mercedes fourth going a tenth faster than Carlos Sainz, the Spaniard had the same gap over his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc. Nico Hulkenberg was seventh, the Haas driver’s last lap improvement in SQ2 saw him knock both Pierre Gasly and Lewis Hamilton out.

Fernando Alonso was ninth, the Aston Martin driver having his final lap deleted for track limits at Turn Thirteen dropping him from fifth to ninth. Alonso and former teammate Esteban Ocon not setting a time within track limits in SQ3. Ocon going over a tenth and a half faster than his Alpine teammate Pierre Gasly to go through to the final part of sprint qualifying.

The session was delayed by twenty minutes following modifications on “safety grounds” to Turns Thirteenth and Fourteen. In the unscheduled ‘familiarisation track session’ which latest fifteen minutes, Verstappen was fastest by half a second from Guanyu Zhou.

While the 19-lap Sprint later on Saturday looks set to remain unaffected, aside from the layout alteration between Turns 12 and 13, Sunday’s race could see drivers forced to make three pit stops to ensure the avoidance of tyre failures.

Lewis Hamilton never looked to find the same pace as his teammate Russell, his two fastest times which were deleted fort track limits, weren’t fast enough to escape the drop zone. The seven-time champion going twelfth, a quarter of a second faster than his former teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Liam Lawson put his Alpha Tauri fourteenth going two-tenths behind Bottas, Bottas’s teammate Zhou didn’t manage a reprehensive lap time is SQ2. He was nearly thirty seconds behind Bottas.

Lance Stroll was fastest of those knocked out in SQ1, going a hundredth and a half ahead of Alex Albon. Several of the drivers who were knocked out in SQ1 had their fastest timed deleted, that left Albon seventeenth ahead of Yuki Tsunoda and Kevin Magnussen with Logan Sargeant last.

Sargeant ended up without a representative time on the board at the foot of the pack in the second Williams after his initial efforts were also excluded for track limits violations at Turn Thirteen, with a similar situation also impacting Zhou in SQ2.


PRIXVIEW – Qatar Grand Prix

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