Here is our full text transcript from the 2023 F1 Qatar Grand Prix.
Welcome back to the Losail International Circuit for the second ever Qatar Grand Prix!
Max Verstappen will be looking to elongate his title celebrations with victory number 14 today but he will face a big challenge from George Russell and Lewis Hamilton at the start. Don’t miss lights out. But, the race is also going to be about tyres. Yes, we know a lot of people aren’t a fan of Tyre Talk, but the FIA have enforced limits on the stint length of a tyre which means we will see a lot of pit stops today – more on that very soon.
The FIA has confirmed that all drivers will be obliged to make at least three pit stops during the Qatar Grand Prix amid “safety” concerns over tyre wear.
After tyre manufacturer Pirelli raised the alarm following Friday’s practice session, further analysis from Saturday’s 19-lap Sprint led the sport’s governing body to implement a limit of 18 laps for each stint, which means at least three pit stops will be required in the 57-lap contest.
The FIA said that three Safety Car interruptions – and consequent reduction of full-speed running – during the Sprint meant the data it planned to gather during the Sprint was “insufficient” in terms of offering a different conclusion to its previous analysis.
An FIA statement on Sunday said: “Due to the frequency of Safety Car interventions in yesterday’s Sprint, the tyre data available for analysis by Pirelli was insufficient to add to that already undertaken following previous track sessions.
“In some cases, tyres that were analysed from the Sprint did show the initial onset of the separation in the sidewall between the topping compound and the carcass cords of the tyres. As was the case in Free Practice 1, this issue has likely been caused by the high-frequency interference between the tyre sidewall and the 50mm ‘pyramid’ kerbs used extensively at this circuit, aggravated by the propensity to ride those kerbs.”
Unfortunately, with just a few moments before the Qatar Grand Prix, it was confirmed by Ferrari themselves that Carlos Sainz would not start the race: “Due to a fuel system issue on his car, Carlos will not take part in the Qatar Grand Prix,” confirm the Maranello team. The Spaniard had qualified only 12th and will now not take the start.
This is going to be crucial today with everyone using at least four tyre sets during the race – given the 18-lap limit rule that will lead to three pit stops. All of the leading runners have one new set of mediums and one new set of hards. They will need to run used tyres at some point in the race too, probably the mediums as the softs will wear away very quickly. One set of new hards, one new medium and two used mediums is probably the combination most drivers will go for today.
The pit lane is open which means there are just 50 minutes until the Qatar Grand Prix begins. No Carlos Sainz, as he’s out with a fuel system issue. It’s a big blow for Ferrari in their battle to beat Mercedes in the constructors’ championship.
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Fred Vasseur explains Sainz issue: “We had an issue when we fuelled the car one hour before, an issue with the fuel system and it was too late to change something. It’s a shame but it is like it is because he had a good momentum after Monza and Singapore.”
Lewis Hamilton is starting on the soft tyres from third, as is Lando Norris in 10th. All of the other leading runners are on the mediums, so Hamilton, who is also on the clean side of the grid, has a great chance to slipstream and attack Verstappen going into Turn 1.
The Qatar Grand Prix is underway…And the Mercedes’ have collided into Turn One!! Lewis Hamilton is out! George Russell continues but is well down the order. He has damage too. Max Verstappen leads Oscar Piastri, who is up from sixth. Hamilton came swooping around the outside of George Russell going into Turn 1 and it’s all gone wrong for the two Mercedes.
Lewis Hamilton clambers out of his Mercedes, which is beached in the gravel. Russell is in the pits and Mercedes replace his car’s front wing. Second and third at the start has become last and DNF within the space of one corner.
The Safety Car is coming in and it’s Max Verstappen who is still in the lead from Oscar Piastri and Fernando Alonso. Charles Leclerc is fourth and Esteban Ocon is fifth. Some drivers pitted during the Safety Car including Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen and Lance Stroll. Lap 5/57: Verstappen scampers away from Piastri and there’s a big battle between Ocon and Norris for fifth.
Nico Hulkenberg has a 10-second time penalty for starting in the wrong grid box. Right. Back at the front, it’s Verstappen leading by 1.5s from Piastri and Alonso is only another two seconds behind. It feels like Verstappen is just nursing his medium tyres, so the field is tightly bunched for now.
Lap 12/57: In comes Fernando Alonso from third. On go another set of medium tyres and he comes out in 15th. Pierre Gasly also makes his first pit stop and is just behind his team-mate Ocon. Lap 12/57: 2.6s behind Verstappen, Piastri heads for his first pit stop in the lead McLaren from second place. Alonso did emerge back behind Leclerc but has quickly overtaken the Ferrari. Lando Norris pits and comes out behind the Alonso and Leclerc battle in 12th place.
Lap 16/57: Verstappen, Albon, Perez and Zhou are yet to pit. That is your top four as Verstappen sets the fastest lap of the race which is remarkable considering how old those tyres are. Verstappen comes into the box from first place and comes back out….in second place. That’s because Alex Albon is ahead but the Williams driver is yet to pit. Sergio Perez also pits and is back down in 16th.
Lap 21/57: Lando Norris is on the charge and is now fifth after overtaking Lance Stroll. Valtteri Bottas is next up the road for Norris. Russell claims he’s pushed off the track by Gasly in the battle for ninth. Perez is currently in 13th just a few places down the road as we now await more pit stops.
Lap 26/57: More pit stops ahoy! That’s second ones for Ferrari’s Leclerc and Alpine’s Ocon respectively, who were running fifth and sixth. Fernando Alonso says he’s got a “burning seat” and suggests can they throw some water on it during the pit stop. He comes into the pits and nothing is done other than a pretty good pit stop from Aston Martin. Alonso is back out there in eighth, which is a net third on the track.
Lap 27/57: Sergio Perez has been given a five-second time penalty for track limits. He has gone off the track too many times and the stewards penalise him. The Mexican will serve that at his next pit stop.
Lap 29/57: Albon defends beautifully from Piastri in the middle sector but the McLaren driver cruises by on the main straight. Piastri is effectively running in second place from Norris, after the latter jumped Alonso on that latest pit phase. Verstappen is yet to pit for a second time and leads Russell by 22 seconds. Russell also needs to pit again soon.
Lap 32/57: Verstappen is cruising out there and is told to increase his pace, probably just to give himself more of a buffer.
Lap 33/57: Woh – you don’t see that every day with Fernando Alonso. The Aston Martin driver has had a moment and Charles Leclerc takes advantage to overtake him.
Lap 38/57: So here’s how it stands in the top four. Max Verstappen leads Oscar Piastri by 6.3 seconds. Lando Norris is third in the other McLaren, 4.2s behind Piastri. George Russell is fourth and 11.4 seconds behind Norris – but is lapping quickly and has the fastest lap of all so far. He is on the hard tyres compared to the McLaren’s mediums.
Lap 44/57: In comes Piastri as the first of the leading runners pits for a last time. It’s a 2.0 second pit stop from McLaren and Piastri comes out in fourth. Leclerc pits from fifth and emerges in seventh. Lando Norris pits and comes out just one second behind Piastri.
Lap 51/57: Piastri and Norris are matching each other sector for sector here, so it looks like McLaren can breathe a sigh of relief for now about an on-track battle. Lap 52/57: It’s a slow pit stop for Verstappen, 4.1 seconds, but it doesn’t matter because he’s 27 seconds in front of everyone else.
Lap 55/57: Stroll picks up a penalty for track limits though which will definitely drop him out of the points.
Lap 56/57: Those soft tyres are not working for Russell in fourth as Charles Leclerc goes three seconds faster on that last lap. Russell is only ahead by five seconds, so the Mercedes driver is in a bit of trouble now.
That’s the way to round off his title-winning weekend alright. It’s win number 14 of Max Verstappen’s incredible season, one short of his own record. Piastri and Norris finish nearly nose-to-tail in second and third on a stellar weekend for McLaren. Russell finishes fourth, while it’s damage limitations for Ferrari, with Charles Leclerc in fifth place.