Oscar Piastri on sprint pole as Max Verstappen starts third in bid to seal title

By Sports Desk October 07, 2023

Max Verstappen will begin his quest to win the world championship from third for Saturday’s sprint race in Qatar as Oscar Piastri took a surprise pole position.

Piastri saw off team-mate Lando Norris as McLaren secured a front-row lockout.

Lewis Hamilton was knocked out of Q2 and qualified only 12th in his Mercedes for the 19-lap dash, which gets under way at 8:30pm local time (6:30pm BST).

Verstappen will wrap up his third consecutive title if he finishes sixth or better, or if Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez fails to finish inside the top three in the sprint at the Lusail International Circuit. Perez qualified only eighth on yet another scruffy outing for the struggling Mexican.

A day after taking top spot for the start of Sunday’s 57-lap main event, Verstappen, who has dominated all year, saw his first lap in Q3 deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn 5.

And the 26-year-old Dutchman was unable to do enough on his final run to usurp Piastri, finishing two tenths behind the rookie Australian.

Norris was in the running for first place but he ran wide at the last corner and failed to improve on his earlier effort.

George Russell finished fourth for Mercedes – four tenths behind Piastri – and ahead of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, who took fifth and sixth respectively for Ferrari.

Sprint qualifying at a windswept Lusail – 18 miles north of Doha – was delayed amid fears over the safety of the tyres.

The running had been due to start at 4pm local time (2pm BST), but was delayed by 20 minutes following revisions to the track limits.

The drivers took part in an additional 10 minutes of practice to familiarise themselves with the changes made to the track at turns 12 and 13 prior to qualifying.

Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, said “a separation in the sidewall between the topping compound and the carcass cords” were discovered on the Pirelli tyres following yesterday’s one-hour running.

The federation believe the problem is likely to have been caused by a number of the high kerbs used at the circuit.

An emergency summit was staged in the build-up to qualifying with the drivers assured they would not be put in harm’s way.

Additional analysis will take place following today’s sprint race and further action – which will include three mandatory tyre stops – may be taken for Sunday’s grand prix.

Lance Stroll shoved his British performance coach and stormed out of a television interview after he was eliminated from Q1 in Friday’s running.

And the under-pressure Canadian fell at the first hurdle again on Saturday, one place better off in 16th.

Stroll’s Aston Martin team-mate Fernando Alonso, who also saw his best effort in qualifying chalked off for exceeding track limits, lines up in ninth.

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  • We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix incident We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix incident

    Sergio Perez has apologised following a second successive retirement at the Canada Grand Prix which left him 87 points behind Red Bull team-mate, Max Vertsappen.

    The 34-year-old remained fifth overall in the world championship and a point behind Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, who was one of five drivers that failed to finish the race. 

    In difficult conditions in Montreal, the Mexican started 16th but hopes of climbing up the pecking order soon faded after damaging his car's front wing on the opening lap when he made contact with Alpine's Pierre Gasly.

    He then crashed into the barriers late in the day after losing control on a damp kerb at turn six, hobbling back to the pits with a broken rear wing. 

    "I'm very sorry for my team, I let them down today. But we will come back no doubt. There’s a very long way to go," Perez said on social media.

    His final incident cost him a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Barcelona, with the stewards punishing him for a breach of the safety rules that require a driver to stop if the car is unsafe.

    "The incident was on me, I touched the wet part into turn six and I couldn’t stop the car, I couldn’t touch the brakes," Perez said on Sunday.

    "It has been a very tough couple of weekends, we will regroup, keep our heads down and learn from the weekend. We identified a couple of issues after qualifying and they meant we would have qualified a lot higher.

    "Hopefully we can be back to our form in Spain and get back to the level we were at earlier in the season. I am confident in that, there are good tracks coming for us."

    Perez recently signed a new two-year deal with Red Bull, ending speculation that the world champions will sign free agent Sainz ahead of the new season. 

  • We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix

    Sergio Perez has apologised following a second successive retirement at the Canada Grand Prix which left him 87 points behind Red Bull team-mate, Max Vertsappen.

    The 34-year-old remained fifth overall in the world championship and a point behind Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, who was one of five drivers that failed to finish the race. 

    In difficult conditions in Montreal, the Mexican started 16th but hopes of climbing up the pecking order soon faded after damaging his car's front wing on the opening lap when he made contact with Alpine's Pierre Gasly.

    He then crashed into the barriers late in the day after losing control on a damp kerb at turn six, hobbling back to the pits with a broken rear wing. 

    "I'm very sorry for my team, I let them down today. But we will come back no doubt. There’s a very long way to go," Perez said on social media.

    His final incident cost him a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Barcelona, with the stewards punishing him for a breach of the safety rules that require a driver to stop if the car is unsafe.

    "The incident was on me, I touched the wet part into turn six and I couldn’t stop the car, I couldn’t touch the brakes," Perez said on Sunday.

    "It has been a very tough couple of weekends, we will regroup, keep our heads down and learn from the weekend. We identified a couple of issues after qualifying and they meant we would have qualified a lot higher.

    "Hopefully we can be back to our form in Spain and get back to the level we were at earlier in the season. I am confident in that, there are good tracks coming for us."

    Perez recently signed a new two-year deal with Red Bull, ending speculation that the world champions will sign free agent Sainz ahead of the new season. 

  • Canadian Grand Prix 'an opportunity missed', admits Russell Canadian Grand Prix 'an opportunity missed', admits Russell

    George Russell secured Mercedes their first podium of the Formula One season at the Canadian Grand Prix, but felt his third-place finish was a missed opportunity.

    The British driver was on pole for the first time since the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2022 and led for the first 21 laps before being overtaken in quick succession by McLaren's Lando Norris and eventual winner, Max Verstappen. 

    In a contest that saw the drivers endure difficult conditions and in which five cars failed to finish, Russell did manage to regain first place from his compatriot on lap 27 following the safety car being deployed, but again found himself chasing Norris after running wide. 

    He dropped to fourth behind Oscar Piastri, but would reclaim a podium place with his fresh medium tyres for the closing laps, enough to get past the Australian and team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who were on the hard compounds.

    Red Bull's Verstappen claimed his sixth victory of the season, extending his championship lead over Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to 56 points after a weekend to forget for the Italian team. 

    Speaking after the race, Russell believed he had the pace to catch the Dutchman before his coming together with Piastri, but enjoyed being back at the front of the pecking order despite admitting to a few mistakes. 

    "It feels like a missed opportunity, to be honest," said Russell shortly after the conclusion of the race. "We were really quick at the beginning of the race on the inters, and then obviously Lando came through really fast.

    "Then we got back on to the slicks, made a couple of mistakes out there just pushing the limits and paid the price for it.

    "Nevertheless, first podium of the year and we truly had a really fast car this weekend and to be back in the mix fighting for victory was really fun.

    "When we put the mediums on at the end we were really, really fast and I think that mistake with Oscar when I tried overtaking him and I lost the position to Lewis cost us at least P2 and maybe we could have fought with Max later in the race."

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