In a year where he simply hasn’t put a foot wrong, Max Verstappen ate up his opponents at the 2023 Qatar Qualifying, nailing a 1:23:778 to secure a sweet pole position, while his pursuants were left probably with a feeling of eating a sour footlong.
The only two fastest men on the grid behind the rampaging speed of the Red Bull were the two Mercedes drivers- George Russell finishing ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton for the Silver Arrows.
The King’s Lynn-born and Stevenage’s finest son separated by the barest of margins.
So utterly dominant was Max Verstappen at the Losail international circuit, a track only recently introduced to the world of F1, that his opening lap in Q3 was blistering enough to suggest what was to follow. However, an error towards the end of the lap at the closing stages underscored his dominance.
On a day that was also about lap times getting deleted because of breaching track limits, Oscar Piastri of McLaren, the clearly in-form youngster found himself on the wrong side of the result at Qatar.
Despite looking set for a fine Q3, he didn’t end his quali run on a high and found his lap times deleted confessing later on that the race on Sunday would now only seem trickier.
While Mercedes may not have looked as dominant as the RB 19, the giant killer on F1 circuits around the world this year, the onus rests on its smashing duo to get some vital points and keep the team’s nose ahead on the Constructor’s standings.
Although, things weren’t as sassier for Perez in comparison to his double world title winning teammate, Verstappen;
Much like Sainz, who failed to qualify for Q2, there was trouble for the driver of the other Red Bull; yet another driver falling foul of the track limits.
The Mexican born racer dubbed the ‘Minister of Defence’ will begin his 2023 Qatar GP run from thirteenth on the grid.
Two contrasting drivers with contrasting fortunes up ahead for the race at Qatar, probably winning on Sunday may not come that easy to Perez, but who knows?
In what was an off day for Ferrari, with Leclerc managing a lukewarm, if not an entirely disastrous P5, Sainz was the bigger loser in missing out on Q2.
However, that did not mean that the other Spaniard on the grid was going to miss out; the lion hearted fighter than Alonso is, got his Aston Martin to fourth on the grid and ahead of Leclerc for Sunday’s 57-lap contest.
Gasly, Ocon, Bottas and Norris finished behind Piastri, P6, to take seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth respectively.
Can Sunday’s contest see a close fight between the two Frenchmen? Of course, given the lousy and at times, unlucky season that Ocon has endured, it might be a cracker of a race to see which of the Alpine drivers gets the other.
Interestingly, Gasly, P11 on the Drivers’ standings, is eight points out in the lead over teammate Ocon.
There wasn’t much in the contest as such for Tsunoda, Albon and Hulkenberg, who like Perez and Sainz, the two big letdowns at Qatar, had to settle for low key results.
The Japanese driver who hasn’t had the best of years in 2023 begins from eleventh on the grid while Albon, one of the revelations of this season, grabbed fourteenth, just a thousandths of a second clear of the noted German driver.
For those constantly mocking Logan Sargeant for his not-so-sparkling performances, the Williams driver secured a P16 on his maiden visit to Qatar for qualifying.
This wasn’t as awful a drive from the Williams driver as maybe that of Lance Stroll, who could manage a P17 or maybe that’s a discussion for another day.
Towards the end of the grid, Liam Lawson, who’s been stellar in just his debut season was able to place his AlphaTauri on a rather gloomy P18; maybe the race can ignite the fire and produce a cracker of a result.
But we shall have to wait and see.
All of that told, Kevin Magnussen and Zhou Gunayu had a day to forget in bagging P19 and P20, respectively.
Can the Chinese driver produce a memorable race result beginning from the rear end of the battlefield?
However, that might not be as big a question as maybe that of Verstappen winning the driver’s title, which where it stands, is now just a formality and a matter of time.