Qatar Grand Prix: Oscar Piastri wins Sprint, Max Verstappen crowned three-time World Champion

Henry Valantine
Oscar Piastri leads at the start of the Qatar Grand Prix Sprint.

Oscar Piastri heads into Turn 1 at the start of the Qatar Grand Prix Sprint.

Oscar Piastri took his first victory in Formula 1 with a P1 finish in the Qatar Grand Prix Sprint, but it was Max Verstappen who was crowned three-time World Champion on Saturday.

The McLaren rookie overcame George Russell for victory at the chequered flag, having dropped behind the Mercedes early on, but Verstappen’s P2 placing – coupled with a crash for Sergio Perez – was enough to seal his third World Championship with plenty of time to spare in the season.

Lando Norris rounded out the Sprint podium at Lusail on Saturday in an incident-packed race in Qatar, with the full race still to come on Sunday.

A first win for Oscar Piastri, a third title for Max Verstappen

An all-McLaren front row saw the drivers off at the start of the Sprint as Piastri took his first ever P1 starting slot in Formula 1, beating team-mate Lando Norris to top spot in the Sprint Shootout earlier on.

Verstappen lined up third with only three points needed to be crowned World Champion for a third time, making sixth place the threshold for the Dutchman heading into the 19 laps around Lusail on Saturday.

And it was Piastri who absolutely flew away from the line, with Norris on the much dirtier side of the grid getting bogged down in traffic and falling to sixth.

George Russell was able to jump up to second, with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc both leaping ahead of Verstappen, who had an uncharacteristically slow getaway and a wobble on entry to Turn 1.

The Safety Car was soon out, however, as Liam Lawson’s unforced error saw him onto the dirty part of the track at Turn 2, lose control and slide into the gravel, leaving the AlphaTauri driver helpless beyond that.

But at the restart, there was a change for the lead as Russell, on soft tyres compared to mediums on Piastri, got his tyres up to temperature and made a lunge on the McLaren at Turn 6 to take the lead, which was followed by a message of: “Big move. Come on!”

Norris had a thrilling dice with Fernando Alonso as he and the Aston Martin drivers went side-by-side through multiple corners, but in eventually having to concede to the McLaren, Alonso eventually dropped behind the Alpine of Esteban Ocon and down to eighth.

By lap 3 of 19, the Safety Car was out for a second time as Logan Sargeant went into the gravel himself, getting beached as he went sliding off at Turn 9.

These intermissions were helping those on soft rubber with tyre management on an abrasive track surface in Lusail, and Russell’s restart saw him bolt several corners before the end of the lap, catching Piastri off-guard and immediately pulling out a 1.5-second gap on the McLaren driver.

The Aussie was left defending from Sainz behind in third, but he did well to keep the Ferrari driver at bay as he settled back into proceedings again.

But after being caught opportunistically by Ocon before the Safety Car, Alonso got a fantastic tow on his former Alpine team-mate on the pit straight and was back into seventh by Turn 1.

On title watch, Verstappen was able to cruise by Leclerc with DRS assistance at the halfway point of the Sprint, putting him fourth on the road, before dispatching Sainz a lap later as the soft tyre runners began to struggle with graining.

With that, Piastri was able to rapidly close down a two-second advantage at the front and pass Russell again for the lead by lap 11, but further down the field, the crowning moment would come with a bang for Sergio Perez.

With Perez and Ocon looking to overtake either side of Nico Hulkenberg into Turn 2, the pair created a Haas sandwich and both collided with the German, with Ocon spinning into the side of Perez and taking both drivers out.

Perez threw his hands up in the air as he climbed out of his car, but regardless of Verstappen’s finishing position, that sealed his third consecutive World Championship before the Sprint was over.

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Yet more laps behind the Safety Car followed and Norris was again under pressure at the restart, getting passed by Leclerc for fifth as Piastri broke away at the front.

Even though his title was sealed, Verstappen vowed before the Sprint started that he would be looking for as much as he could from it – and he duly passed Russell to set about his pursuit of Piastri.

Piastri had a 2.4 second buffer to the Red Bull and four laps to withstand the inevitable pressure that was set to come his way, with the pair trading fastest laps next time around.

The final couple of laps saw the medium runners take huge chunks of time out of the soft runners, with Norris moving ahead of both Ferraris and Russell to get back into the podium places, with Lewis Hamilton flying up to the back of the Ferrari duo himself as he had a late surge, with Alex Albon going from last on the road at one stage to snatching points come the chequered flag.

But Piastri was able to keep Verstappen at bay in the closing stages, taking his first win in any kind of Formula 1 event, but behind him, Formula 1’s newest three-time World Champion was crowned.

Lower down, Leclerc and Lance Stroll were both hit with five-second time penalties for multiple track limits infringements during the race, dropping Leclerc out of the points from 7th to 12th, and Stroll to last of the classified runners.

Classification: 2023 Qatar Grand Prix Sprint

1 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren 19 laps
2 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull +1.871
3 Lando NORRIS McLaren +8.497
4 George RUSSELL Mercedes +11.036
5 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +17.314
6 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +18.806
7 Alexander ALBON Williams +19.864
8 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +21.180
9 Pierre GASLY Alpine +21.742
10 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +22.208
11 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +22.863
12 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +24.860*
13 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas +24.970
14 ZHOU Guanyu Alfa Romeo +26.868
15 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +29.523*

*5-second time penalty applied post-race.

Did not finish
Nico HULKENBERG Haas
Esteban OCON Alpine
Sergio PEREZ Red Bull 
Logan SARGEANT Williams
Liam LAWSON AlphaTauri

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