Winners and Losers from 2023 F1 Qatar Grand Prix qualifying

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As you were. For the 10th time this season, it is Max Verstappen on
pole position, after a blistering effort at Lusail in Qatar Grand
Prix qualifying. It is the 30th pole of his career and means he
could start Sunday's race from P1 having secured his third-straight
World Championship in the Sprint if he finishes in the top six. A
commanding performance was topped off by the fact that he even
effectively sat out the second runs in Q3 such was the advantage he
held – taking pole by an eventual 0.441s from George Russell. And
we start our Winners and Losers with Russell's Mercedes team.
Winner – Mercedes By simply staying on the race-track, Mercedes
improved a three-five into a two-three on the grid, potentially
opening up race options if it can keep that RB19 of Verstappen in
sight. Russell will ride shotgun on the front-row, but only just
after qualified less than a tenth behind. Practice
was nothing to shout home about for the team, but it has been a
solid start to the weekend where it looks the third fastest team,
but thanks to McLarens inability to stay within track limits, it
will start the Lusail race as second. A job firmly well done. What
did Hamilton say? “When you go beyond the highest point of the
kerb, we do lose time, so I'm not really sure at this track if we
need to have track limits. It's something that the stewards brought
in a couple of years ago, and Lando should be up here.” Loser –
McLaren and Sergio Perez Lando Norris, Oscar Piastri and Sergio
Perez only have themselves to blame. It can't be simpler. You go
off the track and over the white lines, you open yourself up to
track limits ruining all your good work. The trio were far from the
only ones to do so in qualifying, but were the big losers as
McLaren's potential two-four on the grid became a 10-six for Norris
and Piastri, respectively while Perez's horror in qualifying
continued. It is the eighth time he has failed to reach Q3 in 17
races. Given the pace of the RB19, that is just not good enough and
he needs to arrest the slide immediately or that 2024 seat will
start to look not as secure as it once was. What did Norris say? “I
just had a correctional of oversteer and I went off. The team has
done a good job, I just messed it up.” Winner – Valtteri Bottas
Valtteri Bottas has been on something of a hiding to nowhere in
2023. His season started with some dreadful bad luck before the
summer turned into one long trek around Europe often without
reward, but this was an outstanding performance. His Suzuka race
last time out was ruined early on, but on the similarly high-speed
Lusail track, he dragged the C43 into Q3, and will start ninth.
Bottas found decent time through each segment, improving from a
1:26.038 in Q1 to a 1:25.058 in Q3. Some of that will be track
evolution, but to find a second throughout qualifying is a good
job. Bottas excels in the low-grip conditions that have been found
at Lusail, so he could be on for a much-needed and deserved points
haul. What did Bottas say? “This result is a good reward for the
whole team, for the job done over the past few weeks. It has been a
positive surprise to be in the top ten but it shows how we hit the
ground running, right from the only practice session – as we
intended to – and made all the right calls.” Loser – Lance Stroll
Oh Lance. First things first, Lance Stroll appeared to aggressively
push his trainer in the Aston Martin garage and for that, he was
totally out of line and needs dealing with, internally, by the
team. It came after he qualified 17th, the fourth straight race
he's been knocked out in Q1 while Fernando Alonso eventually
qualified fourth. Stroll is a downward spiral of form, one which he
cannot arrest as his stock as a Grand Prix driver continues to
fall. The more it does, and the more he cannot snap out of it, the
more questions will be directed at owner Lawrence Stroll as to if
the team can afford, sporting-wise, to keep Stroll in the car. If
he had been performing better, Aston would have more than 49 points
to play with to hold off the charging McLaren. Even if it tries to
spin fifth as an improvement and good season, given the pace of
that car, fourth should have been the minimum – and Stroll is the
reason the team will lose it at the current rate. But enough about
the wider picture. If you are living through the hell that the
Canadian is at the moment, you simply cannot go around shoving
people like he appeared to do. That will only draw more negative
attention and questions rather than a ‘Oh, Stroll was 17th – that's
not good for Aston' that might have been received had he not acted
so petulantly. What did Stroll say? Well, not a great deal. You can
read Lance Stroll's complete comments here.

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